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I am on Twitter constantly. I justify my usage by calling it “research” -- I am currently in my first year of a doctoral program and intend to focus on new media studies. The truth is I am more likely to be retweeting something written by a Real Housewife of Miami than composing ethnographies.
Twitter is something I mostly use as an entertaining and informative diversion -- I never expected it to be the force behind a reunion with the relatives I barely know.
Growing up, I always heard that I didn’t “act like an only child.” Even now, new friends sometimes say things like, “You don’t seem like you are an only child!” I know that they mean it as a compliment; only children are supposed to be weird, maladjusted spoiled brats.
I do think I have a lot of traits that people associate with being an only; I am independent and OK with spending a lot of time by myself. But whenever someone comments on my status as an only, I secretly experience a little twinge of sadness. Being singled out as an only child feels sad, strange and inaccurate because I actually have two half-sisters.
My parents have the kind of love that is a little intimidating to describe. They have stories that have taken on epic proportions in my mind, such as the time, well before I was born, that they attended a toga party where my dad insisted on wearing jeans underneath his sheet. They are so close and so good to each other that it is hard to try and conceive of a time where they were not a pair.
But, just like I have always known that my dad is 10 years older than my mom, I have also known that before he was in a relationship with my mom, he was with someone else. This relationship resulted in two daughters.
Growing up, I liked knowing that I had two half-sisters. They lived in London, the same place my mom’s accent was from. London sounds like a fairytale when you are a kid, especially when you are from the suburbs in South Florida. I do remember the one time my sister Joanne, now an adult, came to visit us in Florida. I was only about nine but I remember how beautiful I thought she was. She bought me a stuffed hedgehog that I kept for ages.
As an adult, I would learn that the visit did not go very well. There were hurt feelings on both sides that I am just now beginning to navigate. Still, I don’t remember any harsh words or fighting. And I had a sister I had actually seen and interacted with.
But every time I brought up the fact I had sisters to other people, I got frustrated. I was unable to answer most of the questions that they asked. What were they like? What was their favorite color? Were they ever going to visit? I just did not know. Eventually I stopped mentioning the fact that I had siblings at all and resigned myself to being an only.
A few months ago, I randomly got an @-reply on Twitter from someone who followed me requesting my email address. I normally do not give out my email via Twitter to strangers but this time, for some reason, I responded right away. Shortly after, I got an email from someone who turned out to be my sister Joanne’s daughter, Sasha. She explained that she had been searching for me on Facebook but had no luck so she resorted to just Googling my name. That search led her to my blog, which then led her to my Twitter feed.
Sasha encouraged me to send an email to her mom, my sister, and I did. I am slowly getting to know this part of my family.
Since my sister Joanne is a lot older than I am, I am actually closer in age to Sasha. I am amazed at some of the similarities, besides sharing a physical resemblance; Sasha is also a total Twitter junkie. And she has a degree in social work, something I strongly considered when I was an undergrad. My sister Joanne prefers to wear glasses instead of contacts just like I do and we are both bookworms. The differences are also fascinating; Sasha has two beautiful young children that she is obviously devoted to. I am a great-aunt.
I don’t know where these fledgling connections will lead. So far I have just exchanged a few emails and gotten to see some amazing pictures. There is an ocean and a lot of lost time separating us. My mom has been incredibly supportive and encourages me to reach out as much as I can.
I do not know if there is resentment toward me for having our father in my life when my sisters did not. I have been a little apprehensive in discussing this burgeoning relationship with my father. He’s close to 70 years old now and this would dredge up a lot of old stuff that I am not sure he would feel comfortable talking about. I am also afraid that his reaction to our reconnection will in some way change the way I see him.
After all this time, I feel like I should not expect too much. I know an Oprah-style reunion is not something either side of the family would want. But I am glad that Twitter facilitated something more than enabling my reality show addiction. While I still do feel like an only child, I can say without any twinge of sadness that I am working on a relationship with my family members, sometimes one tweet at a time.
Follow Francesca at @francescalyn.