Posted in Caring for others, Children, Friendship, Introspection, Parents

Soul Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina) by Ginger Keller Gannaway

“Soul” Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina)

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Gina and I in Panama City, 1960

 

     We were walking along a Pensacola beach around 8 a.m., after coffee and before the rest of the folks got up. We aimed to walk to the distant pier and talked nonstop the whole way.  Like evenly-matched tennis players, we served and volleyed kid woes back and forth. “He sneaks out the house so often, we have to hide our car keys now.”  “Her grades have dropped ‘cause she skips all the time.” “His room reeks of pot.”  “I hear ya’!” 

     Somehow letting go of our tales of angst gives us a kind of inner release.  We offer the worry and fear up to the sun, the waves, the breeze, and we become free to laugh out loud. Gina and I totally “get” each other, and for two hours we feel better.  On the walk back to our beach-front rental, we even rush into the surf for a quick swim and more laughter as we jump and dive into the waves. Like a couple of kids!

     Gina is my first cousin and my “soul” sister.  Even though she lived an hour away from my hometown, we saw each other often growing-up.  We shared every Keller family reunion or big holiday party at Grandma’s house for sure.  Also, we had full weeks at a time during the summer when we visited each other’s homes or went to our Indian Village camp with Grandma and Stella.

     During the 1980’s we got married and raised our kids in different states.  We didn’t spend long visits together, yet later we grabbed summer getaways when we both became public school teachers. In 1998 and 2010 we even took trips to NYC to visit my sister Gayle and sightsee and reconnect.  Gina and I snap back together easily, no matter how long we have been apart.  We share our Cajun culture, our Keller connection, and our childhood memories, and our family tragedies. Gina is  a close cousin, a trusted friend, a wise woman, a spiritual guide, and my soul sister.  She has a wit like a whip, yet it’s made of purple yarn or silly string. Her sarcasm is swift, yet stingless.  And we share a deep, honest love of movies that began in 1968 when we were both enchanted by Funny Girl.  Walking from Grandma’s to the Saturday matinees at the Liberty and then returning to sneak cigarettes while Grandma napped were big teenage moments for me.  We also worked in the theater’s concession stand and played tennis, went swimming, and obsessed over cute boys to fill the lazy summer days with good times.

     Throughout the sad, sad times and the glory days, humor has helped hold us together.  Two years ago we shared a weekend in Galveston at her sister Dana’s beach house, and while attempting to take a selfie, Gina and I laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks as we fought to keep the other bodily liquid from running down our legs!

     Now she and I even have similar living situations. My 89-year-old dad lives with me, and Gina lives with her 87-year-old mom (my dad’s sister). So Gina and I chat and commiserate and explain and laugh over phone calls.  We still “get” each other, and as we face family challenges, we share sorrows and successes and above all we laugh.  Gina is a devoted daughter, a mighty mother, and a strong Grandma GiGi.  Time with Gina is always honest and often hysterical. It can be gut-wrenching and still stay golden.  We connect easily, strongly, and soulfully.

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Gina, Gayle, me, Andrew, Yvette in Pensecola (2009)
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Separate, Yet Together by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Separate, Yet Together  by Ginger Keller Gannaway

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Separate, yet together. Family, right? We may live a 1,000 miles away from each other. We may talk to each other once a month or only on holidays. We exchange emails and Facebook check-ins here and there. We could even be estranged or separated by death or illness, yet these family members run around our minds all the time. For me, they crowd my thoughts and dreams and truly shape who I am now at age 59.
Two years ago I spent several weeks in my small Louisiana hometown with my 90 year old Momma and my 88 year old Dad. During my visit I went through several cardboard boxes filled with black and white photographs. One 4X4 picture of Momma and me really depicted the separate yet together idea. In the photo I am about 4 years old and staring straight into the camera. I’m wearing a sleeveless summer dress with smocking. I have a full, fat almost babyish face and shoulder-length wispy hair. I am not smiling and I look so, so relaxed and pensive. I’m leaning back into Momma’s arm draped around me. Momma gazes off upwards to the left. She wears a sleeveless, small checkered blouse and her short brown hair is combed back from her face. She too is unsmiling and has a faraway,  content look. Her arms loosely encircle me. We seem comfortably close and at ease with each even though each of us is occupied with her own separate thoughts.
Even though today I am far from that fat-faced girl, and Momma has passed away, not a day gets by me without memories of momma grabbing my attention and reminding me of her constant, unconditional love and how it shaped me into a mother of three grown sons who rule my world and hold most of my love.
Family. They may build us up one day and destroy us the next, yet they are with us so often, even if not physically so. They may control our thoughts and drive our actions and surround our hearts in both hurtful and helpful ways. I was so very fortunate to have a small blue-eyed Cajun momma from Ville Platte who had a heart bigger than all of Louisiana, especially when it came to her children. Every day I leisurely lean into Momma’s arms, and I face my current day’s activities with a form of independence that is supported by her love.