I can hear Mom’s voice saying, “When you get older, you will appreciate each other.” And I can still hear myself thinking, “These pests will never be my friends.”

Mom, you were so very, very right.

I don’t remember when my sisters stopped being pestilence and started being my best friends. Even as children, we basically got along well with each other. Our house was full of the usual give and take of families, but we did not live in constant animosity.

Sure, Pam got ticked when I threw the clean dishes back in the sink and called them dirty. Sure, I used to tease Cheri about flying monkeys. But most of the time, we worked and played well with each other.

On the ride back from Columbus, we were still both picking on Cheri about the whole flying monkey thing, but now with laughter – even from Cheri.

Pam was married and gone by the time I was 14 and Cheri was 10. It took me another six years to move out of the house and by then Cheri was 16. A couple years later, Pam and I were both parents and depended on each other for so many things.

I watched Jennie while Pam worked and then she watched Craig while I worked. In there we also canned pears, made pickles, froze corn, put up applesauce, baked thousands of Christmas cookies together. Cheri got married and moved to Arizona, moved back to Ohio, moved back to Arizona, and moved back to Ohio.

I moved to southern Ohio, Cheri moved to northwest Ohio. Cheri followed me to southern Ohio. I moved back to Cleveland.

During all this time Mom was our anchor. She stayed in the same house for all my memory, all of Cheri’s life. We would get together often with Mom as the nexus. Mom was the heart of our family. There were times when all of us were together, times when only one of the traveling sisters was home. Pam had stayed put as well, and she got to see whomever came up to see Mom.

Then, all of a sudden and without any reasonable warming, Mom was gone.

Mom’s teachings were not gone. Her loving kindness and her devotion to family were as ingrained as cutting every tiny microscopic piece of fat off the pork chop was. We are the product of our upbringing and because our mother taught us this lesson – family remained important.

Even after she was gone, Mom was the nexus. All her material wealth came to her daughters to add just a bit of bling to her real legacy. And so we use some of that inherited money to make Mom’s real gift come alive.

Once a year, the sisters get together. Now strung across the country from nearly sea to shining sea and bringing North and South together once again – the sisters converge.

We have learned the lesson Mom tried to teach us so long ago. We are all we have left of our childhood and we are the best of friends.

Good job, Mom. You were always a great teacher.