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Friday
Nov122010

Honoring Catherine Scipione Forbes

This week's Thrive Theory Award
winner is someone who has made
a huge impact on my life, someone
who has sustained vitality through
tremendous transformations herself.
She's a woman who holds a PhD in
Statistics, is a professor at Monash
University in Australia, and together
with her husband raises two beautiful
children. But to become who she
was meant to be in this world,
she literally turned it upside down.

Cap, as she is affectionately known in my family, is my sister. The closest to me of my six siblings growing up, she's also seven years older than me. This made her a formidable rival as far as siblings
go (my favorite way to get under her skin was by insisting I was really older than she was, and in on the conspiracy with my parents). As we grew older, she was very much a wise mentor, advising me about boyfriends, girlfriends, school, and career ambitions. It was she who first encouraged me to pursue design. And though she decided to move home during graduate school as a cost-saving measure, when my mother became sick and quickly passed away, she was the glue that held my family together—for a little while anyway.

For not long after, she fell in love with a handsome Australian
PhD candidate who graduated before she did. She continued their relationship even when his visa expired and he returned to Australia. She knew she needed to see the other side of the world before she determined if she had to let him go or not. So after her graduation, she joined him in Melbourne. What started out as a two year plan soon became indefinite. They got married here in the US at a beautiful civil ceremony before she completed her religious conversion, became pregnant and took their Jewish vows in
Australia. My dad and I attended with some of our family,
but I returned feeling like maybe I had lost her forever.

She's been there over 18 years now, and though most visits seem too short and too far between, we always pick up where we left off like it's just been five minutes. Then a recent visit gave me new insight. She brought her entire family in the spring and hosted us for a Passover Seder dinner. She made the most delicious brisket and kugel. She served it wearing a funny headpiece, which we were all wearing thanks to her kids who had helped plan games during dinner to remind us how the ancient Israelites escaped slavery in Egypt.

I realized at that moment that my Catholic sister had truly become a Jewish mother, and clearly it was no accident. She identified strongly with the Jewish faith. One of the aspects that appealed to her was the more equal role in which women could participate. Women are eligible to become rabbis, equal to men at the highest level of leadership. And the special role Jewish mothers embody is a deeply honored tradition, because the responsiblity of passing down this faith to their children falls squarely in her hands. Cap was always a very spiritual, faithful person, but in my eyes, part of her was skeptical that our church's tradition provided the structure and respect for the knowledge and experiences that she sought. So I watched her grow to fulfill her dreams of having a brilliant family by moving to the other side of the world, embracing a new continent, a new culture, a new religion, and new challenges to become more fully herself. Though it was difficult for me at times, she demonstrated strength & courage, fearlessness & adventure, which I greatly admire. Without her at my side I set forth on my own adventures to overcome new challenges with a different support system, knowing she'd always be there for me, Down Under.

Neither one of us let the other, or ourselves, hold her back, and that's a pretty remarkable thing. We still cheer each other on no matter where we are. So this week I'm very happy to honor her,
my sister Cap!

Reader Comments (1)

What a wonderful tribute to your sister. It's so warm and full of love. It's great to know Cap!

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary B. Relotto

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