Our guest blogger today is Gail’s daughter, Karen Kolavalli. This is a post that she wrote a few years ago on the Bubblews site.
“Today is my sister, Virginia’s birthday! Yesterday was the death anniversary of our youngest sister, Shannon, so it’s hard to switch gears from grieving to celebrating. As hard as it is for me, I know its much harder for her.
She’s a very kind and generous person and has written many tributes to others. This is my tribute to her.
In trying to think back to special times together throughout our lives, it’s hard to separate out times with her from the overall family experience of being part of a large family. She and my oldest sister Susan were the “Big Girls” and shared a bedroom, while Cindy and I were the “Little Girls” and shared another bedroom. Brother Owen was the oldest and the only boy, so he got his own room. Baby sister Shannon didn’t come along until the rest of us were all in school, so she was always the baby to us.
I do remember when Ginger came back from 4-H camp one summer, with exciting tales of adventures away from home. She taught us all sorts of novelty camp songs. My favorite was the long and involved (and hilarious) Little Bunny Foo-Foo. It was just the first of many times that she brought a wider world back home to me.
She was also the first to move away from our hometown to attend college. I felt very grown up to be invited to spend Homecoming weekend with her when I was an awkward high school student. We attended the football game, saw a performance of the Harkness Ballet, and went to The Cowsills concert. I still remember the new pair of brown Levi cords (corduroy jeans) I got to buy for the weekend.
Later on, when I was a college student living out of state in Missouri, she stopped by on her way back from Kansas to where she lived in Ohio. She was driving a brand-new gold Camaro. Very cool! She was in her first job as a children’s librarian, which I thought was just a wonderful profession. Much later, I, too, worked as a children’s librarian.
Years passed and I visited her on the east coast, where we went to Colonial Williamsburg, Ephrata Cloisters, and the Edgar Allen Poe Home. She visited me when I was training at the FBI Academy and we toured the Civil War battlefield at Manassas together. We also drove into Washington, D.C. for a concert of Irish music at the Smithsonian.
When we were still single, we traveled together internationally. Our first trip was to the British Isles and later we traveled to Canada. Dream trips, both of them.
There were many years of physical separation when she married and moved to Australia, while I moved to India with my new husband. Her frequent letters during those years were a lifeline to this homesick expatriate. I also have a collection of the very special hand-crafted Valentines she sent to me through those years.
There are many, many other things I could share, but these are what I’m remembering tonight on her birthday. She was the sister who boldly left home for college and then made her home in distant places. She’s the sister who shares a love of books, history and Irish music with me.
She’s always been an important person in my life and has been a wonderful mentor, advisor, and friend. Love you, Sis!”