Cambrian: Slice of Life

Ode to siblings of an only child

I have many siblings, but I’m an only child.

I have no biological sisters and brothers, but I’ve never felt deprived. After all, I have sibling-like relationships with my mother’s sister Kate, about 30 months older than I am, and Kate’s nephew John, who is four years older than she is.

As kids, we three had the best of both worlds. We played Scrabble, ping-pong and croquet together. We swam, learned to climb apple trees and practiced “Tarzan” of the ropes together. We holidayed and vacationed together, but we were never with each other 24/7/365. Because we lived separately, we didn’t have to share the bathroom every morning, the TV every afternoon or parental attention every night.

That did wonders for our sibling-like relationships.

They’re North Carolina residents now, close enough for e-mails, phone calls and vacations to California — in fact, Kate’s here now on her annual visit for my birthday. But I can’t just run across the street to share a juicy bit of gossip or borrow a cup of barbecue sauce. And of course, I miss them.

Still, I’m not deprived. I’m blessed to have beloved pseudo-siblings — wonderful people who are so much more than mere friends.

Some of my self-adopted sisters and brothers are closer, geographically or emotionally, than others, but each is very special in his or her own unique way, filling a particular void in my only-hood.

They’re there for me, as I’m here for them. In times of trauma, triumph or trivia, we know we can turn to each other for help, hurrahs or helpless giggle-fests.

Most of our relationships have been in place for years or decades. But sometimes, you can bond with new siblings very quickly, even if those relationships are destined to be fleeting.

For instance, when actress/author Mara Purl hosted her own birthday party in Cambria this summer, she invited me to meet her own band of “sisters” from all over the country and all across the spectrum of her diverse life.

What an illustrious, diverse assortment of creative women!

Mara’s pretty amazing herself. Her performing career ranges from Shakespeare and a yearlong stint on “Days of Our Lives” to starring in plays produced right here in Cambria. Her “Milford Haven” radio drama was based on Cambria, and she’s revamping and republishing her series of novels.

Others at her party included:

Mara’s sister Linda Purl, an actress with a remarkable TV career (if you don’t believe me, check her bio on; she’s also a theatre entrepreneur and cabaret singer

Laurie Wagner Buyer, poet and author

Erin Gray, top model, actress (“Silver Spoons” and “Buck Rogers in the 25st Century,” for instance), and passionate teacher of Tai Chi and Chi Kung

Mary Helsaple, illustrator and watercolorist

Miranda Kenrick, elegant travel writer (she flew in from Japan for the party)

Jonatha King, CEO of her Santa Barbara public relations firm

Caren Pearson, artist/art teacher

Linda Seger, author and foremost script consultant for many major studios and screenwriters

Elaine Traxel Evans of Cambria, model and actress (“My Fair Lady,” for instance), and

Susan Berry of Cambria, singer and dancer

Some of the women have known each other for years or decades. Others were meeting for the first time.

As we bonded over the lovely dinner Linda prepared in honor of her sister’s birthday, we began sharing stories about who we are and how we all got there.

The later it got, the more hilarious (bordering on scandalous) the anecdotes became. And no, I’m not going to repeat any of them, no matter how juicy they were. Sisters aren’t supposed to carry tales about or from each other.

It was nearly midnight when somebody realized that most of them had to pack up early and head for home the next day.

It was hard to leave them. After all, when you’re an adult only child, it’s fun to share in a sisterly hen partyeven if only for a night.

So, to Kate, John, Mara and each of my other siblings — new, lifelong and in between — thank you forever for caring about this very lucky only child.