My sister-in-law’s birthday

Marriage with deceased wife’s sister is trivial, whatever vexations it might have presented to British light-opera law. I’m here to talk about birthday celebrations for deceased husband-equivalent’s deceased brother’s wife: Virginia Bobbitt Transue; of Auburn AL for most of the year, Machiasport ME during the summer; nurturer of chamber music in Auburn and of a family spread around the country;  energetic, enthusiastic, and charming friend of nearly five decades now; and a kid, a whole month younger than me (my birthday is 9/6), so that there’s a month in the fall when I am nominally a year older than she is (the scheme of reckoning ages in our culture has its goofy corners), but that this is righted on 10/12 — the day after NCOD, National Coming Out Day (which is a big thing in my world) — and she and I always take note of the event. 1940 rules!

That was, alas, 11 days ago ago — my life has been overfull with event and then I’ve been felled by sickness — but now I’m here to effervesce a little more about Virginia and then, in a second posting (to come  in a while) to go all social-sciency on you with observations about the (often covert) kinship categories in my sociocultural world and about the labels we use in English for the relationships in question, which enable me to talk about her as my sister-in-law — ‘the wife of the brother of my husband’ = ‘my husband’s brother’s wife’ — and her to talk about me as her brother-in-law — ‘the husband of the brother of her husband’ = ‘her husband’s brother’s husband’.

Abstracting away still further, we each bear the relationship

spouse of sibling of spouse / spouse’s sibling’s spouse

(counting Jacques as my spouse-equivalent) to the other. As opposed to the somewhat simpler (two-part rather than three-part) relationship

spouse of sibling / sibling’s spouse

and the equally simple but somehow more basic

sibling of spouse / spouse’s sibling

Whew! More in the follow-up posting; do not despair. But yes, you’ll have to cope with the category distinction referred to by the technical terms consanguineal vs. affinal, for relationships “by blood” (like the sibling relationship) vs. those by marriage (based on the spouse relationship).

Today, however, two excellent photos of Virginia.

More or less as she is today, by the rocky shore of the Atlantic in Rhode Island (rather than Maine) in 2016:

(#1) The banner photo from her Facebook page; I think she’s aged well, but I’m not sure I could have predicted this face in detail — but then she probably wouldn’t have predicted my look, either

Then the stunner: Virginia and Bill (William R.R. Transue) in Athens GA in December 1965, looking like movie stars in a publicity shot:

(#2) Bill (born in January 1937, died in December 2008) was the first child of William R. Transue and Monique Serpette Transue (I’m going to ruthlessly suppress a whole lot of fascinating family history here, giving you just the bones); Monique and elder Bill had two further children, both boys, and my guy Jacques (born in January 1942, died in June 2003) was the youngest

The generation preceding ours is of course gone; in our generation, Virginia and I are the lone survivors, and our relationship to one another — spouse’s sibling’s spouse, three steps away from one another — is at the outer limits of sibling-in-law-hood: at first, a sibling-in-law was only a spouse’s sibling (you picked up in-laws by marrying into their family); later the terms were extended to sibling’s spouse; and then (apparently, fairly recently, though this is hard to determine from dictionary citations) to spouse’s sibling’s spouse.

It pleases us to have a named relationship to one another — not being merely connections — and so to take an interest in one another’s children and grandchildren — but in fact the kinship has served primarily as a route to friendship, and an interest in one another’s lives, as evidenced in my 1/31/19 posting “Suspended Christmas”, on Virginia’s Xmas 2018 smilax chandelier, with ornaments; and in lots of exchanges about chamber music and art. She’s a good person to be related to.




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