May 12, 2008

For Cicely, The Girls, and T.

Above, Alice, at left; two of the Three Sisters, center; Cicely, at right; after the 1995 D.C. Rally for Women's Lives, or, as Alice's T-shirt reads: The Power to Stop Violence Against Women Begins with Me.

The third sister is taking the photograph. The Three Sisters, also known as The Girls, and their mother, Cicely, have been a huge part of Alice's life since about 1985.

Prior to meeting The Girls -- each a year apart in age -- Alice was a checkbook activist. With The Three Sisters and their mom, Alice spent many years putting her body where once she had only put her checkbook: into the streets of D.C., Wonderland, and Albany. She lobbied politicians by telephone, long before email, much less email petitions and progressive political Web sites, became commonplace.

A few days before Alice's father died, she, Cicely, and The Girls protested against Bush the first and his incipient Gulf War in the streets near the United Nations. There were cops everywhere: on foot, on horseback, in the sky, atop buildings, and, Alice believes, practically falling from the trees growing from the sidewalks.

Granted, Alice was younger and angrier, and less cynical. She used to think she could make a difference; now, not so much. But to her dying day, Cicely believed. And she acted. And she made Alice think and debate and act in ways that have made her a better person.

Cicely and The Girls got Alice off her ass and moving. Everything Alice knows about taking it to the streets -- protesting injustice, war, and Republican foreign policy -- she learned from them.

The Internet may have galvanized grass-roots organizing in its current incarnation, but, to Alice, nothing says I-mean-business like showing up in person. You vote with your feet.

Four weeks ago, Cicely left this mortal coil, after years of raging against going gentle into that good night. The Girls and T., Cicely's quasi-officially adopted daughter, held her as she drew her last breath.

Last night, The Girls and T. held a celebration of Cicely -- a far cry from any memorial service Alice had ever attended. It was standing room only, 100+ people in attendance, some of whom The Girls had tracked down after 30+ years. They put together a photo montage of Cicely's life, synced to protest folk music, and found more than a dozen people to speak of Cicely's accomplishments.

Alice wept through the photo montage, seeing herself on screen through the years, as part of the extended family. The Christmases, the protests, the parties -- it all felt as if it had happened yesterday, along with Friday night bridge and early 1990s Monday night TV. A reception followed the program, with enough food and booze to make Cicely proud. The Girls threw one hell of a party, the kind of send-off most people only dream of.

And Alice is grateful, to have been a part of it all, to know as family people whose mission it is to make the world a better place. They certainly have made it one for her.


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