Rose Voyles and Genea Gettig may not be related by blood, but they consider each other sisters.
Their mothers traveled to China together and adopted the girls when they were babies.
They grew up in Tucson and were close to five other girls who were also adopted from China, none related.
“We may not have been adopted by the same parent or be blood related, but we have shared our lives together, taken care of each other, shared joy together and shared sorrow together,” Rose, 18, said. “Our sisterhood has been grown not made, and it will continue to flourish as we change and adapt to life together.”
They compare their story to the children’s book, “The Seven Chinese Sisters,” by Kathy Tucker and illustrated by Grace Lin. In the book, each sister has a special talent that helps defeat a dragon.
The opening line reads: “Once there were seven Chinese sisters that lived together and took care of each other.”
“While we do not live together, one thing is clear: We will always be there to support and take care of each other,” Rose said.Genea, 19, compares the special talents in the book with her sisters’ unique talents: Grace offers limitless creativity; Elizabeth offers hard work and dedication to a dream (she will soon be an architect); Ting Ting offers brilliance in music, Rose offers a smile and a willingness to be kind to anyone; Mei Mei offers an impeccable sense of style and great conversation; Genna offers laughs to others and a gentleness that is infectious.
Rose: In 2005 to 2010 we would always have a summer barbecue before school started at a park in Tucson. We’d have a swim party. One of the moms would grill corn and we’d have burgers and cupcakes and everything.
Genea, 19: It’s not exactly one memory, but many. When we were young, we would all get together for the Autumn Moon Festival. There was a jade rabbit and a moon princess.
While we all, I’m sure, have complicated relationships with our culture (being women of color with white parents) vs. our ethnicity, Autumn Moon Festival was always a carefree time in which we could spend time interacting with other Chinese people and our culture.
We would all run through the park together and eat moon cake and pull up the skirt of the moon princess to look at the jeans underneath and exclaim, for sure, that she was in fact not a princess.
Rose: My favorite quality about Genea is the way she make a room light up with her laughter. When we all hang out together and it is dead silent because we are watching a movie or something, she can say one thing that would make the whole room laugh.
Genea: Rose is always smiling. She has a way of finding humor in things and making others smile. She isn’t necessarily a jokester, but she has a great sense of humor.
On keeping in touch
Rose attends to college in Flagstaff and Genea in Oregon. The other girls remain in Tucson.
Rose: Luckily with technology advancing, we have a group chat with all the parents and all the sisters. And before we all had smart phones our parents were the main contributors for keeping us so close.
Genea: Our correspondence has never been abundant, but when we get together we pick up exactly where we left off. While relationships require maintenance and dedication of time, our relationship is slightly different. We share a bond that, while equally meaningful as other relationships in our lives, requires little upkeep. We know that the others are there if we need them.
Rose: I think it is important for me to maintain our sisterhood because since we were all adopted, and we don’t really have a connection to our birth families, so in a sense it feels to me that I do have my “real” sisters with me here in Tucson, Arizona, even though we are not blood related.
Genea: Relationships take time. While we may not communicate all the time, we see each other a lot when we’re all in town. It’s valuable because I have a small family. It’s really just me, Genna, and my mother in my direct family. We had to make a family, and it worked out pretty nicely.
Rose: Personally, my mother had two heart attacks and during that time it was really hard for me and my little sister, so we all reached out to each other ... We could always rely on them ... Another mother got really sick where her scoliosis was collapsing on her ... When she was in the hospital we were there every day to be there for them ... We’ve had a few scares...
Genea: There have been a few health issues within the family of the seven sisters. While in the hospital waiting rooms we could have shared fears and sadnesses, but we found playing games and watching movies together to be of greater support than ruminating on anxieties.
Our group has a good way of determining what kind of response is appropriate.