“It seems only children attract other only children.”
-Sally Creech, founder of the Solo Sisters group (in the front row, second from the right)
by Liza Roberts
photograph by Christer Berg
“Sally started it,” says Kay Schoellhorn, laughing as she welcomes a seemingly never-ending stream of friends into her Hayes Barton home. Ranging in age from 21 to 90, these women are all only children, and they’re here for their monthly meeting of the Solo Sisters, a group founded by Raleighite Sally Creech, herself an only child.
“I grew up with a lot of only children at the end of the war,” Creech says. Wartime meant many parents married and had children later in life; one child was a reality rather than a choice. As Creech and her fellow only children got older, Creech says, she realized they had to handle sickness, aging parents, and other challenges without immediate family
In January 2008, Creech decided to gather the other only children she knew for a glass of wine and fellowship. They found, unsurprisingly, that they had a lot in common. They tended to be independent, unflappable, and proud. Many, like Creech, a well-known real estate broker, had been quite successful. They’d heard all of the only-child bad press, and poo-pooed it. (One of her favorite examples – it makes Creech laugh out loud – is a quote from turn-of-the-century child psychologist Granville Stanley Hall: “Being an only child is nothing short of a disease.”)
United by the conviction that their no-sibling status was a point of pride, and eager for the friendship of other only-child women, they quickly became to one another something they’d never had: sisters. “I know these ladies will be here for me,” says Leah Friedman, one of the younger members.
These days, there are about 100 Solo Sisters; their monthly meetings rotate among members’ houses. Some bring wine, some bring hors d’oeuvres. Every month, Creech reads something about only children, and every month, they check in with one another about their lives. “Over the years we have provided comfort and support to each other,” says member Debbie Robbins. “It makes me think how nice it would have been to have siblings!”