Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: Family

Encountering new people in my youth, I would go to great lengths to explain my complicated background, where I fit in the order of things. As a military brat, new encounters were plentiful. I had to tell where I'd last been, where I'd been before that, how many siblings I had, where I fit in the order, what were my siblings like, and how much I hated being a part of that family. Later, when I was in my teens and early 20s, I would explain all that and then go into detail about divorce and dysfunction. Where I came from, I thought, explained who I was.

But what once seemed so damn pertinent to who I was now gets winnowed down to a sentence or two, at most. And I'm not the only one who winnows it down. Recently, I've become friendly with a couple of women with sons who Youngest has befriended. Play dates for Youngest still require my presence because, well, that's who he is. In any event, chit-chatting about our lives, I get the nutshell versions of upbringing: a mother who died when my new friend was just two and a father who served in Vietnam. One of five kids, with parents divorcing at 15. One of three girls with medical-profession parents working overseas.

The family of our youth fades into the background as we create families of our own. I don't know if that is true for people who don't have children. I don't know if their original families -- like original sin -- maintain such looming presences as they themselves age.

That leads me to my other thought on the Sunday Scribblings prompt this week: I have created a new family, yet if you ask me to talk about "family," my initial thoughts turn to my parents and siblings. I don't mean if it's in the context of a friend today asking me how the family is. I'm not so socially inept to not realize they're asking about Pete and our friends. What I mean is when I consider my family, my first thought turns to the past. I wonder if that's normal. I'd like to think it is because I'd like to be normal in at least a couple of ways. And with a background like mine, is that too much to ask?

12 comments:

susiej said...

You brought up a very interesting point... how we really become cloned... one of us is the family of our youth, the seems to carry with us through adulthood, and then there's the other family that we are building for our children, that somehow doesn't feel as authentic as the one of our youth. I can't wait for that moment when they do mesh into one. Something I didn't realize I had yet to look forward to, but I'm sure it happens.
Thanks for writing this.

D... said...

Right on. Who I was and what shaped me to become who I am today barely get a mention anymore as I have much more happier things to explain who I am now. However, the original "family" does have a looming presence over me still. There are things about me that I know are there because of them & my experiences with them.

gautami tripathy said...

Interesting thoughts. You do have a point there.

kindred

Mary Beth said...

I think the families we grew up with always jump to mind first because they were there for our informative years. And being one of the few without a new family of my own, the one I grew up with is still foremost in my life, just where I want it.

Tammy said...

You really made me take a deeper look!

nonizamboni said...

Isn't that just the irony of it all!? That has been my experience of late too--I'm just tired of explaining and use the Cliff Notes version instead. I guess we are firmly rooted to our 'beginnings' and your post was amazing and well done.
Thanks for sharing.

Lucy said...

great post.. This can really tie into writers island this week too, because it was as if your Family 'identified' who you were.
thanks for sharing this interesting look at family. :)

Granny Smith said...

The first question that came to mind when I read the Sunday Scribblings post was "Which family?" They hold equal importance in my mind. None of the family I grew up among are still alive. They are still important to me.
But the family that Otto and I created (and their families) are of daily interest as they make their own paths through the world.

Lilibeth said...

Family of our youth--yes it comes to mind first even though I have my own grandchildren now. In my dreams they are all mixed up and it's hard to tell one generation from another. I wonder if you took the father, son, grandson, greatgrandson all at the same age--would they be hard to tell apart? What about behavior? How much difference does the interweaving of families have versus genetics? Interesting.

MamaGeek said...

Once again, my heart relates to this story. Why is it our past has SUCH a hold on us when the future is so different and yet so promising?

Kim/2 Kids said...

Thank god I can move on past the family of my youth. I did, however, have a moment a couple of weeks ago when I feared the wrath of my mother. The feelings were the same as when I was a teenager. What? I am a 39yo woman, aren't we suppossed to grow up at some point? I guess it goes to show how deeply embedded our birth families are within us.

jenica said...

when i'm asked, "how's your family?" it causes my eyes to automatically roll. do i talk about my parents seperate upcoming divorces? do i gush details about my brother's wedding? or did you mean my in-laws?

"oh, the kids. yeah, they're fine."

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