You may think that we were and always will be a totally dysfunctional family–incapable of forging any loving bonds within the family, having “normal” family gatherings, or otherwise enjoying each others’ company. Based on some of the things we have talked about, that would be a logical assumption. And while at times there have been strains and stress fractures, in the big picture we have a wonderful family that is actually quite close and (for the most part) functional rather than dysfunctional.
Many things helped “us kids” who grew up far from normal to bond over time. The most significant was the next generation. As we each grew up, married, and began families of our own, we set out to be the very best father, mother, aunt or uncle they could.
My son Taylor was the first-born of the next generation. As a baby, he enjoyed being tossed in the air by my step-brother, his Uncle Kevin. In childhood, he loved having everyone “play” with his toys on Christmas Eve (we were trying to figure out how to assemble them).
As an adult, Taylor has developed quite an irreverent and raunchy sense of humor, and he and my step-sister, his Aunt Sissy, share many a laugh. I always blame Taylor’s father for the warped aspects of our son’s attitudes, but we all laugh when he’s riffing off of whatever might be the topic of discussion at the moment.
Diana, my step-sister Sissy’s first-born, was the first girl of this next generation. When she was five, I wanted to take Diana to the movies. Her mother told her she could go, but also told her she was not allowed to ask for anything–especially candy or pop. On the drive to the theater, Diana said
It looks like I’m hot.
Well, I can turn on the air conditioner.
Once we purchased the tickets, Diana told me
It looks like I’m thirsty.
I volunteered to purchase a drink, and once she had that in hand, she had one more comment on her situation
It looks like I’m hungry.
Popcorn was immediately procured. Once home, Sissy asked if her daughter had made any requests. I laughingly replied
No, she didn’t. She’s just great at dropping hints.
The next child to be born was Macey, my step-brother Kevin‘s first-born. As a child, Macey said lots of funny (and often quite precocious) things. One time at pre-school, they served orange juice with pulp and she came home and said
They’re making us children drink juice with dog hairs in it.
We all cracked up over a four year old referring to “us children” and “juice with dog hairs.”
Another time when she had been coloring at pre-school, she told us later
The other children just scribble crap.
My sister Lindy’s daughter Fiona was the third girl born in our family. As a little girl, Fiona would always order finger food when we went out to eat. One time at a Chinese restaurant, her mother suggested she get an egg roll. Fiona simply replied
Burrito or nothing.
As a child she had the dreaded malady so many kids have: chronic ear infections and accompanying poor hearing (Taylor had the same issue years before, and in both their cases, ear tubes fixed the problem thankfully). My son’s hearing was so poor that he only heard the middle parts of each word, and basically developed a language of his own based on what he could hear.
My niece Fiona’s hearing was not quite as bad, but as an example, when I would buy litter for my cat, she called it “Kitty Glitter”. After the ear tubes were removed, her hearing improved dramatically. Coincidentally (or not?), she also had the most beautiful, angelic singing voice. Whether in church singing hymns, or singing along with the car radio, it was always a treat to hear her sing.
Sissy’s second daughter, Raquel, came along next. She has many wonderful qualities, but she was possibly one of the worst spellers in the world. Once a grocery list she made out included the line-item “beagles.” You know, to go with the “creem cheez” she also listed. As a child, she thought that my sister Lindy and I were one entity: “Aunt AbbyandLindy.” She didn’t know which one of us was which since she mostly saw us together.
My step-brother Kevin later had a son, Alex. Like our dad, Kevin was in the military and I am so proud of his service. When he was a child, Alex and a little girl from down the street used to play cards with my dad when Dad was sick. Once, we had dinner in the dining room while our stepmother Beatrice was out. When she came home, Beatrice glanced at the dining room and said
We never use this dining table.
Alex looked at her very strangely. Luckily, he kept the secret that we ate in there all the time when she was gone.
These relatives are some of my favorite people in the world. When Raquel was in college near where I live, I was able to visit and spend time getting to know her (and proving to her that there was one person called “Aunt Abby” and a different person called “Aunt Lindy”). I was delighted last year when Diana called me to announce she was expecting a baby (the adorable Ella), and now that Macey has moved far away, I am always thrilled when I hear from her on Facebook or Twitter.
Our family may have started out being “Far From Normal,” but I feel we are now striving to be the kind of family who embraces our differences and celebrates our accomplishments. It’s a lot of work to change, but these wonderful family members are well worth it.