Friday, August 19, 2011

The Family That Stays Together: Part 3

After Chapter 2, I felt a bit, I don’t know, guilty? Guilt ridden? It’s much tougher putting this family story into words than I expected, especially since it’s my take on the whole bit and not any of theirs’. One thing I started to worry about was that I had given people the impression that I had a horrible childhood; this is not the case at all. Honestly, I had a happy life growing up and I mentioned the fighting, the tension, the screaming, because many people experience it, but feel it’s a bad thing to discuss with one another.

I’m here to tell you it’s not.

I will say I feel I probably experienced more of my parents’ anger towards one another than my sister growing up because I had a horrible time sleeping. It used to take me about two to three additional hours to fall asleep after I’d been put to bed. I’d be lying in the dark, staring at the ceiling and, much of the time, I’d bear witness to their arguments without their knowing it. They tried to spare us by hashing things out after we’d gone to bed; how were they to know I was still awake?

I wanted to take a short break from the progression of my tale and honor my family with a few favorite memories. Also, I feel it necessary to mention that since becoming an adult, I’ve seen what happens to kids when their parents wrongly prioritize: accomplishments over pride, money over time spent, things and stuff and objects over comfort, love, presence. Let me say this: it’s not good.

However, my parents always made me feel like my sister and I were their number one priority, that they were always proud of us, that we could mess up and everything would turn out ok.

And it has.

So here it is; a short and sweet ode to the people who helped me become the person I am today. It doesn’t come close to all the good times, though.

Family Memories
Saturdays and Sundays were free breakfast days in my house. I chose cookie dough ice cream nearly every time, and you can bet your marbles I went back for thirds.

When my sister and I were little-little, my parents used to take us to SavOn to pick out presents when it was the other’s birthday. The best gifts we ever gave were quite possibly the kaleidoscope, a Cops and Robbers handcuff set and Rainbow Brite stickers that we selected for my dad on his 40th birthday.

My parents used to hate it when G and I would jump on their bed, a California king covered in a white duvet, but one night (and I’m still not sure what magic was in the air), they joined us, jumping on the bed and laughing out loud. It was the only time they ever gave into the urge.

My parents surprised us with a trip to Lake Tahoe one summer. The car we were driving in had low bucket seats, so G and I didn’t even notice we were in the mountains until Donner Pass. We spent our days frolicking in the freezing lake and our nights in the dark, fun filled arcades of Tahoe’s casinos. Wicked fun.

We spent Thanksgiving afternoon at the beach every year, stuffed with turkey and mashed potatoes, running up and down the sand dunes with our cocker spaniel along for the fun.

In the summer of 1993, my parents took us to see Jurassic Park. I was nine and G was seven, and to say it terrified the crap out of us is an understatement. My sister slept on my floor for six months in a sleeping bag because of her fear of T-Rex, and there was a two-week period where her bedroom returned the favor for me due to my anxiety over the spitting raptor. I’m pretty sure they knew it was too much for us, but they really wanted to see it, so they made a family outing out of the whole thing. Not funny then; funny now.

I was ten and my mom came home from work a little late one night. It was close to Christmas, so dusk had fallen before her return and my dad was traveling. My sister and I were waiting anxiously for her arrival. When we heard her car pull into the garage, we raced up, only to be greeted with a piping hot pizza, a Barbie doll each and a game called “Go For Broke.” The three of us sat around the dinner table, stuffing ourselves and playing that game (even though it was a school night!!!) and I felt so happy.

On a winter break years ago, my mom took us to see Hook on a rainy, rainy day. By the time we’d made it through the traffic, gotten our popcorn and drinks and made it into the theater, it was packed. She finally found two seats next to each other, but that was still one less than the three we needed to watch the movie. She sat in the aisle on the muddy, wet floor, next to us the entire time, because we were afraid of her leaving us by ourselves.

My mom always made cupcakes for our classmates on our birthdays. ALWAYS.

I faked sick at school, as kids do from time to time, and my mom came and picked me up, no questions asked. She was the kind of mom who only let you stay home from school if you had a fever or were puking, so that was unique in and of itself. As we were driving home in the car, she asked me what I thought would make me feel better and I told her, “peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough.” She didn’t say a word, but two hours later, as I was laying in bed watching DuckTales, she came in with a coffee mug filled with homemade cookie dough. Saintlike.

When I was little, my parents would read the newspaper every weekend morning while G and I watched cartoons (and ate cookie dough ice cream). Occasionally, I’d get bored of the TV and venture upstairs to bug them. My dad always pretended I wasn’t creeping up on him and he always pretended to be surprised when I’d smack the paper with a loud “WHACK!” I thought I was so clever.

Whenever I was sick, my dad would call me from work and ask me what I “needed” to make me feel better. He’d stop for smoothies, banana splits from Ruby’s, popsicles at the grocery store… you name it. He’d even risk a parking ticket to bring me what I wanted (and for a man who parks in the far, nomadic recesses of any parking lot to avoid having his car “dinged” by strangers, that’s saying a lot).

My dad was our consummate cheerleader for sports. When we played softball in high school (and also when G was in little league as a kid), we’d be getting ready for games when suddenly we’d see him in the distance, cruisin’ along in his flip flops, his folding chair over one shoulder and a bag of sunflower seeds in one hand. Often times, he’d try to sit in right field and occasionally, the umpire wouldn’t make him move.

My sister used to take gymnastics on Wednesday nights, and while she was practicing, my dad and I would go to dinner at a restaurant we hadn’t yet tried. We called it “Cultural Diversity Night.”

G is younger than me by a little less than two years. To be honest, for a large majority of my childhood, teenage years, early twenties, she drove me beyond nuts, but now we’re best friends. It’s one of those strange sister things, I think.

We lived on a dead end hill growing up. It did not make bike riding easy, thus we had to come up with our own adventure methods. It started with our Radio Flyer. We’d drag it to the top of our hill, get inside with our legs hanging out and let ‘er rip, barreling down the hill into the ice plant stationed at the bottom. Eventually, we blew out the tires on two wagons, so we had to start experimenting with roller blades. We would start in the middle and work our way up, seeing who could get the highest before chickening out or breaking an arm. It was ridiculous fun.

When I was four and G was two, our grandparents took us to a park near their house. A bully standing at the top of the slide started making fun of me when I fell off at the bottom. Unfortunately, his laughter kept him from realizing my sister was standing behind him. She pushed him down and screamed, “YOU LEAVE MY SISTER ALONE!” It’s a funny thing, isn’t it, when it comes to family? “She’s my sister, so I can make fun of her and beat her up, but so help you God, if you try, I am going to rip your head off.”

No family is perfect, but perfect can get boring real fast, dontcha think? 

<slightly out of focus prints courtesy of Rifle Paper Co.>

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