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Posts tagged “family

Moms

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(Mom)

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I’m not a mom. By choice. I never woke up one day feeling like my life wouldn’t be complete unless I reproduced. I never once felt “maternal” instinct or drive or whatever it was that tripped that trigger that made people feel like they needed to go with the norm and have kids. I didn’t get it. Even though all my friends were getting married and having kids I never felt compelled to do the same. It wasn’t rebellion. Well, maybe at first it was, but sheer rebellion couldn’t compete with endless peer pressure and the ethnic expectation to make babies. No, it was something more. It was an innate knowledge that I just didn’t have what it took to hang in there for the long haul, to set aside my worries and fears that my own misspent youth would somehow transpose to whatever get I might create.

It’s ironic that someone so confident and self-assured would fear child-rearing. It’s not like it’s rocket science or anything. And it’s no reflection on my own mother and the job she did raising her family.  I had a great mom! Not perfect, but without a doubt she was a great mom! And the older I get the more I see all the things my mother did right instead of all the things I was afraid of doing wrong. I miss my mother. And sometimes I miss what might have been. But not enough to wish I could go back and change things.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those Moms out there who are trying to get that shit right. You rock.


Coloring Outside the Lines

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I’m not a mom. And although I may have animals, I’m not their mommy either. My own mother (above, at age 3) is deceased and has been for over a decade. So while I have a wonderful mother-in-law who has in every way has been like a mother to me for 32 years, more often than not I end up feeling a bit melancholy on Mother’s Day. Not because I’m  feeling sorry for myself, but because I feel excluded. For the most part, anything that has to do with women or being a woman includes me, welcomes my camaraderie. It doesn’t really matter what my position might be; I can agree or disagree with a variety of topics that weigh on a woman’s heart and  I’m still a player on the team. Except on Mother’s day. On that one day I’m shoved aside, expected to worship women everywhere based on the virtue of their being or having been a mother.

There was a time in my life when I felt I needed to be apologetic for choosing not to procreate. To breed. To mother. Times were different then, the choice to opt out on a family was seldom done without having to dodge lots of questions. Certainly, you want to be a Mom, no? (No) Perhaps you’ll change you mind later, right? (No) Obviously there must be something wrong with your …. ahem … baby-making apparatus? (No) Perhaps you were abused as a child? (No) The truth of the matter was, I didn’t have any maternal drive. None. Nada. Zip. It wasn’t a matter of finding the right man or getting my priorities straight. I didn’t want to be a mother. I never closed my eyes and pictured myself in a cozy little house with a white picket fence, holding a cute little baby in my arms. That picture horrified me, made me break out in a sweat and want to bolt for the hills. I thought I’d get over it, was told time and time again that I would, but I never did.

So why the melancholy when Mother’s day rolls around? I dunno. I know it’s really nothing more than an overblown Hallmark Holiday designed to sell cheesy gifts and cards, boost restaurant business until the next big food holiday. I can (and do) try to honor my Mother-in-law and the memory of my own mom and applaud my sisters and the hard work they’ve done to raise their own children. But what about all the men and women who don’t get any recognition simply because they haven’t raised a child? Are they any less noteworthy? Are there any non-mother’s day cards? Sorry you’ve lost your mom holidays? Non-mother’s day celebrations? I don’t think so. Which means countless men and women are often forced to endure Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) festivities stuffing our feelings and pretending it’s a special day for those who might feel dishonored if we didn’t make an effort to fake it.

I was fortunate to have read this today. It really hit home. I’ll have to try to remember to read it again next year, hopefully earlier in the day before all the Hallmark propaganda sucks the joy out of a perfectly nice spring day.


Pink

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First of all, thanks to all the well-wishes for my sister and BIL who were in a serious motorcycle accident last weekend. My sister, who has no medical insurance, is still in the Trauma Hospital. She had surgery to put pins in her fractured leg and is getting PT to help her figure out how to cope with a broken leg and clavicle. Normally we bitch about how fast the insurance companies try to get the hospital to discharge patients, but in her case there is no insurance and hence, she has no idea when she’ll go home. I’m beginning to wonder if she ought to start pushing a bit more to get the heck out of there. I know it will be a challenge to get back and forth to visit her husband, but I think she thinks her bill is someone elses responsibility. Unfortunately, it’s not, and for every day she stays put the meter keeps running. I find it questionable that nobody has started hinting at when she might go home, yet her injuries are not critical. But I  guess that’s not my problem.

The BIL is in much deeper doo-doo. His injuries, though not internal, are numerous and complex. He has a long list of broken bones and complications that will take many months to straighten out. He’s already had a couple of surgeries to try to repair various fractured limbs, but I suspect he’ll be having more for years to come. Yeah. Not good. But he’s breathing on his own and the internal stuff is (so far) fine. Bones heal, so I guess he’ll get through this.

I’ve hardly begun to address my own personal anger and frustration about this situation. It’s my opinion that they had no business being on a motorcycle to begin with and I’m having a tough time coming to grips with the long-term consequences of their foolishness. Yes, accidents happen, but when you’re in their situation you don’t take frivolous risks without preparing for the consequences if there’s a disaster. Now that the dreaded wreck has happened, it’s sort of a moot point that I’ve been harping at my sister for 12 years about not having any medical insurance and a few other stop-gap measures in place. I can’t help thinking that if you’re gonna play you’d better be able to pay, and if you don’t have a spec of medical coverage then it’s probably not a good idea to be tooling around on the back of a motorbike.

I hope she figures out how she’s going to go forward from here. It’s been one heck of a week.


Memories

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As I grow older it’s become increasingly clear that siblings have selective memories about the past. The second oldest of four children, I have my own unique perspective on our family. Although at times bold and pushy, (“Go catch your own grasshoppers, Mikel!”), I often chose the role of a cautious, if not shy observer. Deeply sensitive, I developed the skill of family negotiator that to this day, reluctantly forces me to play middleman between quibbling siblings.

I was raised in what I suppose was the usual manner for a child born in the late 50’s. My  mother sacrificed her education and budding career (music) to stay home and raise babies, while my father worked long hours to establish himself as a physician. We were born in rapid succession, which must have caused an incredible amount of stress for our mother. I know from old photos and movies that Dad often took over the kid duty when he got home, but the crux of child supervision and rearing was thrust upon our young mother.

Some siblings have been known to recall a mother who was cold and distant from her children, but I remember a mom who was very involved and supportive. She taught us to sing before we could walk and read us stacks and stacks of books. Mom made certain we visited the public library weekly and got us our own library cards long before it was in vogue. Both parents were raised on the banks of freshwater lakes; Mom on Conesus Lake and Dad on Lake Ontario. Practically minded, they insisted we learn how to swim and after starting us themselves, enrolled us in swim lessons that kept mom shuttling us to and fro for years. It’s a credit to her dedication to this task that I was (officially) the youngest student not only to attend Senior Lifesaving at Perkin’s Swim Club, but the first ever to pass the water exam on the first try!

My parents spent countless weekends teaching us how to ride bikes, roller skate, ice skate and eventually, to ski. Dad became a neighborhood hero when he built a large wooden frame and flooded it, providing a huge skating rink for scores of bored local children. When that grew routine he packed everyone into the Station Wagon and took us tobogganing. In the summer, dad would join us outside after dinner. He’d plant his backside on the front step and act as official neighborhood referee for countless games of tag, hide and seek, kick the can and red rover. I never saw anyone else’s dad join him, but our Dad would sit listening to the cicadas buzz and whisper hiding suggestions into the ears of giggling little girls until dusk fell and it grew too dark to continue. He always made sure everyone played fairly, Doc’s rules, of course!

We had an in-ground pool, a luxury at that time. From Memorial Day until Labor Day weekend (when the pool was closed) Mom was frequently charged with the responsibility of playing lifeguard for an assortment of neighborhood children and school friends. Asked if we could have someone over to swim, she seldom said no, she just took it all in stride. It wasn’t uncommon to find eight or more kids in the pool at any given time, every day of the week. Eventually mom got smart and started to insist frequent regulars bring a parent to oversee the pool games. And she asked that they bring a snack. Not only was Mom tethered to the role of lifeguard, she was constantly feeding scores of starving kids! It’s easy to forget that Mom had a house, a garden and a busy family to maintain along with the pool parties and countless hours she spent making sure no child drowned on her watch.

As we grew older things changed. Not having children of my own I have to look to friends and family members who’ve raised teenagers to understand the monumental shift in the parent-child relationship. Sullen, rude, distanced, belligerent, self-absorbed and more, times four. Gee, that must have been a lot of fun for my parents. And they had flaws of their own. The thing is, I’ve been around long enough to know now that when the going gets tough I sometimes turn to the wrong things to help me cope. My parents were no different.

My parents made mistakes. Sometimes they said and did things they probably should have censured. The thing about family is that by the time you grow up and leave home you know way too much about the people you lived with. We get to see all the lumps and warts up close. Eighteen or nineteen years go by and it seems like every little nuance is etched in our memory forever. The thought that a child might carry the remembrance of some stupid, offhanded remark or blundering faux pas to their grave scares the living dickens out of me. But it happens more often than not.

I strive to look back at my childhood with openness and clarity. I try to remember that some events have become distorted with telling, time and a recollection that is sketchy at best. I try not to depict my memories with a Pollyanna, Everything-Was-Perfect tone, but I don’t focus on all the mistakes either. My parents were human. They laughed, they cried, they got hurt, they healed, they fell down, they got up … again and again and again. In spite of all their mistakes and dysfunction they managed to raise four good kids, a testimony to their desire to leave this world a better place.

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Above: One of the last pictures I took of Tia last fall. Still miss you every day, Tee-toes!


Say “Geeze!”

 

It’s that time of year again! You know what time I’m talking about ….  wacky, Christmas-Card-group-photo time! Doesn’t every family follow this delightful holiday tradition?

 

I’m pretty sure my parents invented the Christmas Card photo. Even before my older sister and I were able to sit up and smile they’d stuff us in little red mummy wraps, prop us up in a chair and snap away. The first few years of photos show two skinny little girls in matching outfits wearing a deer-caught-in-the-headlight grin.  As we grew older my parents got a bit more creative. One year we were photographed sitting on Santa’s lap.  Another year we were shown roasting our little butts off on the hearth of a crackling fireplace. By the time my brother came along my sister and I were missing several front teeth. That year Mom and Dad laid Robert tummy side-down on their bed and told my sister and I to lay beside him facing the camera. We looked like three big toothless grinning pumpkin-heads.

 

Every year we had to suffer through several different holiday-themed photo sessions. Us reading “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Us reenacting some sappy Christmas play. Us making a snowman. Us stringing colorful lights on the tree. I’m sure you get the idea. By the time my sister and I hit our teens I didn’t want anything to do with being in front of a camera. A bad case of teenage acne probably had a little something to do with it, or maybe it was the dreaded demonic red-eye from the primitive flash on the Kodak Instamatic? Either way, I did my best to show as little of my face as possible, which resulted in us having to take even more pictures!

 

There were trial photos of us peeking out from behind a shower curtain and us casually lounging in the bed of a pickup truck.  (Yeah. I still don’t get the holiday connection there …) There were pictures of us out on the deck, pictures of us by the barn, pictures of us on skis and pictures of us hitting, poking, elbowing and making bunny ears on each other. There are pictures of us with Cher hair, perms, pixies, crew cuts, shags, mullets, Dorthy Hamils, Fabios and Farrah Faucet feathers. We’re shown wearing tight sweaters, flannel shirts (me) knee-high boots (me again) hip-huggers, jeans, gypsy skirts, jumpsuits, neck scarves, beads and Army jackets. If nothing else, our annual photo shoot is a historical catalog of fashion trends from the late 60’s through the 70’s.

 

Mom had to get even more creative when my older sister and I reached the age were we were ready to leave home for school and careers. Her answer to that dilemma was to take two separate late summer photos, then cut and paste them together. Then she would take a photo of that photo. Ahem. This was 30 years before Photoshop, so the end result was a picture of two kids in semi-decent focus next to a cutout of two very blurred kids. Good times! Eventually it got to the point where the older kids were married and/or living in other states and the younger two were here, there and everywhere. No matter.  Mom just waited until everyone showed up for Thanksgiving, then after downing several alcoholic beverages she would mutter something under her breath about taking a photo and vanish … only to reappear with camera in hand. Gotcha!

 

I thought I’d finally dodged the family photo bullet when I left home for good, so imagine my horror that first Thanksgiving when my future mother-in-law held up her camera and announced it was time to take the annual family portrait. And so the tradition continues. It’s been 25 years of agony and goofiness as we jockey to get the perfect holiday group shot. This year was no different except for one minor detail: I was behind the camera instead of in front of it!

 

I can live with that!

 


Happy Birthday Sis!

I know she can’t see or read this (no home computer), but it’s my older sister’s birthday and I wanted to honor her special day since we finally got to spend her birthday together for the first time in ….. well …. many, many years!

Recently Mikel had to send her beloved Lab (Cody) over the Bridge. Knowing that decision was looming, she brought Rosie into her life. Rosie was bred to be a rough coated Doxie, but she failed to inherit the proper coat. Hence, the interesting color (Wild Boar Brindle), but the wrong texture and length. That said, Rosie’s a Doxie proper in every way … cute as a button and VERY busy! (She’s almost a year old now.) I fell for her, and some time within the first hour I think the feeling was mutual. (She did choose to hang out on MY bed, but hey …. I had the “dog magnet” sleeping bag!)

We had a great visit, albeit it short. Let’s hope a year doesn’t pass before we meet again! Happy birthday, sis!