I’ve been given a writing prompt, a simple three word question to turn into a journal entry: “what is family?”
When I read that prompt my knee jerk reaction was “I have no idea.” But that doesn’t work for a full length blog post so I figured I should mull it over for a bit.
So I walked home from work, took a short nap, did the dishes, cooked supper, ate some, and surfed the internet for an hour or so… and I haven’t come up with any better answer than “I have no idea.”
I’ve seen plenty of other people’s families, from my aunts and uncles and cousins to various friends throughout the years, and all families were unique.
There are some common elements, I suppose. Siblings fight, and siblings support. Parents teach and lead and discipline. Children learn and grow and rebel.
Can you count on your family for support? Some evidence says “yes”, other evidence demonstrates “no”. Will you always get along with your family? No, not always. Will you often get along with your family? That just seems to depend on your relations, on the season, on the situation, and… a million other things.
My immediate family consisted of my mother. She did her best to keep me in contact with our extended family, but I was the weird, psychedelic sheep of the family. Nobody understood me and I could tell I confused everyone. I was intelligent but emotional, large but not physical, and I was more of a “girl” in temperament than many of my female cousins.
I think Connie’s father summed up my uncles’ collective thoughts about me in one statement of confusion: “He looks like he should be useful, but he isn’t.”
I was weird and impossible. Worse, I knew it. I could see them all looking at me with puzzled expressions, shaking their heads and just not knowing what the hell to do with me.
So my experience of family is, was, my mother. One on one we were more friends than family, I suppose. At least in later years. To my eternal regret we drifted apart when I hit puberty. She would spend evenings watching TV in the ironically named “family room” in the basement and I would spend my evenings reading and listening to music upstairs. Weekends she would work, taking family and wedding photos. For a while I assisted her, but eventually started getting my own part time jobs.
Prior to that she was mostly absent, busy running her own business. I grew up having to learn to take care of myself on my own and doing a very poor job of it. I don’t remember very many birthday parties. Even when I see pictures of them I don’t remember being there.
The one birthday I remember most was the day I came home from college classes to find my mother waiting for me dressed up an angry. It was nearly 10 in the evening and and she asked me where I’d been. I was confused. I had been at the university working on my assignments. School had only just started but I already had a lot to do. She complained that she had intended on taking me out for dinner for my birthday. I’d not even been aware that it was my birthday that day.
So… what is family? I have no idea. I’m not sure I will ever really know. I’ve never really been involved in one.