Sometimes I love it when my family visits. Other times, not so much. I love my family, don't get me wrong. But, many times, I don't like them. And most of all, I don't get them.
I often feel as if I am the orphan at the table. The red haired step child. I always seem to have one view and the others all share another. And Liv sits there and listens to this, takes it in. I only hope that what she gleans is that there are certain ways NOT to be.
Maybe it's vain of me. Maybe I am too self sure. But...these are things I don't get:
1) Why everyone in my family is so against the legalization of marijuana. What the FUCK is the big deal, I ask you? They are all heavy drinkers, even joke about getting bombed now and then. Marijuana has been studied ad nauseam by the medical community. And it has shown that, used in moderation, it has no ill side effects, in fact can be useful in treating many illnesses. Yet, my family continues to look on in horror as Colorado does what should have been done years ago, hopefully opening the door for the rest of us. I see their faces. Visions of this are flying in their heads:
I, the lone supporter, venture forth with the opinion that the legalization of marijuana is a good thing. They all look at me as if I have just stated that public hangings should be brought back. One of my sisters asks me if I would be okay smoking it front of my child. I tell her that no, not today, but only because it is illegal and I try hard to follow the law in front of my child, but that if it were legal, I would be fine with it. I then point out to her that she was once so drunk at a Beach Boys concert in front of her daughters that they still bring it up at family dinners as a funny story. Is she okay with that?
"Well," she snips back at me, "That's different. Alcohol is legal and everyone gets drunk now and then. And they are teenagers."
Oh. Well, then. Okay. There are so many holes in that logic that I don't even bother to point out that alcohol wrecks havoc on the liver and even destroys brain cells. Marijuana does not.
2) Only one of my sisters refused to attend my wedding. She told me that she had to stand by her beliefs. I get it. But what I don't get is that she also recently attended a Sir Elton John concert where her ticket price was donated to the funding of gay marriage. I found that rather interesting. She won't go to my wedding because of her religious convictions, but she just donated over 100 bucks to the advancement of gay rights? She is also a teacher at a parochial school and read her students the Harry Potter books. One of the main characters of the Harry Potter books is gay. Albus Dumbledore. When I brought this up up to her, she argued that J.K. Rowling was wrong, that Albus Dumbledore is NOT gay. I had to bite my cheeks not to laugh at this. The AUTHOR announced that Dumbedore was gay and she was WRONG?
Right, that makes perfect sense.
No, she pushed. She didn't perceive Dumbledore as gay, so therefore, in her mind, he wasn't.
Explain that to me again?
3) My oldest sister is a chameleon and it bugs the hell out of me. When she is with me, she behaves in one way, is very supportive of my lifestyle, etc. But when my younger sister is with us, (the one who didn't attend my wedding) she suddenly starts pontificating about how much she loves Sarah Palin and how uppity the black population is getting. I find this unsettling and bothersome and well, I see her as a bit of turncoat but if you ask her, she will tell you that she is just keeping the family peace. What this really means is that she is afraid to upset our little sister but not too concerned about upsetting me. I let this one go because, in my heart, I understand her reasoning. She knows that our little sister is very, very prone to bearing grudges and that I am not. So, it is easier to piss off me than her. But Liv sees it and she mulls it over. She has told me that Aunt Patrice is a bit of a coward, don't I agree? I say that yes, I do. She is.
4) My younger sister has three daughters. Lovely girls. The eldest is 22. The youngest, 16. What troubles me is that I don't see the older two girls developing their minds much. They seem intent on remaining in small town mindset. I look at those three smart girls and I think of that big wonderful world out there and how much they could add to it. They are, all of them, smart, funny and sweet. With the right education and open minded teaching, they could pluck off those heavy blinders that their Mother has kept them in and start seeing the world in technicolor. Instead, they choose to remain close to home, holding tight to family values. They would NEVER argue with their Mother, ever. I see this and want to weep. I was raised much the same myself. And broke free. I took on my Mother when I was 24 and was disowned for loving a woman. At the time, many people told me that I should have just made nice, gotten through med school on her dollar and THEN made the jump. But, you know, the best lessons I learned were the ones I learned when I was banished. I learned to be self sufficient. I learned to trust myself. I also made some bad mistakes but these were not because of my being disowned. They were the mistakes of youth that even the best raised can fall into.
I want so badly to see my nieces start thinking for themselves, to raise themselves up and be the women that they are meant to be, could be, if they would just listen to their own drum beat instead of their Mother's iron handed one. But, as Bing has told me more than once, perhaps this is the way that they are. Perhaps this IS their drum beat.
I hate to think so.
Selfishly, I want them to hear mine instead. Or at least something in the middle of mine and their Mother's.
And to be fair, my sister probably feels the same about my daughter. She probably thinks that I brainwash her. But, you know, I disagree. I have always encouraged Liv to think for herself and some of her choices dismay me, but as long as she isn't hurting anyone or herself, I allow her to make them. I am not happy with her choice of a Catholic girl's academy to attend high school. If I had my druthers, I would have her in Montessori until graduation. But, I see the good in her choices, too. I see that she is being taught her curriculum well by gifted teachers. I am not pleased with her lessons of Catholicism, but she hasn't shown any signs of embracing the religion, although she does seem fascinated by it's history. And she says that her friends have told her that they have never known anyone who comes from a family with two Mothers and that they have learned that, yes, we are a family, too. So, perhaps Liv is teaching them as well. I worried so that this would be an issue for Liv at school, that girls would shun her. But no. She is president of her class and there have only been a few snotty comments. The friends that she has sought out have been open minded and a lot like her. She has friends sleep over a lot and she spends plenty of time socializing (too much time sometimes!)
I guess what I need to express about my family is that I didn't choose them. And they certainly would never have chosen me. And I often feel as if I live in a crazy dichotomy. Some of my happiest, most cherished memories have occurred with my sisters. And some of my bitterest anger has come because of them. I love all of my sisters, all of my family. I just don't always like them. One of my nieces told me once that she felt as if I was her eccentric, odd Aunt. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I am hardly eccentric or odd but in my family, the truth is that I am considered extremely odd and very eccentric. I sage my house to protect it from bad spirits. I believe strongly in reincarnation. I am a die hard liberal Democrat. And I don't believe that my soul is saved because I was baptized a Catholic. I think that ALL of our souls are saved if we choose them to be and that good deeds and a loving heart define a person, NOT a religion. Like Karl Marx, I believe that religion is the opiate of the masses. I think that Obama's health care system will be a success. My entire family is ready to burn him at the stake. I tell them to watch and wait. Watch and wait. Yes, there were glitches. Yes, that should not have happened. But, watch and wait. Watch and wait. In the long run, this will work. Our country is being bankrupted by those who don't have insurance. Now that everyone will be required to have insurance, our financial troubles will ease. But this will all take time. And patience. And faith. And no, family, Obama's health care system is NOT socialism. That is a Republican hate catch word that they threw on the table with the hopes that all you little Republicans would scamper up to grab it and use it with your friends. Do me a favor and go educate yourself about the word socialism before you throw it at me with your smug little hands.
I often feel so torn. I keep saying this over and over because it is true: I LOVE MY FAMILY. I went without a family for over a decade and after our Mother died, my sisters and I slowly found our way back to each other. It was not without pain. Especially on my part. I was bitter and angry, but also extremely proud. I had succeeded without them. Made a career for myself. Had a lovely child, a lovely home. I had found happiness without them. But not without suffering. A lot of suffering. A lot of pain. The pain of rejection is something that I don't wish on anyone. It stings like a motherfucker.
And my sisters felt guilty and shamed. My sister, Celia, had never really left me. She had stayed in touch with me even though we both knew that if my Mother had ever found out, she would have disowned Celia too. I will always love her the most for that. The courage that she showed. Jessie came back within six months of my Mother's passing and Patrice, the most stubborn, two years later. And, at last, we were all together again. I had missed them so! And then I felt almost overwhelmed. I went from famine to feast. All at once, I was invited to holiday dinners and birthdays and movies. Liv, who was about 3 at the time, went from having just me for family, to having a whole slew of relatives and cousins. At first, it was lovely and then little by little, our good manners stole away and our true natures came out and well....there you go. Orphan at the table. Red haired step child. That was me. I discovered that my years away had bought me something else: a completely different way of looking at the world. Since I hadn't had the bosom of family to retreat to, lean into, I ventured out into the world on my own. And what I learned there was that thinking for oneself is a very, very good thing. I vowed that I would teach that to my daughter. And I have.
But, the love, the need for family still rings in me. I still pine for it. That part of me that went without for so long, still aches for it. A part of me wants badly to just play along, not rock the boat. But, the other part of me, the stronger part, knows that I have to rock it. I have to follow my own heart, say what I believe.
And therein lies the rub. I have to straddle both fences somehow. And it taxes me.
One of my nieces once joked that I should have this song at my funeral and you know, I think I will!
So, tell me how you fit into your family? Where does your particular puzzle piece fit? Are you blessed to be a good fit or a round peg in a square hole?