Friday, July 5, 2013
I have these individual metal letters that spell out the word 'family' that sit on my mantle in my family room. My husband and kids think it's funny to rearrange the letters to read other nonsensical things. Things like ima fly or ifamly or mafily...you get the picture. They know that it upsets my sense of order and balance so it makes them happy.
I aim to please!
But the rearrangement of the letters got me thinking about the concept of 'family' and what it's really come to mean to me. When I was a kid, I bought into the whole Norman Rockwell, Currier & Ives version of family. The Brady Bunch and Father's Knows Best version of dad goes to work everyday and comes home to mom and the kids. Everyone is well fed and doesn't want for anything so, therefore, they're happy. Since my home life was more along the lines of Arrested Development, I couldn't figure out what we were doing wrong. NO ONE was ever happy in my house. We had moments but when I look at the relative bliss in which my kids were raised, I'm pretty sure that "happy" wasn't an adjective often used to describe my younger self.
What I should have been doing was paying more attention to Disney and my fairy tales. Cinderella had no biological parents and the step-mother and step-sisters she had left were narcissistic bitches. We have no idea where SnowWhite came from but she ended up living with seven dwarfs who became her pseudo-family. Daddy issues anyone? Then there's Hansel & Gretel who's father didn't have the balls to stand up to his wife when she banished the children from their home which means he was likely an abused spouse. (In some versions of the story he finally turns on his wife and goes in search of the kids but geez!). Then there is poor neglected Little Red Riding Hood who's parents didn't give a rat's ass about her so they sent her alone to grandma's through the woods for Christ's sake!
Now that's more like the family I knew and loved. Kinda makes you all warm and fuzzy inside - or maybe that's the pizza I had for lunch, but I digress.
As I was got older and realized that my home wasn't exactly the poster child for functional, I looked for examples of what I should do to make my home more NORMAL. I tuned in to...The Cosby Show. Come on! A doctor and a lawyer? Living in a brownstone in Harlem (80's price roughly 2.2 million). Yeah...not going to happen in my house. Bankers...we're simple bankers. Simple poor bankers.
But really, that was about it for functional. Just about the time I started building a functional life, TV gave me dysfunction that was functioning. Mork & Mindy? Alien and humans. Kate & Allie? Single moms raising kids. Webster? Inter-racial family with a cute kid and EXTREMELY rich white parents. Punky Brewster? Another cute little kid without parents being raised by some old fart. (That one always gave me the creeps...refer to yesterday's post.) Newhart? Inbreeding at its best. (Darryl and Darryl anyone?) One Day at a Time? Single mom, out of control teen, goody goody teen, busy body super. Roseanne? Puh-leeeeze! My real life was too much like that...you know, minus all the functional parts.
Then comes the 90's when I actually had children and the concept of the traditional "family" went all the way to hell in the proverbial hand basket.
Seinfeld - a group of friends who merely tolerate each other and all hate being around their parents.
Friends - a group of friends who really love each other and still hate being around their parents.
Married With Children - okay...this is even too much for me.
Home Improvement - closer to my version of Norman Rockwell but are men really this stupid?
Full House - cutest baby of all time but who the heck are these men living in a $10 million dollar home in San Francisco?
Fresh Prince of Bel Air - money on top of money on top of more money.
Murphy Brown - angry woman in DC. Not really that far fetched when you think about it. Did I mention she lived in Georgetown? In a brownstone? Yep, you guessed it - money!
What that all said to me was that in order to be normal I had to be abnormal and have lots and lots of money because cleary, money solved all of what was wrong in the world.
Yeah...not so much.
This is about the point we turned off network TV and began watching only animated or educational shows during the day and either HGTV, Food Network or the History Channel at night. Now I only have to feel inadequate when it comes to the way my house looks, the meals I feed my children and the crimes against humanity that my race, gender or country may have committed over the last 2000 years or so.
But family? That part I think we've figured out in spite of the messages sent to us over the airways. For us it's a house open at all times to whomever needs a hug, a meal, or a sanctuary. My nuclear family is a hodgepodge of people drawn together by love rather than blood who actually enjoy each other's company. The complexion and dynamic of this thing we call family changes every minute and we adapt and grow and bloom right along with it.
And we don't need TV, or Disney or fairy tales to tell us how it should be. We write our own story every single day.