Monday, November 29, 2010

Family Ramblings


A word with so many different meanings to so many different people it's hard to know where to start.

I have always had mixed emotions about family since I was old enough to feel like I didn't know where I belonged.

I was given up for adoption at birth and found my way to my parents when I was about 6 weeks old. I have no idea where I was in those 6 weeks and since I can't quite recall back that far it will remain a mystery.

I always knew I was adopted and that fact didn't bother me. It was the fact that I grew up as an only child with eccentric parents that drove me a bit nuts.

I hated being an only child more than I hated anything else. I had scores of cousins and they all had several siblings. I felt very left out. I used to beg my parents to adopt another kid and I even remember them going to the adoption agency once where I got to stay in a room full of toys while they went to a meeting. But nothing ever came of it. So I remained alone, growing up in a rambling 1920's Spanish "mansion" (as my friends called it) in the Hollywood Hills.

I didn't want to live in an out-of-the-ordinary house. I wanted to live in a normal house. And have normal parents who had normal jobs. As much fun as it was to get to meet stars and go to the studios it made me feel like an outsider because everyone thought it was so special. And my mom always wanted everyone to think it WAS so special. I think some of their own families resented them for the appearances my mom put on. Everyone thought we were rich because of how the house looked and the jobs they had. But the truth was, my mom was tighter than scrooge. I wasn't allowed to get a drink when we went out to eat because water was fine (and free). I couldn't buy the cereal I wanted because it 25¢ more than the other kind. And more than once I got a used toy wrapped up for Christmas. The house fell deeply into disrepair as I grew up because neither of my parents wanted to spend real money to get it fixed. So everything was done as cheaply as possible which meant it rarely lasted. My mom had the carpet pulled up sometime around 1980 and it was never replaced until Jeff and I moved in and did it ourselves 25 years later.

I loved my parents.. a lot. But growing up with them was quite an experience. They worked a lot so I was alone a lot. This is probably the main reason I grew up and had 5 kids (then adopted one more). Then got 2 step kids. I wanted to be surrounded by people because I hated empty houses. ( I think I cured myself of that.. quiet is now a rare commodity in my life and I have come to enjoy it).

And what did I learn from all this as my own children grew into adults? That no family is a normal family. All those families out there that seemed so perfect and ideal to me turned out to have problems of their own. Most worse than mine. My lament of wanting to "just be normal" was just a charade. There is no normal because being normal is extremely subjective.

I eventually found and located my birth parents. My birth dad was very happy that I found him and for a few years we were actually quite close. I also found siblings that I didn't know I had.  My birth mom on the other hand wanted nothing to do with me. That was a hard one to swallow but its been 19 years since then and I live with it. But I also discovered those families didn't fit into the "normal" range either. And I also realized blood doesn't make family. The people who raise you and are there for you and love you no matter what are your family. I wish my parents were still alive so I could tell them that. I think my search for my biological roots hurt them more than I ever understood while I was doing it. And I regret not waiting until they were both gone before I undertook that journey.

I guess the holidays bring out the need to reminisce. I am sadder than usual this year because the older kids are spread out all over creation with no hope of getting to see them anytime soon. I always had this dream of having my family grow up and live close so we could visit each other on the weekends and I could babysit and spoil my grand kids (often). I guess there is always hope that it will still happen.... that the older kids will move back and the younger ones will grow up and stay close.

Again, I'm always reaching for that elusive "normalcy". That which it seems everyone else but me has.

But when I think about it, I guess that desire in and of it itself falls within the realm of being normal.

What do you know... I'm not that far off after all.

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