This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Family is just accident.... They don't mean to get on your nerves. They don't even mean to be your family, they just are.

The phrase "return the scene of the crime" kept popping into my head as I rounded hour five of my week long visit at Mom n' Dad's.  I guess that smart-ass subconscious of mine was referring to this time last year. I kept flashing back to my first night with Hadj in this house, when I broke into uncontrollable sobs and couldn't describe what was causing them except deep fear.  He couldn't understand it; my parents seemed so supportive and loving.  That's appropriate because they are both of those things,
but, as he put it, he didn't understand my trauma.  He couldn't feel the waves of inadequacy washing over me, left behind from years of self-hatred and an impossible need to please everyone, excluding myself.  I was in over my head and gasping for air.  This intense new relationship, in which I was embarking on living with a partner for the first time, had temporarily landed me in a place I vowed I'd never live in again: my parents' house in the suburbs, while we rebuilt Ma n' Pa's decrepid old master bathroom.  The reasons we chose to undertake such a bizarre task are entirely personal and I prefer to semi-joke that it was Hadj's perverse-reverse dowry for me.  All this before I moved cross country to a place I knew very little about except: trees.

My pal, Anna, wrote really nicely about her home town, as she, too, was mid-move across the country last year.  She defends her "home de plume," but I have never felt an affinity for Cary, IL.  I wasn't born here, but I did grow up here, having moved - along with statistical thousands of other burgeoning middle class, white families in the eighties - from Chicago-city proper to the "safer" streets and "better" schools of the 'burbs when I was just out of my toddling phase.  I have never, never, felt connected to this place.  It has somehow always seemed alien to me; not to mention stiflingly ordinary. 

Another weirdness in life is how alien I have always felt within in parts of my family.  I make clear distinctions between my mother's family and my father's family.  I'm not entirely sure I can place my finger on the origin of this distinction, except they are very different.  My dad's family are all large, enveloping, laughing, loud people.  They are animated, cynical, debaucherous, and they just always seemed to be listening to me.  My mother's family, well.  They settled in Chicago in the early 1900s.  They are urban, staid, cool, there's a strange...hollowness about them, like a cave you yell into which gives you back only your echos.  I never much felt listened to as I did judged.  I don't remember warmth, I remember direction.  I don't recall hugs, but the hard edges of bending bodies: chins and elbows and shoulders.  The dichotomies of the two families just grew starker as I grew older, and as I wrestle to reconcile my gut-reactions to my mother's family I find all these pockets of the calcified hardness with which I attribute them, in me

The weirdness is how unconnected I can manage to feel from my family, who would smother me in love and wrap me in blankets and lock me in a room for daily viewing if it were humane to do so.  The weirdness is in how quick I can lose my sense of humor on subjects around my decision making.  The weirdness is in how passionate and excited I can feel on a subject and how judged or unheard I subsequently feel when trying to explain why.

Maybe I'm just disappointed, feeling that same malaise that so many of us feel with regard to our families.  We're the most familiar strangers possible.  I guess there are a few things propelling me on this kinda minor-key chord and those "things" are actually very joyous occurences, blossoms, in my life right now.  I guess it makes sense to get uptight, or put off, when the people you want most in the world to be excited with you, just don't get it.
Families are about love overcoming emotional torture. - Matt Groening

opening quote from Marsha Norman

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