I was raised to believe that all things are possible, and anything can happen in this life we are living. It’s curious that I was ruminating about what my family taught me, just before learning the prompt for this week. Not that my family set out to teach me those lessons, but that is the beauty of my family which is eclectic, unpredictable, and diverse.
I often tell others that they don’t have to hide anything about their families from me, because I’m sure my family has whatever goes on in their family. I like the phrase, “Oh yeah we have one of those in our family, too.” What got me on this pilgrimage of thought was our book study on racism. Yep, I had family members who were racists, but I never lived with them until I was in 12th grade.
By that time I lived with the “racists” the other side of the family had reared me in an atmosphere of acceptance that all nationalities and races were welcome into the family. Likewise, my school system was well integrated with all nationalities and races and taught me that all races have good and bad persons, and the goal is to stick with the “good ones.” But both my family and school, also, taught me to “expect anything to happen” (fights, shootings, gangs, drugs, police searches, unexpected -accidental -on purpose- expected- or murdered, or diseased deaths of adults and children.) The concept is to “go with the flow.”
That’s not to say that my mother didn’t fear I would hook-up with the “bad elements” of society, I suppose. I knew my parents voted on the side that I would be the one most likely to be arrested. As an adult, I still don’t know why they would think that. I played basket ballad tennis, volunteered at a nursing home to feed the elderly their dinners and read to the blind. I even volunteered at the local hospital, and took all the classes my school district offered—by the time I was in 7th grade, I knew two different languages, and sciences.
Of coarse, looking back on those times I, also, was the only female on the rifle team, fencing club, and archery team. I never saw those as incongruent with my ballet lessons, especially if you take into consideration that if boys were harassing you on the way home from dancing lessons, tap shoes make great kickers of shins. I know why I was kept on the rifle, archery, and fencing teams, even then. I was the main sharp-shooter, I could fence with both my right and left hands and win, and archery was just plain fun to listen to the arrow “twung” off the bow, and “whishhhh down toward the target, and thud into the bullseye.”
To add to my experience of life, I was often “farmed out” to family members who would take me on, especially for the summer. My various aunts, uncles, and grandmothers households were vastly different from my parent’s household. I would go from only having my sister as a sibling, to having 2 or 6 siblings, to being the only child with Grandmom and living in 50 acres of forest. Each family gave me ways to choose who, or what, I wanted to cultivate in my life.
Grandmom was the best, I suppose. She was a French and English teacher and encouraged any study I wanted to pursue—if I wanted to read all day, she never stopped me. If I wanted to raise tadpoles into frogs, I was allowed (turtles, however, were expected to live in the garden, and I still have yearning for a turtle-home-pet). Grandmom, also, held to strict rule of conduct—afternoon tea, proper language, and decorum. Nobody can blame her if I didn’t live up to that gentile aspect of life, she did her best, with what little she had to work with (keeping in mind I tried to make bows and arrows out of tree branches-canoes that constantly sunk into the pond, and trees that needed to be climbed because the best apples were always wayyyyy-up-there).
Grandmom tried very hard to give us culture, with classical music (which I dance ballet to) and classical writing. However, once a year she would have to endure taking us to Aunt Mary and Uncle Merrill’s home for our “Christmas visit.” Imagine an atmosphere of “ tea at Downton Abby” and we were not the servants, we were FAMILY. My grandmother had been a debutant at one time in her life, but I’ll admit I never quite learned how to effect that quality into my character. Those visits were the only time I would get the “stink-eye-don’t you DARE” look from my grandmother. Fortunately, I didn’t have to exhibit my piano accomplishment (or lack-thereof), because Aunt Mary and Uncle Merrill’s twins, and son were concert violinists and cellist. To this day, I can still recall the sound of ticking and chiming on the quarter-hour of the grandfather clock in the foyer of their extremely quiet sedate home.
Then there was Aunt Pat and Uncle Tom’s home that had no rules. I lived with six other children and was able to get lost in the crowd. Ever summer had a theme. One year it was photography, where we each got cameras and we set up a darkroom. One year was “fermentation” as we made real root beer, and brandied fruit—may the police not arrest them for encouraging our underage ferment-drinking. I will admit I have never found another “root beer soda” that tasted as good as those did. I learned NOT to make cookies in the fireplace, and not to be outside in a storm with lightening bolts—we learned what lightening blows up when it strikes. Oh, and I learned a valuable life lesson for all of us—always hide your candy, or popsicle in the brussel sprout bag in the freezer—nobody thinks to to look there.
Well, thank you for being on this journey of exploration and pondering how I was raised to believe that all things are possible, and anything can happen in this life we are living.