My Family (a long time ago)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Did It Really Happen?

A couple people have asked me if some of the things I write about really happened or was it really like that growing up. And another person asked me how the heck I remember all this stuff. OK, you got me. I’m really an only child from a wealthy family and every story is made up. I don’t really have six brothers and two sisters, and there were never card games and board games; I didn’t have to learn to get along with others, or how to share things, or how to wait for things; I got everything and anything I wanted, especially at Christmas; my yard was not the football field or the wiffle ball field where we played for hours; I went on luxurious vacations every year; I didn’t have to count out M&M’s in a Dixie Cup. Well, maybe in some parallel universe or imaginary world that is true, but not here in the real world. All I can say is, I write things as I remember them. Does that mean that everything I write is exactly how it happened? Probably not, but what I write is how I remember things and so far no one has come forward and said, “That never happened.”, or “This is what really happened.”, or “This is how that really happened.”.

I know I have a pretty good memory because there are times I bring up situations and someone doesn’t remember it, but as I fill in the details they’ll say, “Oh, yeah. I remember that!” Then we’ll talk about it for fifteen or twenty minutes and laugh about things that happened. Oftentimes it will lead to the retelling of other situations that happened, some even funnier than the original one we talked about. I don’t know why I have such clear memories of occurrences from decades ago – but can’t remember where I left my cell phone ten minutes ago – but maybe it’s because those were some great times and I drank in all the details.

I try not to make it sound like everything was wonderful when I was a kid, because it wasn’t. We weren’t The Brady Bunch or the Huxtables on The Cosby Show. My family went through some hard times, especially trying to feed, clothe and provide for nine kids. I could focus on the struggles I had as a kid, or that we had as a family, but as I look back on my childhood I don’t see the tough times as much as I see how those times taught me something about life, myself or family. In many instances, those tough times taught me what was really important as opposed to what just seemed to be important. That doesn’t mean I always made the right decisions, I made enough bad ones in my life to last ten lifetimes, but I’d like to think that I learned from my mistakes and grew and changed because of them.

My parents and family were by no means perfect. However, my parents raised nine kids, all who are reasonably successful adults. Not one of us is a criminal or a derelict. Trust me when I say that there were other families we knew that had as many, or almost as many, kids as we did and that cannot be said about them. I’m not bragging or trying to put anyone down, but it would have been easy for any of us to turn to a different lifestyle than we did in order to get the “things” many of our friends had. That we didn’t is a testament to our parents and how they taught us to live.

So did this stuff really happen and was it really like I say it was? As far as I remember, yes and yes. I remember it from my perspective and through the lenses of 30 – 40 year old glasses. Things may be a little fuzzy around the edges, but the main part is very clear. I had parents who loved me, and brothers and sisters that I loved (well most of the time anyway). As my Dad used to frequently say, we always had “a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs”, despite some fairly hard times. It’s not all flowers and rainbows today either, but I often think that if my parents got through challenges with nine kids, I can do it with two.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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