Many of us are molded by our families. My family is not so easy to explain. My parent’s families are not what you call good examples, and were going different directions in life. They were never much interested in us – so holidays with them was never really a thing. My grandparents came around – usually straight from a bar or lover’s house. The one thing that stands out most in my mind is the AWFUL stench associated with that; a nice mix of unwashed bodies, about 10 packs of cigarettes, and endless alcohol still permeating off of them. Often they were either still drunk or hungover. Needless to say – grandparent memories were never very pleasant.
MY MOLDING, MY STORY
Luckily there was a wonderful family who adopted our small family of 3. The patriarch of the family had befriend my dad and gave him work when he needed it. These were the days when getting paid a quarter a car could still feed your family. So that’s what my dad did – he washed cars. My dad had about a 6th grade education – through no fault of his own. After about the umpteenth time his father tried to kill him, my dad’s brother intervened and knocked their dad out (I’ll spare the reader the details of what my grandfather was doing to my dad). He then told him that he may not be around the next time, so he needed to pack a bag and leave for good. So at 12 years old – that’s what my dad did. He hitchhiked to his sister’s in Florida, did odd jobs, and was eventually drafted into the Army. In the Army he was sent to Vietnam, while serving there, his mother passed away. My dad had a friend we’ll call Jim (not his real name) , and Jim gave my dad a job when he came back from the service after his mom died. Acted as a mentor and father figure and friend to him. This was the start of a friendship between our families for many years to come.
So the “M” family…to me…their home when family is gathered around, is a plethora of “homey” feelings. Christmas time was the best. When I and others were younger, Santa would visit is. Grandpa Jim would always miss Santa visits because he would be out feed the horses and cows. After many years – this poor Santa suit – brought us more than a few giggles. It was so sad and worn, but we couldn’t part with it. Fun, laughs, and games. Games were always something that was meant to bring everyone together – not like games today – our games we included EVERYBODY, we played spoons – at lightning speed around the extended dining room table. i’m pretty sure one year we squeezed 15-20 people in that game – but it was a blast!
Family growing up to me was amazing: I had aunts and uncles, cousins, older brothers, an older sister, grandparents….family – many people who supported me. Yet none of them were blood family. This family came to mean the world to me. Even as I am 41, my eyes are tearing up as I reminisce about those days and those wonderful people.
You could say we “overdid” Christmas. Presents were always bountiful. Usually they came out about five feet from the tree and were piled several feet high across the room. You could say it was overdecorated it – but we loved it – each and every room in the house had beautiful and flowing Christmas decor. When Santa visited and gave gifts to everyone – the elves forgot to take the “Santa Lots” (Big Lots) stickers off the packages….that was the “in” joke for many years to come – and even still to this day will bring a round of laughter.
For reasons I really don’t want to get into, my family of 3 no longer goes around the “M” family. One day I will post about that. But not today. Grandpa Jim passed away earlier this year. I was very grateful that I was able to visit with him twice before he passed away.
I don’t think the “M” family knows how much them mean to me. How much they influences me in my formative years, and how I am the person I am now because of them. Words cannot express this type of thing. I cannot explain why we suddenly stopped coming around. There was a reason – when I learned of the reason – I knew it was a legitimate reason but my mom and I could not share it with them. They were hurt enough by us not going around – believe me, had we through something else like the real reason at them – it would have been much much worse.
So now, as I approach Christmas week – I sit alone in my apartment in Indiana. Not surrounded by family and friends. I’m afraid to let people too close to me because I know they always go away. I cry when I think of my “M” family – so I harden my heart and just don’t go there. So here I sit, my tiny little tree, thinking about my work Christmas tomorrow – that I’m attending alone – and wondering how I got here. But I realize I was molded. Not just by the Ms, and my parents, and by God, but also by life. Thanks be to God. I sit here and reminisce about days gone by; days where I learned to swim, cliff dive, drive a boat, be thrown from a raft, make a killer s’mores – all things learned at Grayson Lake with my parents and extended “M” family. No video games, no phones, no distractions – just days of pure fun. All of these things have prepared me for this moment. I am free – and I am me.
I learned to be me by the molding of many people, by the terror and trauma given by my grandparents, and by the Grace of God.
Here I am.
Imperfect yet forgiven.
Molded by many.