Saturday, October 24, 2009
Today I heard a hymn that I used to hear in the Episcopal church of my childhood. (Religion was not a big part of my life either then or now, but I attended church often enough to be able to identify music I heard there.) My eyes filled with tears- I couldn't function for a few minutes. (Luckily I wasn't driving- I probably would have crashed the car.)
Is this normal behavior? Of course, everyone's story is different. The characteristics of my story which may be causing this are many. For one thing, I haven't lived in or near my hometown since I was 17. The family I knew as a child has disintegrated- most of the key people have died, except for my brother and sister who both live far from home. Only my father remains in my hometown, yet he married into a new family and barely acknowledges his "old" family.
My childhood was not a particularly happy one, although I was an idealistic child and somehow I knew how to make the best of things, and I always knew I'd leave after high school. I was shy and lonely, reading books all the time. My family never did fun things- my parents were unhappily married, and my brother and sister, who were teens by the time I was born, resented me. What's to miss about that childhood?!
Well, as always, I have a theory. The family may not have been outstanding, but it was the only security I've ever known. We lived in the same house for all of those years. My parents got up at the same time every morning and went to bed the same time each night. There were no surprises. I always knew what to expect when I came home from school- if my mother was at work, then Gram would be there. Dinner (we called it "supper") was at 5pm each night come hell or high water. My mother's cooking sucked, but at least it was consistently bad. And no matter what she served for the meal, whether I ate it or not, there was always dessert- usually ice cream. Every Sunday I was given a McDonald's Happy Meal for dinner.
We didn't have a huge extended family, but I knew a few relatives who lived nearby. Gram was my favorite person of all time, but I was also fond of another older relative, Marion, from my mother's side. I never knew what appealed to me about Marion, because we had nothing in common, but I just liked her. I was terribly quiet, even around relatives, so I was sure she didn't know. I was thrilled when one day my mother told me that she had told Marion that I liked her, and Marion had said, "Yes, I know she does." How did she know?
It was not Family of the Year, but it was stable- as I said, it was the only stability I've ever known. I work in a very unstable field, and my schedule is erratic. I can't even have a regular bedtime schedule, because I sometimes work late at night and sometimes early in the morning. I can't sign up for anything regular, like classes or clubs, because of my work schedule.
Besides being stable, my childhood was the only time of my life during which I was surrounded by people who had to care about me no matter what. That's what "family" is, right? Now, I do have a child, but he'd happily throw me to the wolves if I so much as tell him he has to go to bed!
My child will not look back at his childhood the way I do mine. He has no family- he only has a mother- that's all. The only stability I've been able to offer is the constant knowledge that he's cared about, and that he has a house and food and electronics. Maybe he'll be able to look back and remember the house on the park with views like the one above, the ill-behaved Chihuahua who constantly wanted to fetch, and the fretting mother who did the best she could. I'm not sure if his eyes will fill with tears when he hears a song from childhood......
Posted by B.S. at Saturday, October 24, 2009