It seems like forever since I've sat down and written anything beyond grandchildren and dogs and weather and colds and tiredness - is tiredness a word? - and frustration and menopausal moodiness and rain and snow and...well, you get the picture. Blechhhhhhh!
So tonite I'm going to write about the schottische. Do you know what the schottische is? It's a German polka. I'd never had any exposure to polkas of any sort before I met my Dear Hubby. His ethnic background is mainly German and Austrian and his mother's generation - the Austrian side - loved polkas. The first time I ever went to any family gathering while he and I were dating - in fact, I think it was right after we were engaged - was to his cousin Ernie's wedding. My mother-in-law is one of 14 children and Dear Hubby has something like 60 first cousins on his mother's side of the family. I've been married to the man almost 35 years now and I still haven't figured out how everyone was related to each other. But I do remember that wedding and the reception afterwards. I remember my mother-in-law and some of her sisters getting out on the dance floor and dancing the schottische with each other. I remember the old uncles sitting on a little stage playing the spoons and accordions. I remember going in to the ladies' room and as I was washing my hands the groom burst in and grabbed me around the waist and waltzed me around the bathroom, only to suddenly rear back and leer at me drunkenly and ask me, "Who are you?" And I remember thinking how much I'd missed in life, not having aunts and uncles and cousins to grow up with. My mom was an only child and my dad had one adopted sister besides a birth brother who died in infancy. To say my family is small...well, outside of my three brothers and myself, it's pretty well died out. My parents were born and raised in New England, moved out here after the war, and my brothers and I were all born and raised out here. Our connections to 'family' growing up were mostly Christmas cards from 'back home', people who we knew by name only, and the letters my mom and her cousin Ginger wrote to each other. In fact, my family is so small I claim Ginger as my cousin. Which she is. But not directly.
What is it like to have those connections, being blood-related? To have a close and loving relationship with grandparents? A favorite aunt you could tell secrets to and know she'd never pass them on to your mother? To share Christmas family histories with cousins who were there at the tree with you? Or wondering when you'll finally make it to the 'adult' table at Thanksgiving time? Or go to a church where generations of your family have attended?
Well, I'll never know. Sometimes, when I hear of bickerings and infightings, I almost consider myself lucky not having those connections. But it's left me with a void in my life. It's warped me in some ways. It left me with no desire to establish any close ties of my own with my family. And in speaking of 'family' here, I'm talking about my siblings and their offspring. This doesn't include my younger brother, the only one I'm close to, because I feel we have a strong bond. It doesn't mean I don't love them because I do, but no super-close bonds were ever formed between us even as children, outside those of family loyalty. Being the only girl in the family, my older brothers were always admonished to "Watch out for your little sister", which they did, but I don't remember any of us ever spending any 'quality' time in each other's company. We didn't even share the same playmates or friends. We inhabited the same houses and shared the same parents and that was about it.
Sometimes I wonder how this has affected my own kids. I've never been big on celebrating holidays or birthdays. I guess they were lucky to have Dear Hubby's mom for that growing up...she was a wonderful Grandma. I never stood in the way of anything she wanted to do for them. I wanted them to have with her what I never had with mine. I guess what it's boiled down to all these years of parenting and being married is I didn't know how to establish traditions and close family ties. I had no clue where to begin to attempt it. So I didn't. Not because of any selfish agenda on my part, not wanting to be 'bothered', but because I had no road map in front of me to consult. No memories of my own to look back on with 'warm fuzzies'.
Dear Hubby has said to me at times, not in judgment, that a person can change. Just because they're raised a certain way, just because they didn't 'learn' certain behaviors or whatever, doesn't mean they can't change them as they go along. Easy for him to say. At the age of 55, looking back over my life and how far I've come from my beginnings, I think I've changed about as much as I could figure out how to improve on. I am such an enigma to myself at times. I come across as not that emotional...and yet I know just how deeply emotional I am. I come across as aloof and not very demonstrative or affectionate...but I know how much I want to be. And yet...yet...I am who I am who I am who I am. I am not phony or a pretender. If I tell you I love you, I love you. If I hug you, I hug you. I don't do anything without real feeling behind it. Nothing. If I tell you you're my friend, you're my friend. My loyalty runs deep and true.
So I sit here this evening and I think about family. I think about lack of family. I think about how I wish a lot of my early life had been different from what the reality of it was. I think about how disconnected we were. How disconnected we are today. How we probably never will be connected. But that's always been the reality of my life. I don't grieve for it because it isn't anything I've ever lost. I never had it in the first place.