Monday, January 11, 2010

The Family Dynamic

Not that we're a dynamic family, really. Just a little overview of my family. My parents emigrated from the Netherlands right before I was born. They traveled with 3 small children and one on the way on those torturous long flights of the '60s. Family stories say it took 12 hours to fly from Amsterdam to New York and then another 12 from New York to Los Angeles. Imagine that while you're 6 months pregnant and have 3 children under the age of 10 to herd. My dad was an older dad, being nearly 46 when I was born. My mother was 15 years younger, which has always amazed me. Not that she was younger but that at the young age of 21, she married a much older man. So ... my dad was 45 when I was born, he'd just moved to a country where the language spoken was not his native language, he had 4 daughters and a wife to support and he was ... not a spring chicken. Looking back, I think I would have crumpled under that strain. He just did it, though. After I was born, my mom went to work, too. And that was life during the '60s. Working and just surviving. My sisters say that my parents were so focused on keeping a roof over our heads and food on that table, that the important events of the era just passed them by. I think they were aware of the Vietnam War but only on the periphery. Working and keeping their heads above water was just so much more important.

I have 3 sisters, who are 10, 8 and 6 years older than me. Sometimes I've felt like an "oopsie" but I guess I'll never really know. Growing up I was just the "baby", but as adults we get along quite well. All my sisters live in different states, in different time zones. We communicate mostly by email, which is fine by me. I'm not much of a phone person anymore. I used to get on the phone with one of my sisters and talk for hours. Now if I have more than a 5 minute conversation with anyone on the phone, it's a miracle. Am I becoming more insular as time goes on? For all the impersonality of electronic communication, I like it better because it gives me an opportunity to reflect on the words I will use. The immediacy of phone conversations stresses me a little, and I think it gets worse as I get older. Phone conversations are probably something that needs to be practiced more often than once a month ... no wonder I always feel off kilter when I get on the phone. I don't practice.

Back to family, I have 8 nieces and nephews, one of whom was murdered when he 16. It's still weird to say this, even after 18 years. I have 6 great-nieces and great-nephews. My nephews were definitely more prolific than me, as I have no children of my own. Of course, I've never really wanted them so it's not like I'm jealous or anything. I'm not close with my n&n's ... I was never that "cool aunt" who did fun things with them. I guess that even back when they were kids, I realized I didn't have much of a maternal gene that wanted to do things with them. I'm not apologizing, just explaining. It's interesting that even in this day and age, you have to explain why you're "child-free" as opposed to "childless". I'm just not maternal, end of story.

My sisters have lots of marriages amongst them. Three sisters, 5 divorces and 8 marriages. It's really not a wonder that I didn't get married until my late 40s. I mean, it's not like there was a great track record in the family that made me want to emulate them at all, relationship-wise. I did mine on my own terms. C and I didn't meet until I was nearly 41. It was whirlwind and infinitely right, but it took me a long time to get to that point. Lots o' frogs done been kissed, I can tell ya.

My sisters and I try and get together once a year for a "sisters weekend", just trying to schedule time to actually connect. It's good for us to see each other and get caught up, because no matter what, email does not cover all aspects of life.

That's the whole family, minus the aunts, uncles and cousins back in the Netherlands. Nothing earth-shattering, but something very comfortable.

No comments:

Post a Comment