I'm not sure when I realized that mine was a disfunctional family but it was solidified over this holiday weekend.
I now understand what a Cleaver type household FEELS like. To be at a table where the history and the love started and has remained the sparkle in the father's eye was an awakening. To have the laughs be at a siblings expense but to have the next visit planned two minutes later was like watching a miracle take place. To be in a home that this family grew together in, to see the chronology in the framed pictures that crowd the walls and tabletops, to feel the years in the air made me comfortable the instant I walked in.
The event was inspiring. I wasn't allowed to contribute anything. I was invited two hours after everyone so I could drive my own car and leave at will. My wine was always chilled in my plastic party cup; a full champagne awaited me in crystal at the dinner table. I was ordered to have seconds before the pie was served. I was given knowing winks across the table, a squeeze of the hand after grace, a hearty laugh at an under the breath comment, a great big hug with the "nice to meet you" goodbye.
I did talk to my family this week. The long distance ones were glad to hear I was doing well at my job, though they couldn't remember what it is that I do. The close ones didn't need to hear more than "coughs from the cubemate" to uninvite me and vocally snarl at not having an extra bank account RSVP to bring all the things they couldn't afford to put on the table. I didn't get two minutes from the more distant of the lot. I felt more closeness from the melencholy message He left than from the guilt tripping parental unit who was too busy cooking Wednesday nights dinner to notice the turmoil I overcome to return a phone call to his house. I was willing to forgive his naivete and be his daughter anyway. When he knew I wasn't coming to visit he lost interest in my plans for the long weekend; couldn't care what I have to be thankful for. He didn't hear have time for me. I had wanted to share and now I'm over it and he will never understand why we are not closer.
"Hello (insert real life name here), just calling to say Happy Thanksgiving. Hope your having a good day. I wish you well. Bye." Somehow that was more heartfelt and endearing and admirable and true than the whole hour and a half of voicemails and flippant comments from the ones who say they love me most. We chatted, laughed, complained and agreed about family weekends, felt the chaism between us strongly anchoring itself. He asked if I was ok with not being with my family; asked if I had anything to be thankful for; allowed me to hear the disenchantment of his life over a static ridden cell phone connection. We are understanding how unreasonable it is to expect the life we wanted together only a year ago. We still enjoy the few minutes of knowing each other, being open with each other. This is how I want to be with everyone in my life. Gloomily unnerving how he was the one person in four days who could offer ten minutes of heartfelt closeness and the one person I know I can't let myself love.
After two lazy leftover filled days, I returned to the family home for dinner again last night. Baked pork ribs, potatoes au gratin, green bean cassarole, cool whip pie and coffee for dessert. A warm hello, great big smiles, passing to the left, clearing the table before dad is finished picking at his plate. A few gifts for the household and a list of notes on how to care for the dog while the parents are away before we are allowed to leave... and a warm comfort of Family to add that holiday glow to my cheeks before a dreamless contented sleep.
I understand it now, the desire to build a family of one's own. My family was nothing to wish for - accept them for who they are and remember them at Christmas but nothing to crave. This family let me feel the comforts of their home. Their surrogacy will fill the want for knowing I am cared for; their kindness will fill my desire for a knowing there is good in the people around me. I am reverently thankful for their warm hearts and acceptance me, a relative vagabond.
And That is the most I could ever hope for on a holiday weekend.