I grew up a few miles from both sets of my grandparents. I had both parents in my house growing up. My parents stayed married. To each other. In fact I don’t think there was one divorce anywhere in my immediate or non-immediate family. I grew up in the middle class suburbs with two awesome parents and great neighbors and wanted for nothing. Norman Rockwell shit. Seriously.
Every Holiday we spent together. Both sets of grandparents and the occasional cousin or aunt or uncle and their family if they were in town. We had a “formal dining room”, You know…the one you are not allowed to go in. My Mom and grandmas made all of the big southern meals at Holidays. Be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, there was always a house full of people and hot rolls and salad and ham and green bean casserole on the table. And very often football in the background….Cowboys of course. I loved all of that. We stuffed ourselves and then all fell asleep scattered like full-bellied bears across the floor, couch & Lazy Boy recliner. Papaw even snored sometimes.
I think I just assumed at the time that all families were this way. That every kid had this life. The security of food and a house and family. I knew I wanted that for my own family one day. I imagined living near my parents and having most Holidays spread out across a large formal dining room table and ham and rolls and kids running around and football.
And until my daughter was 5 I had that. We had that. Bikes and trikes in the driveway and music blaring through the garage and sometimes a picnic table in the garage to accommodate extra cousins or aunts or whomever showed up. Bliss. Happy. Crawfish boils were introduced to the mix once I introduced a Cajun boy into the mix. My Dad loved that. My Dad loved him. My parents had an acre of land and my Dad would take turns giving the kids rides on the riding lawn mower. In Texas you could wear shorts on Thanksgiving. We had a dirt bike that even I would drive around the property. I recall (kind of) tying rope and shovels to the back of the horses that the neighbor owned and riding the shovel while the horse would run full speed. OK just a tad WT here but whatever it was fun. And stupid. And fun.
And I think I just assumed it would always be that way. Living a few miles from my parents and always having them there. That my kids would have the same experience with there grandparents as I did. You know what they say about assuming though…
And shit happens. And Dad dies. And brain rot starts. And things change and worlds are turned upside down and inside out and good God its shitty and not fair. And you stop. And you decide you can cry and be sad forever and bitch about how NOTHING is the same and your life is not turning out like you expected and where the hell are all the Norman Rockwell paintings now? OR…..
You can change too. You can pick up your family and move across the country where you know NO ONE! NO ONE. And have no family. And you’ve never baked a ham in your life. And your house has no formal dining room. And you wake up on Easter morning and go shopping for clothes and hang out on your deck staring at the mountains because football is not on and you take your almost 15 year old daughter to learn to drive your Jeep with music blaring…and it ain’t so bad. Its NOT in anyway how you thought it would be. At all. And there are a few moments that is sad. And you get a group text from your brother in Dallas, your Mom in Washington, your sister in Austin…all saying Happy Easter. And maybe the table and the hot rolls and the physical proximity of them is not there….but the memories are. And instead of mourning what your kids WONT have you look around at them giggling in the parking lot trying not to drive into a pole and you think….”this is ok”.
New memories, new traditions, new acceptance, new stages of life. I still get sad at what might’ve been. But I don’t want to be so sad that I miss what IS!