In the same way that there is no ‘right’ way to go RV’ing, I suppose there is no ‘right’ way to do family. What I do know is that there certainly are a lot of ways of doing family. I’m writing this a few days before Memorial Day to publish on Memorial Day because I’ve been thinking a lot about family as the holiday approaches.
I’m an only child. Peggy has an older brother — but being 7 years older I don’t think he was quite the ‘older brother’ that a lot of people have. And to simplify things he left home early for California where his draft board assigned him two years of work at a hospital near Los Angeles. Having moved to California he remained there all his working life and retired near Lake Tahoe where his daughter lives.
For me, holidays — not one but all of them — were about family. My mom was from a family of three daughters. My dad from a a family of three brothers. And every holiday we were together with one family or another; mostly with mom’s side as they were the ones in Milwaukee and, I guess they were also the closest.
Memorial Day was always about two things: the first family picnic of the year, and the Indy 500. Now the 500 might not have been part of the family’s Memorial Day — I think that was just my own little wrinkle on a day that was pretty much pre-determined by the rest of my family.
The daughters had sort of divided up the holidays among themselves. Easter and Memorial Day and Labor Day were usually my mom’s holidays My aunt Helen did July 4 and New Years day. Our Aunt Clara did Mother’s day, and their mom hosted Christmas. Occasionally the sisters would switch up the holidays among themselves.
The brothers weren’t as organized and we were the furthest from the ‘clan’ — my grandparents and one uncle living in Evergreen Park, IL, the second uncle living in Homewood, IL, and us living in Wisconsin. But we sort of made up for that by monthly visits to Chicago on the 4th weekend of the month. My dad worked for Wisconsin Electric — rotating shifts — and every 4 weeks he had a 5 day weekend. His family sort of adjusted their ‘family’ celebrations to accommodate us.
I hear stories of families who don’t get along. Personally I can’t fathom that; all I recall of holidays was happy times. Perhaps there was a little too much talking involved and not enough doing — but that was minor. I did learn that with my uncle Jim you didn’t talk religion or politics — a tough requirement in a family of three religious women (grandma and two of the sisters) and one agnostic. And years later I learned that one of my uncles had been inappropriate with one of my 2nd cousins — something that pretty much came out after the every-holiday-togetherness had already ended. Nevertheless my personal memories were all pretty comfortable.
And what were those holiday days about? Nothing more than just being together. They were people who actually liked being together. And they spent enough time together that the whole day wasn’t spent listening to some blowhard bragging, or an idiot pontificating about things they knew nothing about. These were people who knew each other well, who spoke often between holidays, and who just liked to share their lives together and…. of course…. to eat.
I’m pretty much all Polish — as much as anyone can be when your ancestors are from a place where anyone throwing a war came marching across your front yard. I suppose I have all sorts of mongrel genes in my gene pool. But my heritage is Polish. And those women loved to cook. My 17 year older cousin Greg eventually took over Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve at Greg’s house was some serious eating as he was the Galloping Gourmet of our family.
When you mix that much family, with two people (Peg & I) who aren’t normally very happy in groups it’s a strange fit. We enjoyed those days. But we also had a small family — only one daughter. And I guess deep down inside we knew that at some point those happy days would morph into something different. And they have.
Both Peg’s parents are gone. Both my parents are gone. And in many ways — so are we — in that we are not within easy drive of our family for more than one or maybe two holidays a year right now. And that is something we are looking at. Considering how close we were this three years has been — to say the least — ODD; very much outside our past experience. And if anything the ties of family will have more to do with how long we RV than anything else.
So there you have my Memorial Day rambling. It’s got nothing to do with wars or soldiers. My memories of Memorial Day are of the first family picnic of the year — as cold as it might have been — and of family members I loved nearby. And as everyone else is celebrating those who faithfully served our nation to keep it safe — I’ll celebrate the fact of having been KEPT safe not only by those who risked their lives but also by those who kept the fire of family burning in my heart. Many of them are gone now — just as those who gave their lives for this country. So this is My ‘Memorial Day.’
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.