Gatherings & Memorials


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.

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Peg’s Mom and dad
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more of mom’s side of the family. WE got together so often I think no one thought to take pictures of the whole family.

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.

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My mom as a young woman

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.

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Melanie, the year of her high school graduation

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.

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Peg’s family being Pilgrims (see their hats?)

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.

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All the Malinowski girls. Gram, Helen, Clara, Mom (L-R)

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.

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Petty much all of my dad’s side of the family.

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.

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My dad’s parents, and his brother Leonard and wife Shirely, along with myself and my mom.

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.

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Dad’s family, he is the oldest, then Leonard, and finally Harry. Harry was the first to pass. Leonard the last.
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A few years later with the ‘boys’ as “men”

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.

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The Malinowski girls after I came along. Don’t I look happy there? 🙂

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.

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(L-R) Lisa (Peg’s SIL), Fred (her brother), dad, me, Kathy (Peg’s nice) and Kathryn. @ Christmas time.
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Peg and the girls making Christmas cookies. I swear, my wife should have had a dozen kids — she sure loves little ones.

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.

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Mom and her parents — my maternal grandfather passed 2 years before I was born, but grandma lived to be 103! She was a widow for well over 50 years.

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.

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And once again, my three girls.

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4 Comments

  1. Peter,
    Great post.I too, am an only child,with no children. Many of your holiday rememberances echo mine,except I was usually without a parent-mine divorced at 6. Dad usually volunteered to work on the holidays. Mom and I would go to to one of my aunt’s – Mom and I didn’t do the dinners. The first picture in your blog is the one I can really relate to! Some of your family members look like my family members! Thanks again, enjoy your weekend. Thank you for sharing your world with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lauren,
      Thanks for taking a moment to comment. I always love hearing from readers.
      We seemed to have a more-or-less regular itinerary for holiday’s and holiday meals — each of mom’s siblings staked out their preference for holidays and they seemed to agree to that without conflict. One had Christmas, another Easter, yet another Memorial Day, and then they alternated through to July 4, and Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. It was easy to know that my maternal grandmother had a firm grasp of the family reigns and none of the daughters really wanted to challenge her. 🙂

      Like

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