Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Today’s blog prompt delighted me. If anyone has fodder for this type of post, it’s a member of the Daves family!
For the question, “when was the first time that you realized that your home was not like other people’s homes,” I don’t have a good answer. I don’t remember having some epiphany one day, but our household sure was different.
My father was a professor at Georgia State University, and I assume he was doing what young professors do, primarily working to climb the tenure ladder. But my mother was another story. She is a free spirit, and has been since birth I think. She and Dad had a lot of odd friends – people who were into meditation and mysticism, or something like it – and these people would congregate at our house on the weekends to meditate and crash. These people had no love for the government, cared fiercely about the civil rights movement and opposed the Vietnam War loudly. I think she tried to convince my father to move us to a commune at some point in our childhood, but fortunately sense prevailed. Of course I didn’t know about all of this stuff when I was little, but looking back I know that it was true.
What I do remember was any number of people sleeping on our floors. My brother Phillip summed it up perfectly once saying “what do you do when you find 20 strangers lying around the living room on a Sunday morning? You make pancakes, of course!” And that’s just what he did. He was the master breakfast maker, heating the syrup up on the stove and flipping pancakes until everyone had eaten.
Mom has always been strongly anti-establishment, and established religion was no exception. We didn’t go to church – we were more likely to go to Chastain Park with other families and play touch football on Sunday mornings. We did spend some time at the Unitarian Church though – I remember going to a summer camp there. My “tribe” was called Ghana.
When we went on vacation, chances were good that we’d go camping with friends. The picture below shows my mother and me walking to the latrine. You can tell by the toilet paper in her hand! I don’t think I understood that people vacationed in structures other than tents (like hotels, for example), until I was much older. We did spend time at St. George Island because my grandfather owned a house down there. I remember going with another family that had a possum as a pet. I have a very strong memory of that possum walking around the wet sand on the beach.
When my parents got divorced, we lived with my father, and eventually my step-mother, Jeanie. Things got more “normal” then, but it was still an unusual and lively household. My dad has always been a musician, loving bluegrass and old-time, and every six weeks or so we’d have a bunch of people over to the house to jam. This was a more mainstream group of people, but certainly talented and interesting. We laughed a lot, and my Jeanie graciously endured the unruly talk at the dinner table and our other shenanigans.
Maybe the most unusual aspect of my life was the fact that my parents made a concerted effort to not put us in the middle of their marital problems and subsequent divorce. I have plenty of friends whose divorced parents can’t even be in the same state, much less the same room, but that wasn’t the case with my parents. Once my younger brother was born, he was confused because we called our mother “Mom” and his mother “Jeanie,” and in the end just called my mom “Mommy Susan.” These days, I’d even say that my mom, dad and step-mother are good friends.
I know so many people who have dysfunctional relationships with their parents or siblings, and that gives such a poor example of family to our children. I’m very thankful that my own children are being brought up in a family where we love each other, have fun together and care deeply about each other. Hopefully that tradition will be continued through their adult lives with their own children as well!