Monday, July 9, 2012

The Fun in Dysfunctional

Growing up, I always dreaded the question, "How many siblings do you have?"  An innocent question for most people my age, as no one I knew had divorced parents.  For me, not so much.  I answered it differently each time, depending on who was asking.  In a casual conversation, they got the short answer of three.  Someone who knew me a little better got the three full, two half version.  It could be a year before a friend knew that I actually had three full, three half, and two step siblings.  There was just always so much explaining.  So many stories.  Some painful, some not.  Some shocking, some not.  Either way, the question and answer was always distracting.  (You can read about some of the family history here.)

As a teenager, I spent a whole lot of time watching my little (half) sisters.   All of this together time meant I got to have lots of discussions with them.  I'll never forget the one where I had to explain who everyone in our family actually was.  A five year old doesn't really get the whole my mom, your mom thing.  Yes, we're all brothers and sisters.  No, we don't have the same mom.  Yes, we have the same dad.  No, my mom isn't your mom.  She's not related to you in any way.  Your mom is my step mom. And then we moved on to the grandparents.  Over and over again we hashed it out.  She just wanted to understand.   At the time, I didn't realize that this conversation would be peanuts compared to the ones I'd have to have with my own children. 

This past weekend was my dad's annual 4th of July party.  Basically, his favorite day of the year.  His Christmas in July.  The day that all of his children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, and various other relatives (including my mom, his ex-wife) gather at his house for some fun.  Each and every year there are new people to meet.   Every year new people are added to our family, sometimes by birth, sometimes by marriage, sometimes by more creative means. 

All of the kids just jump in and play.  They don't ask any questions except, "What is your name?"  It's not until after the party, when we're in the car, that the questions come.  "Who is so-and-so's parents?" "How is so-and-so related to us?"  "Why haven't we met them before?"  

Oh the questions.  And the explaining.   And the confusion.  And the explaining.  And the questions.

I always chuckle when I see families on reunion vacations with the T-shirts that read things like, "Mom," "Dad," "Oldest Sister."  We couldn't do that for our family.  We'd have to have ones that say things like, "Sister from first wife," or "Cousin that was given up for adoption and reunited 38 years later."  Oh, the spectacle we'd be.

The good thing about all of this is, nothing shocks us anymore.  People show up, and they are embraced into the fold.  Well, as long as they can laugh and play cards they're embraced.  Otherwise they are just tolerated:) 

So, to the party.  The frivolity.  The laughing.  The food.  The family. (I'm only including photos of my immediate family, as I never asked the others about posting on the blog.)

There was the usual slip-n-slide in the backyard

and the baby pool out front.  Although this year, Dad went all out and bought a bigger pool.  Being that the temperature was about 98 degrees that day, someone was always in it.

Dad worked the grill

while everyone visited.

one of my sisters with Cuckoo

Buttercup and a cousin

The party was normal in that you never knew what surprise was coming up next.

On the agenda this year, an egg race conjured up by my step mom.

It took about five minutes to figure out the rules and the teams, and then to get the adults out of the way.  Several eggs were broken before anyone even said, "Go!"

One of my nieces, dropper of two eggs.

But the race did eventually happen,

and everyone was a winner.

Cuckoo ran over to show his great-grandma his trophy.  He told her that the trophy read, "Don't drop your egg."

The biggest surprise of all came when familiar music could be heard from down the street.  The kids immediately dropped what they were doing and ran.

My dad managed to get the ice cream truck to make an appearance.

one of my nephews

OK, so some adults dropped what they were doing, too.

Cuckoo had an uncle open his ice cream, then was horrified when it was almost eaten by that uncle.

It was 98 degrees, and an ice cream truck pulled up.  You know you would have ran, too.

a niece being cleaned up by an almost niece

After ice cream, the girls went inside for a little time at my sister's "spa".

Well, the girls and Cuckoo.  He also got his nails painted, his eyes done up, and his belly inked.

showing my mom his new pretty pink nails

He especially enjoyed showing off the eyes.

Being that it was so hot (Did I mention it was 98 degrees?) not much official corn hole was played.   However, a few unofficial tosses were made.

And lastly, a pause in our celebration of our country's birth to celebrate the birth of two growing boys. 

a nephew

Before the party began, some old photos were being circulated on Facebook.  This one got quite a bit of attention.

The tall one is me with my growing-out mullet (I had requested a Dorothy Hamill, but very unfortunately got a mullet instead.) in my middle school track uniform.  My brothers are on my right, and one of my sisters is on my hip. 

My dad wanted another picture, taken in the exact same spot.

Here are the same people, in the exact same spot.  We couldn't do the hair and clothes, but we reenacted it as best we could.

My how time flies.

Our family tree isn't a pretty little tree with the straight branches. Ours is more like a tree that has been struck by lightning.   And where the tree split, little offshoot trees pop up and start their own little branches.. Some branches are gnawed off by a beaver. Some branches have been grafted with another tree to form a completely unique branch connected to the original.

And every 4th of July, that unconventional tree has a party.  To celebrate our country, but more importantly, to celebrate the fact that the tree still stands.  It has wounds, but it also has new growth.  It has strong roots, and those roots can securely hold that tree through the storms to come.

And in another 25 years, we will be able to take another reenactment photo.  Only next time, we'll have props.  I have no doubt that by then my brother will once again be wearing high-waisted, pressed white shorts. 

Have a lovley day!


  1. Family, what a fun time! and ours is quite quirky too. Sounds like your kids are the same as mine, thankfully they wait till we leave, then they ask, ask, ask or ask... until they fully understand. Last year when great grandma died i made a family name chart for my kids, using the same color for the family member who was originally realted then switching color to their family so my kids knew who belonged to whom, which name and ages for playing games... It was 98 here too but we are used to it, and everything is airconditioned here.

  2. Oh my god, I'm still laughing out loud at the reenactment of your photo, with you holding your sister. Everyone at this Starbucks now thinks I'm certifiable. As well as the people driving on the busy street I am sitting near.

    Oh well, thanks for the laugh and a great post!

    I can completely align with the fun in dysfunctional family.

    Angel (@themommytsunami)

  3. Jen, I used to have little paper stockings with pictures of everyone that we hung on the mantel to help the kids keep track of people. Now, there is no fireplace in the world big enough to hang them all. As for the color coded game, great idea. We may try that with the little ones.

    Angel, thanks for stopping by. I'm sure all of those people looking at you are just jealous because they don't have anything to laugh at. Laugh on!

  4. I love this one!! Love the pictures!! I'm down for 25 years from now doing the same pose.... Might have to be sitting on your lap next time!! :)


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