The Two Woman Who Swallowed It For Their Families
I started to cry the other night (shocker), happy tears. We are approaching the holiday season so the ideas are blowing up in my head about how I can make our gatherings better, or this gift more special or this dish more fabulous. These things are what I thrive on! I love getting people together, I love a good party (as long as it ends by 10PM), I simply love to watch people deepen their relationships and enjoy each other’s company. Nothing has ever been more important to me than both witnessing and facilitating those very things for my family and for those around me. I tend to look back at pictures, thinking about the amazing celebrations we have hosted or been a part of. I am one blessed lady, but mostly because of the memories and deep connections that have been able to be created because of the two women that have swallowed it all for their families.
Having come from a divorced family I grew accustom to separate holiday’s, separate homes, separate lives… you know the drill. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure it ever feels completely natural but it becomes yours. In the years that followed the divorce there was understandable healing to be done, new lives to be built and born, and life that happened in between all the margins. Like many families out there, my parents blended themselves when they needed to, confirmations, graduations, sporting events etc. My sister and I weren’t lacking for parental involvement in the least.
When I think about the things I’m going to talk about next I think that anybody, anywhere, who is being intellectually honest, can admit that even if you had your reasons for divorce or not, or if you ever loved someone, or shared a life with them, when that is over that hurt can make it hard to intermingle. That’s plain human nature. Likewise, if you are in that new love phase, and even if you recognize that there was an old life before you, when it’s all blended around it can feel messy and hurtful. We can all relate to some part of that, or maybe all of it. Both scenarios are real and raw. It can be hard, maybe downright impossible, at times, depending on which side of the fence you’re on, to recognize the other sides feelings. They are both very real and both need to be respected.
Keeping these things in mind, there was never a question-my parents had been doing a really good job at co-parenting. And then things changed. The two woman in the proverbial room did something that I admire daily, but can occasionally take for granted. They swallowed it. Not that there was any venom to swallow between them, but what they did was that they went above and beyond what most families do, FOR THE CHILDREN. There was never a conversation (that I know of), but when my children came into this world there was a gentle understanding, or maybe it was just a desire to make these little lives feel normal and blessed. The nana’s (not that the papa's weren't a part of this decision but the ladies were the driving force) in their life allowed all the healing, and/or all the messy to fall away, and they all came together as one unit. They gave our family the greatest gifts one could ever have… forgiveness, acceptance and love. They chose to look past the past and create a future full of love and goodness for these new sweet ones.
We started with Thanksgiving. GO BIG OR GO HOME RIGHT?!!! (That's how we do it all the time.) So my dad, Gigi (step-mom- we don't like titles but just to give you an idea) and all of us adult kids and the little ones went to my mom’s house for Thanksgiving. This, now, is how we celebrate Thanksgiving every year. We litterally all sit at a table, cook in the kitchen, have pre and post meal cocktails, wear pj’s and pray together! The papa’s may even snore on the couch together- just sayin’. Although the adult kids had known different at a time, my kids have known no different, and hopefully never will. They have grown up with the benefit of having two nana’s and papa’s on my side of the family. In a large way they function as one. (Sometimes I’m not even sure that the kids have a perspective on the fact that my mom and dad were ever married, because both of their nana’s and papa’s are viewed just as they are: THEIRS. It will never and should never matter to them- there are many lessons to be learned from that)
Sooooooo many people thought this was really cool, but some people thought we had lost our effing minds. We hadn’t lost our minds… we gained perspective. They opened their hearts and minds and allowed the rest of us to benefit from the blossoming relationships and treasured time.
Next, we all went to Mexico together. (It was for my sister’s birthday.) Once again some of the looks and under the breath comments were hilarious. (Just so you know we make fun of ourselves too.) The funny thing about that trip was that if felt completely normal. Trust me, I know it sounds odd but we had a really good time and it was just us! Today beyond Thanksgiving we do our kids small birthday gatherings…. together. My mom and Mike (step-dad) came to my brothers wedding in another state. When we are all together it feels like family should feel….loved. No family is perfect, so either is this one. We can, however, be perfectly imperfect, doing it perfectly. (Did you catch that?)
These ladies put each other’s families above uncomfortable feelings. They recognized that the statement ‘blood is thicker than water’ isn’t always true. Where there is love there is family. PERIOD. My mom loves my other brothers and sister like her own family, just as Gigi loves us. They love each other. When you think about it they both deserve admiration, thankfulness and a whole lot of awe for what they have achieved. Both for different reasons… both the epitome of what a true lady should be. They went against societal norms and chose to love instead of hate. Think about the magnitude of this. (If ever the word awesome should be used… it’s for these strong ladies. Both of them.) They hug each other hello and sit in corners talking (probably about us- but that’s not a bad thing, maybe both making fun of the big guy- but he can't hear so….). They put the grandkids above themselves and ultimately showed each of their own kids what acceptance, forgiveness and love could do. EVERYTHING. This deliberate act or acts created a whole new family: OURS. What happened as a result of the little ones coming gave Jen (my oldest younger sister) and I a gift that we thought we may never have; The holidays and other special occasions with our whole family.
I watch families be destroyed over divorce. I watch kids suffer because two people can’t put anyone before themselves. I’ve witnessed 'quintessential' families that for whatever reason can’t seem to find it in their heart to open the doors to anyone on the perceived outside. I have watched lines drawn in the sand that makes family get togethers plain old miserable. What the supposed adults in the room don’t realize is that your actions and words trickle down. It doesn’t stop with you. The wee ones (even the bigger wee ones) are watching and will learn from the lessons you are living and it will carry on. These two woman have single handedly helped to put more pictures in those albums that I look back over. They swallowed normal feelings and understandable hurt to allow their families, their single family really, to gather together and celebrate the perfectly imperfect family that we are. Our album's are full and our lives are more complete because of them.