Giving birth to five children in six years is no easy task. Although I do not claim responsibility for this feat, being the oldest of five children comes with its own set of challenges. From limited bathroom space in our turn of the 20th century house, to packing up and spending 23 straight hours driving to a prized Florida vacation spot, I have come to know my family members better than most people know themselves. Amidst the total lack of personal space, and overwhelming amount of embarrassing moments, I believe that my family has shaped me into the person I am today; I have become more patient, understanding and an all around more loving person because of my upbringing. I believe that no matter what the size or makeup of a family unit, everyone can cherish and learn from a memory that their family has given them.
My family has taught me to expect the unexpected. Santa was coming. Being the oldest, at age seven, I made sure everything was completed for his arrival. The stockings were hung after a fight of whose were whose broke out and the homemade cookies were made even though most of the batter had gone straight to our stomachs. Pouring the milk into Santa’s cup was the last task to be done before bed. My mother made her way over to the refrigerator with one sleeping baby on her hip, opened the door and stared. After a moment she pulled a peculiar, but none the less chilled, glass figurine off the shelf. “Who put baby Jesus in the fridge?” Although we may never know who chose to disrupt the nativity scene on our mantelpiece and relocate the holy infant on the eve of his birth, I often use this scene to perfectly describe my family.
My family has taught me not to take myself too seriously. Back when my mother still bought us all matching Easter outfits, getting ready Sunday morning seemed like a chore. One year we thought we had succeeded; everyone seemed well enough put together and no one was crying. But then, Mary and Molly waddled up to the front of the church for children’s moment. The congregation was only partially surprised when Mary spread her legs and unconsciously showed everyone that she was not wearing any underwear.
But the most important story I will carry with me into my adult life taught me love. It was Christmas again and not having much of my own money for gifts, I had gone around the house and re-wraped presents for my younger siblings. On Christmas morning Tommy unwrapped a wooden giraffe statuette which looking back I’m sure had been in his room the previous month. Suddenly embarrassed that I didn’t get him a real gift, Tommy exclaimed, “Wow! Thank you Rachel. I wuv you very much.”
I believe that my family has taught many of life’s lessons, but I also believe that they’re not done teaching me. No matter what my future holds, I will forever be a part of my family and they will always be a part me.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.