As I sat on my mother’s king-sized bed surrounded by rolls of wrapping paper and piles of Christmas presents I made sure I kept my head down, eyes focused on the scissors and tape, as Mom complained again about how Dad had snapped at her. It was a complaint I had heard many times over the years, but on this particular night, seeming less hurt than angry, she said, “I should have divorced him years ago.” I wondered if all families were having this much fun on Christmas Eve and concluded they probably weren’t.
You see, years ago I decided that my family wasn’t normal. This was based on several factors. My parents didn’t seem to like each other enough; our house never managed to achieve and maintain a significant level of cleanliness for any notable period of time; we never sat down and ate a meal together at our own table. In short, everything that seemed to define the happy homes of friends, neighbors, and, of course, characters on TV was, I thought, absent in my own family. I accepted that it was my lot in life to bear the burden of growing up in a family that wasn’t “normal.”
Now, with the wisdom of age (after all, in less than a month I will no longer be a teenager), I can smirk amusedly as I recall the naiveté of my youth. Of course, it just so happens that I don’t have to recall very far since this naiveté persisted until very recently, for it has only been in the not too distant past that I came to believe one very important thing. Well, maybe that’s not the right way to say it. I think I really did believe this for quite a while, so maybe it’s only recently that I have realized I believe it or maybe accepted that I believe it, either way, I now realize, accept, and believe this: there is no such thing as a “normal” family.
Every family has its own eccentricities, some endearing, some not. Every family has its own problems some major, some minor. Nevertheless, no family lives that perfect polished life that for years has been held up as the norm in television and movies, that life that seemed to mock me for so long and that left me wondering how it was that I ended up with a family that just didn’t seem to know they weren’t doing it right.
I must make the distinction, however, that even though I believe “normal” families don’t exist, I do believe in perfect families. See, my family is perfect for me. With all the fighting and the messiness and the just plain craziness, they fit me like only a perfect family can. Yes, sometimes they make my life hard, sometimes they make me cry, but they are still mine. They are there when no one else is. They have known me longer than anyone else ever can, and I cherish them deeply, in all their abnormal glory.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.