Growing up in a family of six girls, two boys, and only four bathrooms, I learned quickly that it is mathematically impossible for me to go anywhere and be on time. I can remember when my church had to meet in a gymnasium because the congregation had become too big. Feeling like a duck in a row of ducklings while sounding like a horse in a herd of horses, I waddled and clomped my way up the aisle to the only available section of eight seats –which were, of course, always front and center. Amidst the obnoxious “Aren’t they just too cute!” whispers and the all-knowing smiles from the pastor, I listened morbidly to the orchestra-like high-heeled footsteps clippity-clopping through an eternally echoing (but otherwise silent) gym floor. Every head turned to watch the attention-drawing procession. It was one of the most humiliating moments of my life. And it happened every Sunday.
Then, if humiliation was not torturous enough, family vacations were downright hellish; being on lockdown for 9 very, very long hours strapped inside a one-by-two foot cell called a Honda Pilot with this group of hooligans should be dubbed downright illegal (unfortunately there were just barely enough seatbelts). And being the oldest had absolutely zero perks; somehow I still wound up in the back middle seat sandwiched between a brother in his nose-picking stage and a tone-deaf sister who wrongly assumed that her glorious voice needed to be heard at high decibels by the front seat passengers.
“Chaotic” is a word that I use to describe my family –especially when they are meshed in with the other 17 cousins. One time when I was little, I participated in producing signs intended to brown-nose my grandma into taking us to the Kalahari (a water park in my hometown). To be honest, I don’t even remember this park; all I remember is spending an entire day laughing while making a towering mountain of posters and strategically distributing them throughout the house.
Somehow, all of my best childhood memories include those little monsters who, somewhere along the road, transformed into my best friends.
The old adage “You can’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone” rang true for me last fall; I impulsively signed up to study abroad in England at a very beautiful castle. I went simply to say that I had been- and let me tell you, it was awful. My biggest support group (my family) was all of the way across the Atlantic Ocean and a few states over. What seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime turned into the worst four months of my life.
Now we’re all grown up. I long for the days when going to church meant parading myself in front of the congregation, when family vacations meant bad singing and even worse personal hygiene, and when having fun was as simple as making goofy posters. Now, it is rare to see even three ducks in that row. The Pilot has since been sold due to extravagant gas prices and the lack of simultaneous occupancy due to overly hectic schedules. I miss it. All of it.
I believe that life isn’t about the places you go but rather the people who go there with you. This usually means sacrificing what you want to do for what they want to do. However, if your family isn’t holding your road map, you’re bound to become a lost and selfish loner. When you feel like you can’t handle something, you’re probably right. That’s when you turn to that crazy crew closest to you (yes, the ones who embarrass and bug you to death) and ask for help. You might not get there on time, but the process of getting there is half the fun – even if the singing does hurt your ears.
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