Thursday, August 30, 2007

Summer Reflection

I have always considered my family to be on the unconventional side - in a big way. Most of my relatives live their lives on the edge of religious fanaticism in a place that most of America has left behind if not forgotten. My fellow college peers would look on their lives and think them poor, culturally deprived and unhealthy, while they consider themselves blessed because they have not let riches and the ways of the world pull them from God. During my childhood summers, down in the Alabamian south, my grandparents and aunts raised me with a firm discipline that I both feared and respected. Even though my mother fled to California to escape their religious admonishments she still raised me with the strongest discipline. Whenever I went over to my other friends' homes I thought them lucky becuase of how relaxed their parents were. It seemed that kids my age were always aloud to do so much more than I ever was. I always stared in amazement whenever I saw my friends arguing with their parents or talking back to them. That was simply unheard of in my family! It seems that kids these days only get grounded for breaking the rules - like breaking curfew or lying about your whereabouts or drinking or drugs...but never for speaking disrespectfully to their parents.
My family has always seemed weird and overly disciplinarian to me and never until this summer have I fully understood or respected them more for raising me the way that they did (even though I still think that they are a bit cooky).

This summer I lived between two houses: My boyfriend Ben's house, and at the house at one of my highschool friends. Both of their families were the type of families that I had idolized during childhood. They both lived in two-parent homes, my girlfriend's mother has divorced and remarried and had more children, and Ben's parents have been together all his life. They lived in nice houses with backyards. They have both lived in those houses long enough to plant trees and grow substantial gardens - to me a mark of stability and the comfort of permanence. I have moved 13 times, not including the time I moved to college. We never had time to plant any trees...and if we did we never saw them reach full bloom. Their families represented all of the stability and financial comforts that my family's dysfuntions could not offer and I thought finally, at least for a little while, I could have a break from the craziness.

Well, not neccessarily. I learned first hand what stability in excessive riches really means, to me. My girlfriend's house is three stories; I had the basement level all to myself - along with two other bedrooms and another bathroom including my bedroom and bathroom. Also in the basement is an entertainment center which goes unused along with the bedrooms, for months until someone like me happens along. On each floor is a washer and dryer. And while I was there they accumulated two cars along with their three already existing cars. So all in all by the end of my stay they filled their block with 6 cars in a family of 3 drivers. A neighbor across the street threatened to report one of the cars abandoned if it was not moved. I realized that the car problem could be solved if they put two in the garage, but it was filled with bycicles that have seldom been used. In this house their is never a shortage of anything. Where one is needed there are three or seven or twelve...I soon learned that my friend's family was the opposite of anything that I wanted for myself. To me, to live in excess is to forget the importance of the things that you own. When you can buy anything you want you forget how much you rely on them. Money is taken for granted and so are the things that you surround yourself with. Soon you think and live like everything can be fixed with plastic and you lose sight of the things that really matter. Maybe my grandparents had it figured out all along.

With Ben's family I had an issue of respect. Early on in the summer I witnessed one of his sister's many temper tantrums. She is almost 17 years old. I was so flabergasted by it. His father was trying desperately to help her with her physics homework and everything he seemed to do would only make her scream louder and longer. When he finally left her alone she screamed at him to come back. What bothered me was not her screaming but that Ben's dad did nothing to show her that screaming at him was wrong, and disrespectful. Throughout the summer his mother asked me a few times how to better approach her without her witdrawing even farther or screaming. Ben's parents think that the issue is with their daughter's withdrawal from the family alone, but they haven't even addressed her disrespectful behavior. I was always afraid of screaming at my mother, not because I feared her but because I feared showing her that I disrespected her and in turn feared losing her respect. From an early age I learned that screaming and arguing with my parents was never to be done. That kind of behavior was on par with lying.

I guess it depends on values. I respect other's values and realize that though I may not agree with them, they have those values becuase they make them happy, and that's really what it comes down to. I learned that growing up I was so concerned with not being like my family that I wasn't aware that they had already changed me, raised me to have the wonderful values that I have, values that are so much apart of me, that I live them everyday without even knowing it.


Leeeeeeee said...

Just a quick note to say I love your discussion of having too many material goods--it's so true, so ery true, that when you have six of everything you forget to notice that you have it at all. I'll keep reading and commenting, keep it up! Love you.

Ramya said...

Shari, I love your voice. Thank you for having written this.