My memories of all nine of us, Daddy and Mama and us seven kids, living together under the roof of the tall, old house on Dartmouth street are few. Meals crowded around the old wooden table in the dining room eating Mama's pinto beans with ham hock and golden cornbread dripping with yellow margarine, Saturday night baths where we took turns in a tub filled with bath water from the previous sibling, singing together in harmony at church, these are some of the images that float to the surface of the murky memories of my early childhood.
Mama and Daddy had the first five kids close together, one after the other lickety split. Five years later they had me, and two years after that they had their youngest child, my little brother. We were "the babies", and as such probably got more attention and doting on from mama and daddy and the older siblings.
The year I was six, my oldest sister, who was already married, had a beautiful blonde baby girl and I became an aunt. My memories of her are less of her living with us on Dartmouth street and more of her visits home with her babies, two girls and one boy. I loved that.
As I got into elementary school, I realized that most of my friends came from a family with two or three siblings. In those moments, my own family seemed freakishly large. But on the weekends, when we would visit my dad's only brother and his wife and their seventeen children, (yes, you read that right), it made our family seem small and their poverty made our family seem rich. One of the funniest memories of our Mama is the way she would say, when she made us fried chicken and we didn't eat every single speck of meat off the bone, "Uncle Albert's kids would appreciate that chicken and they wouldn't leave any meat on that bone!" Never waste anything was Mama's motto to the day she died, and Uncle Albert's children were equivalent to some parents saying "the children in Africa wish they had that chicken".
All in all, I loved everything about growing up in a large family. I have two close friends who grew up as only children. While I'm sure they have their own wonderful memories, I can't even imagine such a thing as growing up without brothers and sisters.
Tomorrow, we will drive to the beach where most of my siblings, our children and our grandchildren will gather in a rented beach house for a family reunion. It has me thinking about siblings and what I love about mine, about how glad I am that I still have the family of my childhood here with me, even with Daddy and Mama living in heaven now.
The summer after Mama died, our oldest living sister, (our oldest sister passed away a couple of years before Mama), planned a reunion. She was concerned that we would all drift apart from each other now that there was no "Mama's house" for us to gather at. Each summer since, we have had a reunion. Some years we've all been able to come, which is such a blessing. This year our oldest brother, who is a pilot and flies internationally, has to work, and our youngest brother, a missionary, can't make it. They will be greatly missed.
Siblings are the only people that truly share and understand your history, both the happy parts and the sad. It's been interesting and healing to talk about, laugh about, cry about, our upbringing now that Daddy and Mama are gone and we can talk freely without worrying about their feelings. It's also interesting to see the different perspectives of growing up in our family. For example, my perspective of half of my growing up years occurring after Daddy left Mama is quite different than my older siblings who grew up with Daddy at home the whole time. Both experiences had positive and negative impacts on us in different ways.
Siblings are the people that you can look at and see your Daddy's nose, your Mama's hands, and even your parents endearing and irritating qualities. (Boy, do I have to fight being overly faultfinding and critical like my Mama!)
My siblings get my quirky sense of humor like no one else. Most of my laughing til I cry episodes happen with my siblings and are usually precipitated by something that makes no sense to someone outside of our family circle.
Maybe it's because I am one of the youngest siblings, but my siblings are some of the people I most want approval from. Maybe it's an overflow from the desire for parental approval, but to know my siblings genuinely like me and are proud of the life I'm living is important to me. I'm not saying that I live for their approval or adapt my standards to please them, but I do value their love and respect.
My relationship with my siblings isn't one where we are often together. We don't talk on the phone daily or even weekly. We are pretty spread out geographically and we all lead active and busy lives. Yet, I am confident that if I ever truly needed them, they would be there for me, and vice versa.
This afternoon I will spend the bulk of my time in the kitchen cooking and baking for the reunion. Tomorrow, the Hubs and I and all of our daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren will drive to gather with four of my siblings and most of their children and grandchildren. Over the next few days we will eat too much, laugh a lot, play games, sit around the bonfire toasting marshmallows and making s'mores, fly kites, and celebrate being a family. I thank God for the family He gave me, the siblings He gave me. Here's to my wonderful, flawed, beautiful, quirky family!
Also joining THOUGHT PROVOKING THURSDAYS
at 3-D Lessons for Life
Kelli at CHRONICLES OF GRACE