Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I read a very sweet and heartfelt ode to family and childhood this morning.  It is incredible to think about childhood and family as a mold. It made me realize, yet again, how very blessed I am to have the family I have.

I come from a huge, Irish, Catholic family. Both my parents come from large, tight, knit families. They are different. 

My Mom's side are very pragmatic. When my husband met them, he was startled by what he perceived initially as indifference. You cannot complain to these people! They have no sympathy! I don't even remember what the complaint was, but one Aunt rubbed her finger and thumb together and smiled. "It's the world's smallest violin playing the world's saddest song, just for you." 

Everyone laughed and it might have felt harsh. But what happened next was typical. Everyone, all at once, asked what could be done. What can you do? What can we do? How can we fix this? They are full of love and caring. They have empathy. They are strong and not afraid of emotion. They will not cave in front of a problem. And they won't let you cave either. They are not nosy, gossipy, pushy types. You won't hear them blabbing your problems to anyone who will listen. They will talk to you. And it will not be critical, but it will not be passive either. You are going to hash out solutions. 

Dad's family is loud. The Thanksgiving table is boisterous and perhaps hard to follow. It is not out of the ordinary to have several heated discussions going on simultaneously. Politics, religion, literature, history. Quite a number of them are or have been activists, so comparing jail stories is not as uncommon as you might guess on meeting the crowd.

Again, my dear husband learned by fire. It was election season. You might think that if you put a group of similarly raised people with similar values in a room that political discussion would be a merry game of back-patting. Not so, in this family. It was loud. Vehement disagreements based and similar foundations made the discussion exciting and fast paced. 

"Well, since we all agree that... it is obvious that..." 
"It is not obvious at all. That's a silly conclusion. Your mistake was..."

The Church this and the party that. Everything is evident. Of course.

"So, Josh, what do you think?"


Poor man. But he knew how to play the game. He chose a politician and made a relatively innocuous, but not obvious, observation. And the discussion moved on quickly with explosions. 

At the end of the party, everyone hugs. We all miss each other. What fun! What a good party! As long as there is argument and wine, everyone is happy.

Both sides sing. There is always music. Both sides drink. There is always wine. I could go on and on about how amazing my family is. They are tough, but empathetic. Brilliant and opinionated, but not judgmental. And Irish.


Awesome in that great and terrible sense when it suddenly dawns on me: I am a grown up now. I am a mom and I have kids.  If family and childhood are a mold, I am as much a shaper as a shape. And that is terrifying. That is some measuring stick I am holding. 


  1. Beth, both sides of my family are very different, too. My parents came from a mixed Protestant-Catholic background, with one parent Protestant and the other, Catholic. My dad grew up second generation German/Hungarian in a poor, farming family. Though not large, they were larger than my mother's family, who was wealthy and fairly snobbish. My mom and dad both grew up in homes where difficulties were not expressed, but rather shoved under a rug. Neither of them found this to be helpful, and so they raised my younger brother and me quite differently. Still, it's funny to note how very divergent family dynamics can come together to create a very beautiful tapestry of love.

    1. I married a protestant too, Jeannie. I am proud of the family that raised me- and intimidated by them as a standard. I thought about including my in laws in this post too. They are awesome, and they raised my amazing husband. I love my family.

  2. Hi! I found your blog after reading something you wrote on another site. Sarah's picture caught my eye. I live in Ukraine and volunteer at an orphanage for children with special needs. One of "my" darlings there has Apert syndrome, so I've been reading whatever I can find. Thank you for sharing so much here!

    Would you please pray for this sweetheart?