Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ties That Bind

A meme about families:

1. Who do you consider to be members of your “family”? What is your actual relationship to them?
FAMILY to me are those I am related to by marriage or blood AND maintain a relationship with.

By blood I have 4 siblings. I only have contact with 3 of them. The one that is lost to me I think of as a "relative", which is different in my mind that my "family".

My immediate family is my husband, kids, grandkids & sibs.

My extended family to me are my in-laws, aunts & uncles, cousins, etc. Those range somewhere between "Family" and "Relative" depending on the bond we do or don't have.

I have other people I am not related to by marriage or blood whose relationships I deeply treasure, but there is a distinct difference to me between those bonds of choice than the ones of kin. I know there are "fictive kin ties" where some people think of non-family AS IF they were family. I don't really do that so much.

2. Of these people, whom do you feel closest to? Whom to you feel most distant from?
My sibs I am closest with pretty much in birth order, with the exception of the brother that is lost to me.

I have one cousin in Renton who is almost like a sib to me and other cousins I don't know at all.

3. What are some expectations you have of your family? What do they expect from you?

These seem to be shifting, evolving, changing... and each relationship is different.

4. How has ethnicity influenced your family?
This has not been a big deal for me. One uncle and two brothers have married Hispanic women. My oldest son married a woman of mixed race. Growing up white in America in the 60's and 70's in a mostly white town I never gave it a lot of thought.

5. What experiences did you have related to your family’s socio-economic status? Were there groups you were a part of or groups you were left out from as a result?

I grew up really poor and felt the sting of exclusion and / or judgment from others as a result of that. I can recall feeling unwelcome with the popular girls with the nice clothes at my school. I can also remember feeling like a "poor relation" sometimes when my family went to visit aunts and uncles whose circumstances were considerably better off than our own. I think I internalized a lot of the shame about our family life from the feelings conveyed about it by my mom. I've let go of most of that, but back in my early years it was like a weight I carried with me where ever I went. I've talked about this not that long ago with one of my cousins I used to be so intimidated by. He was baffled that I had ever felt less valued in the family because we were poor and insists they never looked down on us for our meager means. I'm not so sure... It's hard to separate out all the different layers of things that were going on at the time.

As an adult I'm somewhere in the middle of the abundance scale in my family. Some have way WAY more than my man and I do, some have considerably less. I no longer use amount of money or shiny things as the measure stick for how well someone is doing. My values about material "success" have shifted a lot. But as a kid, it was pretty grim.

6. What trait do you admire most in yourself that was a product of your family life?
Love of learning and commitment to education. Even though we were dirt poor we always had good books in our house. One of my most vivid memories of the house I grew up in is the bookcase full of encyclopedias and a big fat dictionary that were all used constantly.

7.What is the extent of your knowledge regarding the history of your family?
I know bits and pieces, but there are plenty of gaps. In my 20's and 30's I was pretty interested in genealogy and did a fair amount of family history research. So I've got lists and charts and a smattering of pictures. There are some stories that have been passed down. But once we get past my great grand parents there is little info available.

8. What is your favorite childhood memory about your family?
All of us out someplace together on a wood cutting venture. I was pretty little. It was one of our happier times.

1 comment:

Rozel said...

I have a cutting wood memory too! I was always too young to go with my Dad and one time he let me come! I worked so hard piling wood (with my dad behind me re-piling wood). Then after we were done (and the sun had gone down) we ate bean stew out of my Dads thermos. I had never tasted anything so good in my entire life.

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