Friday, October 29, 2004

film strip

Reading a post last night about a woman traveling down a long highway to go 'home' for a visit and some of her initial experiences upon arriving there really touched a chord in me. I wrote a comment about what it feels like when I journey homeward. How once the dinner plates have been cleared, we linger at the dining room table and my father begins to tell his stories, yet again. Family history, family lore, family mythology. And I realized in the moment of writing that comment how awkward I feel at those times--as if I'm trying to squeeze myself back into the frame of my family's highlight reel. When truth be known, I'm not really that person...I just play her on TV.

Family is such a confounding label. And I'm not even talking about extended, mixed, by-marriage relations--I'm talking about blood relations. Sometimes I look at my brother and wonder how we could possibly have sprung from the same seed. We could not be more different in terms of lifestyle, political beliefs, social network, hobbies, etc....and yet... And yet in some primal emotional ways, we're very much alike. It's such a remarkable thing to be linked to a group of people simply because of birth or marriage. To go through life with the knowledge that even if you don't like them, they're yours. You're stuck with them, and they with you. Greek drama had nothin' on family drama. It's theatre of the first order...and casting is everything.

So I play my role, dutifully. Yet how would I describe 'her'? Because she's not a neat stereotype. I play the oldest child. She's very smart. She looks 'normal' (i.e., traditional) but has never led a traditional lifestyle. She lives tenuously, financially, yet is viewed as much more 'together' than her prosperous, wild, crazy-adventurer brother. Flaky lifestyle, but reliable in a pinch. Will perform her daughterly duties, but might show up for duty wearing odd clothes.

So when the family movies get played out verbally in my father's wine-soaked words, I sit and listen and offer the occasional half-smile. It's the best I can do when many of the 'highlights' he's recounting contain hidden pain for me. But I'm nothing if not a trooper. After all, the show must go on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Marilyn,

I loved this post, of course because I can relate. It's impossible to ever really go home, but we try anyway. We can't help it.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

I really liked this post. A lot. I wonder if everyone feels this way about their families? I find myself asking WHO are these people?

11:00 AM  

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