Sunday, February 12, 2006
Spent Saturday night at the Twin Palms in Pasadena for T's birthday – D and I spent an entire evening with just the "grown-ups”: my brother B and his wife T, my sister A and her husband DH. The six of us. We ate well, we drank cocktails, and danced to disco music like we were all just dating, like we were free of everything that binds. We laughed and made fun of others...throwing stones as if we didn’t live in glass houses...but in the end what made us laugh the most were our own reflections.
I am always amazed at the closeness of my siblings and I - how it is that today we are best friends - that given the choice of going out with friends or each other, we will choose each other. We simply have too much fun. The inside jokes are ancient, the experiences we've shared are unique, our faults are totally understood. Our connection is rooted in difficulty, in survival, despite vastly different viewpoints of the same childhood environment.
B is infinitely harder in judgment on my father than on my mother. My sister and I are harder on my mother. He was the one who fought them the most – my sister and I were much more compliant, much more accepting of our circumstances, trying the mend the problems, trying to live as best we could within the chaotic confines of the Pasadena house.
One of the byproducts of the “difficult childhood” was that our struggles were unacknowledged. From the outside, being the children of glamorous parents, we couldn’t possibly have any complaints. Cousins and friends saw us as privileged and lucky, oh-so-lucky to have the favorites as our parents. How fun to live with the hosts of the party! How fun to have parents who’d travel and go to Disneyland at the drop of a hat or drive up the coast on a moment’s notice and stay in fancy hotels! How fun! How amazing to live in the old house with the huge pine tree behind that red brick wall…a house big enough to have a gate at the end of the driveway. How fun to zip around in sports cars on your dad’s lap! Nobody does those things!
How could such a life be bad?
We became isolated…nobody understood what we saw, day to day. We were forgotten when our parents could no longer hold it together – my mother being hospitalized – my mother disappearing one summer into the depths of Mexico – my father living away from the house. They occupied the spotlight in their downslide just the way they did when they were on top of their game.
Nobody understood the pain of living in that house.
For a while, we three traveled on slightly different roads. B was busy growing into adulthood, getting his college degree, while I was already there, lawyer-ing, getting married, having my first baby. My sister A was right behind me, working the corporate world, getting married. My parents were divorced, my father dying. When his death happened, the three of us had huddled together in handling the difficult process of telling my mother about his death and honoring my father’s wish that she not be at the funeral. My father had remarried. He’d alienated his own family. The politics of his funeral were…horrible. I remember my brother calling my mother – he’d taken on the chore of telling her not to come. Took the brunt of her anger. I think it was the first time I saw B as an adult.
Years later, B was divorced, I had my third child, and my sister had two. My mother died. All the work we’d done to repair hurt feelings since my father’s death seemed a grateful close call. We had no idea she’d leave us so soon. The three of us were left with the job of closing up her life – we three took on different tasks. I handled the probate, B handled the cleaning of her house, and my sister worked on getting the house sold.
This adult-orphan-hood has been yet another challenge from our parents…another reason for the three of us to be isolated from the extended family. Nobody knew our childhood for its reality, now few know our adulthood. We are the only ones of our generation in our family who lost both parents…making us once again, as always, different. We three…
B got married to T in Maui, Hawaii – we really love her. She fit in perfectly with our already-tight crew, not an easy hurdle. We three are now all matched, making for an even set of six.
Maui for the wedding was an amazing trip – the lot of us traveling so far together and staying in this beautiful villa together for a week. While I have many wonderful memories of the week, one in particular remains the definition of the relationship we share.
We had booked a popular boat trip for all of us to go snorkeling in Molokini, a lovely bay filled with brilliant coral and fish, the sort of place snorkeling was created for. The boat was great, the view lovely, and the weather perfect. When we arrived at Molokini, we got our snorkeling gear on…the three of us…with the spouses and kids. We’d never done it before so figuring out the proper fitting of the equipment took some effort. Well, we jumped in the water and all of us learned to do some basic snorkeling. Everyone was having a wonderful time…
Towards the end of the designated snorkeling time, my brother, my sister, and I, found ourselves alone away from the rest of the crowd. We had those face masks on, the breathing tubes pointing up to the blue sky…we were kicking in the water with our fins, swimming and admiring the view. All at once, we realized how silly we looked. We began making faces underwater, making those signals that scuba divers do, purposely slowing movements in the water, putting our thumbs up, putting them down…we were in stitches, sucking in water, laughing, drowning…just the three of us…kids again…on a fantastic trip, on one to be envied…a prince…princesses…we were ridiculous and carefree. I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard in my life as that morning in the cool ocean, with just the three of us. Laughing at our own reflections.
Our roads have finally come together – we are all raising families, we are all working to make ends meet. We three have built a tight defense against the outside world – we’ve never connected more. So…dancing to disco, feeling the light effects of Lemon Drops and love, life is good. We’re not alone at all…we’re in the middle of a crowd.