#76 Families BorrowedPosted: December 12, 2013
The earliest clearest memory of borrowing other families was during High School. It wasn’t purposeful. It was essential. Even though I knew at the age of nine that my mother was different, there was nothing to be done. I appreciated but did not count on the occasional wing held over me by mothers of friends.
I spent time at the house of one friend whose mother was a friend of my mother’s. Their household of two daughters, mother and father made me feel welcome, even temporarily safe. Another close friend’s mother was someone who would protect us and stand up for us when we wanted to go to a concert or a party. I thought she lived a drab housewife life, but she was always there if we needed to talk. Not that we did that much, but we knew that we could. Another friend’s mother made a prom dress for me.
During the foggy days after my father’s death, I remember sitting in the pew at the memorial service at our church. A friend of my mother’s put her arm around my shoulder. She noticed me and for that instant knew I needed comfort. Comfort was something infrequent that was lost forever with my father. And an even odder memory is that I was seated in the pew behind my mother and brother.
In my first adult job in Seattle at a radio station, I was included in some family occasions of my mentor. Over forty years later her daughter is still a friend. Her mother noticed that there was something different about my family. We never talked about it, but she was there.
When I moved to New York as a young woman I lived with a family for a couple of months. The couple had been young friends under my father’s wing. They couldn’t possibly know what their nest meant to me. I mean they truly never did understand.
I went to a co-worker’s parents’ for Sunday dinner. It was my first experience at an Italian Sunday dinner that lasted all day, with loud voices and the occasional ping pong game between many courses. At first I thought they were yelling but they just cared about each other with the volume up.
When I lived in Connecticut, I was host to single friends for weekends and holidays. When #31 Mr. Humidifier came to live with me, his children I would borrow. My weekend step-mom role ended sharply with his disappearance.
I described friends in #73 Separate Letters, who cared about me and I cared about them. We depended upon one another as family does. That is until the balance shifted with one caring about me too much.
In Pennsylvania I was reunited with the family friends from New York. In the beginning I had some borrowed brothers and sort of parents again. But, and I can’t make this clear enough, they had no clue about what my family really was. Once the mother told me something bizarre that my mother said to her about me. But they couldn’t know. Hell, I lived it and I didn’t understand.
When I was with #56 It Takes Two, little by little I borrowed his gigantic complicated family. That statement has a clever sound but isn’t accurate. The “little by little” was accepting the vague role of organizing family gatherings, gift shopping, birthday remembering, cake baking, feelings soothing, stand-in for their father/grand-father. It was a full time labor of love and responsibility. Since we were not married there were no rules. When I left him, my role was even more out of focus. Eventually even though I had grown to love and devote myself to the children and grand children, there was no place for just one of the ex-girlfriends of their father/grand-father. There are no Hallmark cards. There is no etiquette book. Fading away wasn’t comfortable, but it was what I knew.
Couples included me for dinners and movies. But I was still borrowing a little piece of their lives. And if you’re about to say that this is just a bunch of self-pity crap, not so. There isn’t a paperweight of self-pity in this observation of a life that was not taught to belong. It just is.
Today my pool of friends is small but potent. I’m particularly close to one family that does include me for holidays since I’m not in the hosting realm these days. I’m making new friends who are truer. I may be learning to be valued.
But there are some of us on this earth that were brilliantly and daily taught not to belong. As much as we are genuinely welcomed, it’s still a loan.