Archive for Thursday, June 10, 2010

Family support breeds feeling of belonging

June 10, 2010

When I read your writing, she says, I hear the sound of my own voice. She sits curled on the couch, fiddles with a newspaper opened and lying flat on the arm. She turns the paper over, holds it with one hand, and uses the other hand to smooth out creases.

When I watch her, I see gestures her grandmother used — like sitting curled in a chair, smoothing out a paper or napkin, tilting her head and laughing spontaneously about some small incident and just as quickly becoming somber and tearful at a memory.

My niece was home visiting for Memorial Day — that loved and dreaded holiday. So loved because it brings people home and families together; dreaded for the memories stirred of loss and sorrow. My family has been defined by loss and sorrow, as well as joy. In part it is because we are a large, extended family. When the circle of family is large, it encompasses the experiences of many people; one does not go through life without getting bumped and bruised along the way.

We talked about sorrow and losses. She was a pre-schooler when her father died, the age my brother was when our father died. We were reared in single-parent families, mom’s flying solo. It was something we took for granted. Or so we thought.

Children in single-parent families know they are different; the parameter of experience is often defined by poverty. In our family, financial poverty did not equate with emotional poverty. And that, I think was and is, our saving grace. What effects one, impacts all.

We often fight a cause, not only for the sake of justice, a long held value in our family, but for the sake of family. We struggle harder and walk taller because someone is watching, a family member. There are days when we are lonely because we are spread apart by miles, but we are not alone because the distance of the heart is a short jaunt home.

I know the experience of having “found myself” in the words of a family member. In cleaning out some papers several years after my mother died, I found a scroll of paper, tied loosely with a string. Inside were several crochet hooks and a story. In reading the story, I was surprised to hear the sound of my own voice. I could have written the story; it was so familiar.

I remember holding the story in my hands and feeling, for the first time, that I truly belonged to my family. I had found someone who would have known me, right down to the marrow of my bones. Such is the human need to be connected to a greater whole, one fiber in one large web, woven with silken threads.

And as Charlotte said of her web: it is one great work, one magnificent creation.

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