Your Smiles Make Me Smile

If you really want to get the most out of my blog, it's best to start with the first post written in July to the present since some blogs refer back to earlier posts; but any order is just fine... Thanks for visiting! Now scroll on down to the good news! ~Renae~

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In Search Of My "Real" Family

When I was just old enough to form clear sentences, I was sitting on my dad’s lap at the dinner table and asked him, very seriously, where I came from.  “Well,” he said thoughtfully, “Your mother and I wanted a little girl and so….” he continued, “…we went into this building that was filled with children…”  Of course in my three or four year old brain I imagined all these children piled up on top of one another and squished together in some sort of warehouse; “And there you were sitting in a corner all by yourself smiling, and so we said ‘we’ll take her’.”

Now, giving this some very serious thought and suspecting all along that my family was a little odd, I started on a lifelong journey to find my “real” family.  I had the proof that I needed that I was not one of “them” and now I just had to figure out what to do with this information.  Every time my mom, dad, or brother did something strange, it reinforced to me that I was in fact, adopted. 

For example, at around the age of six, my dad came home one day and said to my mom “Honey, I’m opening a pest control company!”  Of course my mom scoffed and thought that was the most ridiculous idea she had ever heard, and dad went on to create General Pest Control.  But that wasn’t the weird part.  The weird part was the telephone situation.  As with any new business, someone has to answer the phones and take orders; that was my mother’s role.  But how was my mother to answer the phones if she was say, hanging clothes in the backyard from her clothesline, or looking for my brother and me who typically ran wild through the streets of our neighborhood?  Well according to my dad there was an easy solution for that. And so, he rigged the phone so it was connected to very powerful speakers.  When my mom needed to leave the house, all she had to do was flip a switch and wallah - you could hear our phone ring two blocks away.  She would hear it, as would all the neighbors, breathlessly run home to answer the business phone, and with a smile on her face and a song in her voice she would say “Good afternoon, General Pest Control” as if she had been sitting at the desk the whole time waiting for their call.  My friends would ask “Why does your phone ring like that?” and I would just shrug my shoulders as if I had no idea, secretly wanting to say, “You know they aren’t my real family.”

Then there was my brother who used to tease me relentlessly.  I think he resented having a little sister that was picked out of a crowd smiling.  I must have taken the only child air out of his sails because he tormented me as often as possible without getting caught.  Hearing the sounds of my screams brought him great pleasure and always a devious snicker.  To this day if someone even pretends they are going to tickle me, I break into anxiety-ridden hysteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Hey Renae” yuk yuk yuk, “Do you want a ride on the back of my mini-bike?”  And down the alley behind the house he would take me, while he premeditated the wheelie that would leave me flying off the back seat into the dirt covered alley.  With little rocks stuck in my arms and blood oozing, I ran into the house wailing and screaming as usual…. “Alan popped a wheelie!”  My mother was so fed up with the teasing, screaming, and crying that she would say “I don’t want to hear about it!” Again, more proof that I wasn't her "real" child.

Then there was my dad and the dog; the dog that we were never allowed to have because “dogs shed, dogs eat their poop, dogs are dirty…” but other families had dogs.  Then came Trooper, the dog that was to be and only be and outdoor dog.  The dog that not only instantly became an indoor dog but spent hours on my dad’s lap, who coddled, shared his dinner with him, and was held as if he were his first born grandchild by my “no dog in this family” dad.  Okay maybe that’s not so weird, but my parents had professional portraits taken of Trooper, and hung not one, but two 10x12 with gold frames on the main wall in the living room.  Stranger yet was that there were never pictures of my brother or me hanging from that wall.

The final straw came when I woke up one night to hear my dad and Trooper in a heated argument. Trooper was sick and my dad was trying to feed him Chicken Noodle Soup with a spoon.  Trooper would growl, dad would scold and try to push the spoon in his mouth, Trooper would growl, and dad would scold again. This went on for over an hour.  By this time I was almost 18 and couldn’t wait to move away from this family that I never belonged to in the first place.  I did, however, see a side of my dad that I had never known.  The only time I ever saw my dad cry was the day that Trooper died.

Eventually, fancying myself as The Little Match Girl, I grew up and moved, trying to find my place in the world; peeking into the lives of others and wondering if I too should have a spot at their dinner table.  No chair ever fit quite right, and so I finally created my own idea of the perfect family, through adopting my own daughters, Beagles, and other animals along the way. 

Last year I went home to visit my family; the one that raised me. My nephew was getting married and I hadn’t been home in ten years.  It was time to face the reality I had denied most of my life.  I barely stepped off the plane and the chaos began.  My mother had spent months looking for shoes for the wedding and the night before after hitting every store in Anchorage, we ended up at Sears only to find socks for my little nephews.  We had shopped until the stores were closing and at the far end of Sears the lights were dimmed and the registers were closed.  Suddenly, from that end of the store, I heard a crazy lady screaming “Is anybody here??  Is anybody here???” My mother was having a level four melt down in the middle of Sears, pacing quickly from aisle to aisle while yelling for a salesperson’s help.  “Mom! Mom! It’s okay! The registers are closed here.”  “Well for God’s sake!” she exclaimed. 

But the next day she was frantic again because my nephews’ suit pants hadn’t been hemmed. “Oh my God! We have to have the pants hemmed!” “I’ll hem them” I said.  “Oh what are we going to do?? Your brother wants to take them to a tailor and there’s no time!”  “I’ll hem them.”  I said. “Just duct tape the damned things!” yelled my dad from the other room.  “I’ll hem them.”  I said.  “You? Hem them? You know how to hem?”  Yes mom, “I’ll hem them, I can hem.” “Oh for God’s sake!” yelled my dad, “Back at the farm, we just used duct tape! Duct tape the damned things!”  Ultimately, I hemmed the pants, the wedding turned out beautifully, my brother still loves to tease me, and I cried my heart out at the airport when I had to leave.

I learned that weirdness not only runs in the family, but that I too inherited the gene.  It was on that trip that I discovered that I never needed to look for a spot at another person’s dinner table, I had my own spot at their table, because they had been my “real” family all along.  

And that’s the good news!

Sweet Dreams and Always GOOD Dreams,


almnop said...

Seems you're pretty lucky for a "Little Match Girl!" Good for you.

dmariek777 said...

I adore you! ;-) Your column always makes me smile! Signed, another "Little Match Girl"

Anonymous said...

You forgot when you spent a year or so in heavy brace with TB of the backbone, and had to be given thick injections every day. You were in the first or second grade, we would treat you rough so you would not become a sniffle nose brat. Then we would cry over it after you left.

Maybe you had deeper, forgoten reasons for wanting another family. You would scream every time we gave you the shots, as every spot was black and sore.

renaedarlene said...

...and I still turned out to be a "sniffle nose brat." ~Renae~