For any of you who know my family, probably the best word to describe us is wholesome. Today we were especially so, first going to the park, then going bowling, and then playing a family game of Boggle (with a family trip to Bed Bath and Beyond in between).
As a kid, I never appreciated just how wonderful growing up in a wholesome family is. In some ways, I didn't understand it. I thought all families were that way unless there were lots of older kids.
I am an oldest and, that being the case, I was not used to big people being in the house when I was small; I did not understand the way things worked when there were older siblings around. I was afraid of people's older brothers (well - they were all so big!) and much too shy of their older sisters. Most of all, I didn't know what it meant for a family to not all be on the same schedule.
At my own house, we were all home between four and five, at which point we would all eat dinner together (except my father, who was always still at work). Sometimes our mother would eat with us, sometimes she would wait for our father to get home. Regardless, she always sat with us, asked us about our day, and got us started on our homework when dinner was over.
After homework, we would run outside and play with the neighbors until bedtime. By that point, it would have gotten darker and colder so gradually that we wouldn't even have noticed it until we came indoors and started to thaw.
We would be in bed by eight (or 8:30, when we got old enough), with our mother saying shema with us and singing hamalach. Our nightlights reassuringly lit, she would shut our doors and we would all drift off to sleep (or stay up and eavesdrop on anything interesting going on downstairs).
The routine was not always like this at other people's houses - especially people with older siblings. I remember going to friends and having to put together our own dinner. That was confusing to me. Why wasn't everyone eating dinner together? Where was this person's mother?
At friends, we wouldn't always get put to bed, either. And there were sometimes too many people around. Big people who did things that were loud and foreign and intrusive on childhood, like sisters blowdrying hair and putting on makeup, or brothers thumping around like they were giants. I almost expected them to shout, "Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!" every time they passed by.
I was aware at a very young age that the more older siblings in a house, the less routine there seemed to be. Everyone appeared to be doing their own thing, was on their own schedule, lived in their own world.
But not in my house. In my house, everyone lived in the same world. Sure, we had different friends, different interests, etc. But when we were at home together, we existed in the same place in a way I didn't feel in some other people's houses. I think a lot of this had to do with my not being used to a world more sophisticated than my own. Girls my own age were part of something older and more grown up than I was because they were exposed to it in their houses.
Sometimes I felt I was missing something, but as I started growing up a little, I began to understand just how unique and important it is for a family to share a world with each other. That is what my family does, even now that we are all older. We are that wholesome family who plays catch with each other and goes on family picnics. We play games together and enjoy each other's company. We don't have any major family feuds.
I used to wonder what I would be like if I lived in a different family. Would I be shy of them? Would I be myself? Would I be a different person altogether? Would I be happy? Would they understand me?
The older I get, the more I appreciate how lucky I am to have been raised in a family like the one I have. We make many choices in our lives concerning ourselves, but one thing we don't have a choice about is our family. So when you find you are part of a great one, it's something to feel lucky about.
That is why I love being part of such a wholesome family. And I hope one day when I have my own, it will be just as wholesome.
(P.S. Happy Birthday, Straight Man, who is no longer a teenager, and who was Thing 2 to me for a long time.)