Every one of us is a part of a family. Whether all members of that family are present or not, we are a part of that family. For us to exist we must have had a Father and a Mother. If that is all there is to our family, Mom, Dad, self, then so be it, but we are a family.
Then we have the myriad of exceptions to a family. A parent has passed away, both parents are Moms or Dads, a parent is simply not around or not involved, siblings have and continue to pass away or they purposely separate themselves from their family, adoption, and foster homes. The list could go on and on; your specific situation is probably something even more different than what I have just mentioned.
The blaring truth is that whoever we are, or whatever our situation, we must make the best of the family we do have. We all need to find that group of people or even that one individual we can call family. If we are forced to be alone, if we are all that is left of the birth family, then, when we find our matrimonial mate, we are once again Family.
My situation wasn’t all that different from many people in my generation. I had a Dad and a Mom and 12 siblings. Now, the 12 siblings could be the thing that is quite different in my family versus yours, but they were there.
Additional differences include my Mom and Dad getting a divorce when I was five years old. My Mom re- married, interracially in 1954 segregated / prejudiced America. I grew up with only two of my siblings, the others stayed with my Dad after the divorce, on the farm. I barely saw the brothers and sisters left behind until I was about 14.
My simple family description, for the first several years of my life, would be; a white Mom, a black Dad, myself and two sisters and one black brother. That was my family as I grew up from 5 years old to about 13 years of age.
I must admit I have to search deep to find the “happy family” in my past. Admittedly, we were not the definition of Happy Family but there were moments that could suffice for happiness.
I remember one instance in particular. My black father seldom worked. He was a skilled mason and carpenter but always had difficulty getting employment. He would stay home as my Mom went to work as a nurse at a local Old Age Home. Mom would come home exhausted and collapse in her bedroom. Eventually she would emerge, still dressed in her hospital whites, and start preparing whatever she could find for dinner.
By this time in my white/black experience, when I was about 8 years old, my sisters had already moved back to Dad’s. My new “happy family” consisted of white Mom, black Dad, black step-brother and myself. We all got along just fine; seldom was there friction, but things just didn’t mesh good enough to be called happy.
One day black Father, let’s just call him Arnold, came home with big news; he had gotten a job building houses with a local construction firm. We celebrated, we partied, we went grocery shopping that very night. We didn’t wait for Arnold’s first check, Mom just took whatever money she had and prepared to fill the pantry.
We went to a huge department store that carried groceries as well as a wide selection of household goods, clothing and, yes, toys. To accentuate our Happy Family situation I need to tell you that as a kid I owned nothing, but one homemade quilt my Mom had made me some years earlier. By nothing, I really do mean nothing; no toys, games, puzzles, sports equipment, nothing. It just wasn’t a part of my upbringing.
But, now, Arnold had a job and Mom had one also. We were going to be making more than twice what we had made for the past several years. It seemed that money was all over the place. Mom let me buy a plastic model car, the kind you have to put together with glue. She bought herself something in the cosmetics area and Arnold just went along for the ride.
We filled the shopping cart, checked out, spent Mom’s money and drove home. This was an outing that we so very seldom had. We hardly ever went grocery shopping. Mom would stop on the way home from work and try to get something for dinner. Here we were though, all of us riding in our car and anxiously awaiting putting the groceries away.
I’m getting to the Happy Family part now. Mom quickly whipped up a delicious dinner while I helped set the dishes on the table. Our dining room table was directly in front of a space heater that we used to warm the house. Arnold built a raging fire in the space heater and Mom brought the meal out to the table.
There he was, a roasted chicken, still in one piece, sitting in the middle of the table. Mom had made mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade bread, sweet corn and dressing. It wasn’t a holiday but it was a happy day. We sat there at the table, in front of the beaming space heater and just glowed. Everyone smiled.
Arnold took a moment to thank our Lord for our blessings. We all held hands as he offered our meager thank you to our mighty savior. He said amen, we loosed our hands and looked around at each other. With a smile in my heart, I thought to myself; this is what a happy family is all about. This is the moment I want to capture in time and keep with me forever.
It takes so little to make someone who is seldom comfortable, happy. All it took for our family was the promise of a job, a second paycheck, a good meal and a raging fire. I am so glad I have at least a few of these moments to look back upon and thank my Lord for. That night, this little mixed up family, really was a Happy Family