Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in California

I don't know that I've shared much of my personal history in this blog, that anyone who doesn't know me personally knows my family structure or where they live or what sort of relationship I have with my family. Right now, I am sitting in the home of my biological father in California. The last time I saw him? High School Graduation. Briefly.

My mom and my bio-dad got divorced when I was pretty young, after having my schwesterlein and me. Both my mom and bio-dad remarried and had more kids. That makes me the oldest daughter of 7 children total. Five sisters. One brother. Until this morning, I had never even met my baby brother.

Because of various circumstances, I became estranged from one side of the family, enough to the point that I had a 7 year old brother I had never met. As a matter of fact, the last time I saw anyone but the bio-dad and the grandma was 10 years ago, when I was 13.

I was a sassy teen and the last time I visited the paternal side of the family was fairly traumatizing. When my maternal immediate family moved to Oregon when I was 12, my mom "to make things easier" changed our last name to my stepdad's last name. Looking back, this made things easier for my mom only. She and my stepdad wouldn't have to explain that there had been a previous marriage which had produced some children (technically though, I'm a bastard) or that there was anything imperfect about our family and its structure. My sister and I went to California to visit and go to Disneyland and at some point my stepmom (who for years after I would consider EVIL) was missing her sunglasses and searched through my suitcase (why I was a suspect is beyond me still). She discovered my student ID card which gave the last name of my stepdad. She made a big deal out of it, as I recall, and so did my bio-dad. I was really upset and ran to the hotel lobby and called my mom collect. Looking at this, I would like to point out that it was really silly for anyone to think that my sister or I could have had any control over this name situation.

Basically - all the parents involved were behaving ridiculously. Every last one. My schwesterlein and I suffered through all sorts of drama between the parents and it made me pretty resentful. Because I lived with my mom and stepdad, the paternal side of the family got the worst of my teen angst. My mom and stepdad got some.

Recently, my schwesterlein decided to reconnect, even taking a trip to visit the paternal family on a road trip with a friend of hers. She, perhaps only through her actions, inspired me to do the same. Another inspiration was talking with a friend of mine who is a family law attorney. We discussed some matters about my parental relationships and upbringing and I determined that I was pretty much a pawn. I had to deal with being part of a lot of stupid grown up games and all the side effects and consequences thereof.

I'm not mad though. I realize that I was the first child to two people who were barely ready to have children, and obviously weren't meant to be together. My mom was two days shy of being 20 when I was born, after all. Upon coming to the realization that, in some ways, we were all victims and we were all clueless as it unfolded, I decided to drop the grudge I had begun to foster as a pre-teen...

And here I am. Sitting in the family room with the albino plastic Christmas tree, while my paternal family continues to function. It's less awkward than I would have imagined and has been pleasant overall. I haven't had a big heart to heart with the bio-dad, I haven't had a huge heart to heart with anyone yet. But I can say that nobody is evil, least of all the step-mom, and everyone who remembers me is happy to see me. The two sisters barely remember me and the baby brother never met me. He is a funny, adorable little kid, who is mildly autistic. It's this whole other life to which I am in some ways very connected and in other ways not at all.

I was nervous coming into this, but I am pretty happy that I was brave enough to make the trip and connect with my other family.

Happy holidays. I hope that they are spent with family or loved ones.

No comments: