Do you really have family somewhere? I mean, cause the way you act you may as well have been abandoned at birth and raised by rodents.

Contrary to popular belief, I was not found under a cow and raised by guinea pigs. I really do have parents and siblings. And yes, they still love me, even after they found out I was occasionally writing about them here. But it was a close call. I think The Brother Just Younger than I has developed a twitch in his right eye from reading this site. But there’s nothing he can do about this site. I am, after all, the oldest and therefore the one who should know better. And besides, mom left me in charge and so yes, I am the boss of you, and you have to do what I say.

My mother is an artist who does amazing work in pen and ink. Right now she is pouring all of her artistic skills into quilting and worrying about her kids and grandkids. She does both pastimes creatively and beautifully. She is the middle of three girls, with a full-brother tacked on the end, and a couple of half-siblings and a couple of step-siblings acquired when she was a teen-ager. Mom is very close to her two sisters, and so am I. Her mother was an alcoholic who forced my grandfather into a divorce (in the 1960’s) and later married a man whose greatest gift to the world was his death in prison.

Despite her poor choices, everyone loved my grandmother. She was something special. Her hair was determinedly red. Red with a capital R. She lived in a house that was only a roof on a basement. I thought it was a magic house because it was so small on the outside and so large on the inside. A ditch full of catfish ran through her garden and she loved salmon-colored roses. A couple of years before she died she cleaned up her life and found Jesus (and re-discovered the color of her carpet). When I was 12 she died peacefully of an aneurysm while on the phone to my aunt. Julia was born on my Grandmother’s birthday.

My father’s family emigrated from Denmark a few years before my father was born (and that immigration is a saga in and of itself). They ended up in Utah because my grandmother was 9 months pregnant and hiding her pregnancy from the airline employees. On a layover in Salt Lake her advanced pregnancy was discovered and she wasn’t allowed back on the plane. They had been heading for LA, but decided just to stop here. Sometimes I wonder if this story is real or simply a family legend. I mean, really, like they couldn't just rent a car? Who plans on moving to an entirely new country and then doesn't really care where they end up in it? I think my grandfather always wanted to live in Utah so he could be closer to The Saints and just lied to my grandma about going to LA to be with her sister. But who really knows?

In the old country my grandfather’s family business was carpentry, particularly furniture and cabinetry. He promptly set up a workshop here and waited for his sons to show an interest in following his footsteps. The oldest two didn’t, so by the time my father came along (the sixth of seven children) my grandfather had given up patience and didn’t really allow his youngest son much of a choice in careers. My grandfather divorced my grandmother in the late 1970’s and married a woman young enough to be his daughter. She killed him when I was 7, sold all of his things (everything in the workshop) the day after the funeral, (my father had managed to steal some things out of the workshop and scraped together enough money to buy one of his father's saws -- this is sad when you consider that my grandfather had intended my father to inherit the shop, but never wrote a will) and used the money to move to Paris.

My grandmother is a tough old broad who is battling anorexia and fighting overwhelming evidence that she should no longer live in her home alone. Other than the fact that she continues to insist that I used to come by once a week and do chores for an allowance (I NEVER did that, when she started saying that is when the family realized that she needed more supervision) she’s stayed pretty sharp, and if there’s any mischief going on in the family, most likely Grandma’s got her fingers in it somewhere.

My father is an amazing artisan with wood who can calculate complex mitering angles in his head. He can build almost anything out of kitchen cabinets, even a cradle. He has a contractor’s license, but works for a company called Cabinetry by Karmen selling kitchens to contractors.

My parents are pretty spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, they have their flaws, but they are working on them. They both come from very devout Mormon backgrounds. They both left the church when they were teenagers. They got married when my mother was 19 and my father was 18. My father had to have his parents sign a permission slip in order to get married. My grandparents didn’t really want to sign, but were afraid my mother must be pregnant (she wasn’t). They (particularly my grandmother) treated my mother very badly for a long time (still does occasionally). My mother thought for years that the bad treatment was because of the feared pregnancy, but it turns out that my grandmother just hates in-laws and All Others Who Are Not Blood Kin.

I was born 9 months and 2 weeks after the wedding. I was early but a lot of people thought I must be late. When my mother got pregnant my father went out and found a 3rd job. Every paycheck from that job he would take directly over to the hospital where they were planning to deliver me and make it out to their accounts receivable department. He is very proud of the fact that they day they released me and my mother he received a refund.

I have two younger brothers and a sister:

  • My sister is 10 years younger than I. We adopted my sister in an open adoption that we wish hadn’t been quite so open, but we didn’t really have much choice in the matter. Without going into details (a first for me, I know) let me just say that even if she weren’t my sister, Smokin’ Bunny-cakes would still be related to me. SB-c is now living in Nashville on a great adventure that involves Starbucks, a cheap apartment, a sleazy/crazy EX-boyfriend (can I have a halleluiah for impossible-to-believe miracles), very little furniture, and stubborn refusals of her parents’ repeated offers of a plane ticket home. I wish her luck and abundant tips.
  • The next sibling up is my brother, He Who Could Sell Snow to Polar Bears (of course, with global warming, this may not be such a big accomplishment in a few years). HWCSSPB is 5 years younger than I and has gone into the pseudo-family business of selling kitchen cabinets. He has found his calling. He was the first of us to marry. His bride, Sister-in-Law the First, is my father’s secretary’s sister. (got that? We’re a familial black hole, get to know us and you’ll find yourself sucked in whether you like it or not). Their daughter, the much-awaited First Grandchild, was born at 33 weeks gestation due to a placental abruption. She spent a week in the NICU and came home on Father’s Day. My mother quit her job as a kindergarten teacher to stay home and care for First Grandchild while SiLtF & HWCSSPB are at work. HWCSSPB is an amazing guitarist who never took lessons, but could play anything he heard. He started (of course) a band with his friend Crash when they were in high school. As a gift, I gave them a portrait sitting. One of these days I’ll find one of the pictures from that sitting and post it here. Won’t that be fun?
  • The Brother Just Younger than I is the one who is a mechanic. Currently he lives in my parents’ basement. Mom and Dad are slowly raising his rent by $100 each month to ‘encourage’ him to find somewhere else to live. His fiancée, Sister-in-Law the Maybe, is working on a degree in nursing. There’s a rumor that they may actually (finally) get married this fall, but I’ll believe that when I see it. The Brother Just Younger than I and I used to be very close. In fact, he and I used to share a set of friends and we’d all Game together. That was after a long period of being quite adversarial. Now we’re sort of distant but tender. Or something. He holds grudges. In fact, one of the longest grudges he held (may still be holding for all I know) was over a Halloween party I held when a senior in High school. Apparently when we were playing Murder in the Dark (a game where everyone holds hands and a Murderer passes death along the chain of hands through squeezes. For instance, you get 5 squeezes on the one hand, you pass 4 along through the other. The person with only one squeeze is dead. Players try to figure out who the murder is before getting killed themselves) we kept killing him off first. He thinks it was a plot and is very upset that we were so mean to him. First of all, he totally crashed that party. I mean, who wants their younger brother at a Halloween party? Second of all, we were being nice just letting him play the game in the first place, so he should feel lucky that my friends even let him hold their hands for just a brief moment.

  • So you can see I have a very large and loving family. And I didn’t even get to aunts and uncles and all the cousins. And we’re kind of Blob-like in that we tend to absorb individuals into the family circle whether they like it or not. It can be a bit overwhelming. Everyone is in everyone else’s business all the time. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

    Oh and, except for one rogue aunt (who lives in Atlanta) and a couple of uppity cousins, we all live in Utah.

    Posted by Trista @ 11:55 AM

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    When are you coming to visit the rogue Aunt? Can we schedule a play date while you're here?

    Posted by Anonymous Liza @ 2:19 PM #
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