Saturday, October 6, 2012

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Some people are blessed to have children and even more blessed to have children that get along.  My brother, sister and I for the most part got along very well.  We're all fairly close in age as my sister is only 14 months older than me,  my brother 2 years younger.
My parents weren't young when began their family and were fairly new to North America.  Mom could barely speak English so Italian was the first language we learned.  By the time we moved to the United States in 1970 she could only have limited conversations in English.  Dad who had been here a few years longer had a bit of an advantage as he could both read and speak English.
Our life wasn't easy.  Dad worked as a landscaper during the day while mom ran the little grocery store my parents took on right next to my grandparents apartment and just down the street from our home.  When dad came home mid afternoon he would take over the store and mom would go on to her second job which was working in a factory until 3 am.  She slept about 4 hours a night.  Somewhere during this time she would still need to cook. Dad built a kitchen in the back room of the store and she would prepare dinner there.  At lunch we would eat there. For dinner, she would prepare the food at the store then bring the food home where it would continue to cook as she got ready for work. We would be responsible for watching it when we got home as dad didn't close the store until at least 9 each night.
We were on our own much of the time as we were part of the 'latch key' generation. My sister was in charge as the oldest.  My sister was quiet and considered the 'good' one.   She always studied hard and never got into any trouble.  She was fiercely protective of us and took very good care of my brother both at home and at school.
I wasn't as good always getting into some kind of mischief.  Truth is I was bullied a lot the first few years because of my size and although I never showed it I was always afraid.  I read a lot during this time since going outside wasn't an option for me.  I got into fights often - especially with one girl who made it her life's mission to beat me up at least once annually.  This always ended up with my sister stepping in to 'rescue' me but not before I took a few lumps.  Then one day I was alone and during a fight I was pushed up into a stone wall. This resulted in three stitches to my head.  I realized that eventually my sister wasn't always going to be able to protect me and so I swore that would be the last time anyone would ever hurt me physically or otherwise.  And for the most part it was.  From then on I wasn't afraid anymore and during my last annual asskicking proved it.  My sister never had to worry about defending me again.
As teens my brother was a prankster.  He'd love to jump out of closets or pin strange objects against my bedroom window to hear me scream.  My dad was forever yelling at us to settle down 'or else'.  When he turned 16 he got his license and drove us everywhere.  We shared the same group of friends so we often went out together.  By the time he was 21 he was hooked on fixing up old cars and I often gave him my credit card to by parts from car shows.  Eventually he bought an old car,  fixed it up and gave it to me for Christmas one year so that didn't have to take the bus to work anymore.
My sister married first - a hard year for me as I didn't want her leave but turns out I didn't lose a sister, I gained a brother. They moved in with us until they bought their own home.   I married the following year and moved in with my sister.  When my brother found out I was pregnant he told my parents and insisted we move back home to save money.  During one visit home I walked in to find the first floor of my parents home transformed into an apartment complete with a nursery he and my father had built.  Two hours later my furniture was moved back in.  My brother was with us every step of my first pregnancy and somehow when I went into labor he arrived at the hospital before I did!  He waited there patiently with me and my husband for 2 days I until I gave birth.  After my husband he was was the first to hold my son and got up every morning to take care of him so that I could get a shower in and some time to myself.  My sister and her husband became Godparents to him and my brother Godfather to my second son. 
We respected and feared our parents.  We had responsibilities,  however small but we had them.  And we had each other.  To say we didn't argue would be a lie as we did fight but we all paid the price for it.    My father believed any argument was the result of two things - an instigator and a person who bought into it.  The person not involved in the fight should have been the one to stop it and so they also suffered the punishment with the other two.  He trusted and relied on us to always do the right thing.  He had to in order for him and my mother to be able to make a decent life for us.   And we relied on them and each other.
So today as I prepare for Thanksgiving at my parents tomorrow I am reminded of all the things I have to be thankful for.  Dad will be making the turkey as he always does followed by a pic of him, the grandchildren and the turkey.  Mom will be recovering from her recent surgery so my sister and I will cook the rest having divided the meal in half.  The cousins will all take off and do their own thing together until dinner is ready.  My brother will figure out some new prank which will instantly turn us back into kids and cause my father to use the 'or else' phrase (which is not an easy feat with his limited use of vocal cords).  And we will thank God that we had at least this one more holiday together.