Family Matters by Dellani Oakes
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. We’ve heard that often enough. I guess I’m fortunate. With very few exceptions, my family members are people I’d associate with even if we weren’t kin. They are wonderful, funny, intelligent people who make me laugh and feel good. We may go years, if not decades, without seeing one another, but we always have a great time when we get together.
The importance of strong family ties, is something my husband and I have tried to instill in our children. For the most part, I think we’ve been successful, though our children’s logic might have skewed our meaning somewhat…
When my oldest son was in third grade, he was more the size of a first grader. My daughter, two years older, wasn’t large either, but feisty and very protective. One day on the playground, a bully decided to assert himself by picking on my son. He accosted him on the playground, pushing him around. Before my son could move to protect himself, the bully pushed him again, knocking him down.
Suddenly, a banshee like scream grew louder and a little, brown haired missile shot across the playground. She tackled the bully, sending him face first into the dirt. She then proceeded to hit him, screaming, “No one beats up on my little brother but me!”
The assistant principal, who had witnessed it all, called me—laughing. “I’ve got your daughter here in my office.” He explained and added, “She’s mostly sorry.”
“Mostly sorry?” I asked, puzzled.
“Yeah, she’s not sorry she beat him up, she’s sorry she got caught.”
The assistant principal told me later, “She hit him with a flying tackle. Clipped him right in the knees. It was the prettiest take down I’ve ever seen.”
By some miracle (and the fact that the assistant principal and principal both liked my daughter) she wasn’t suspended for fighting, though the bully was. We had a talk about how that wasn’t the way to handle the bully, which made no impression whatsoever. She swore if it happened again, she’d do exactly the same thing. That was her brother and no one was going to smack him around—except her. She is still fiercely protective of all her brothers, though she’s the first one to give them hell if she thinks they deserve it. No, you can’t choose family, but given the opportunity, I surely would choose mine.
may not be a native, but she considers herself Floridian, and her writing reflects that. She’s written everything from historical romance, set in St. Augustine in 1739, to contemporary romantic suspense set in and around Daytona Beach. She enjoys writing, not only about family, but on a variety of other subjects as well. You can find more from Dallani at www.dellanioakes.wordpress.com
and on Amazonhttp://tinyurl.com/kwt3ne9
A Family Portrait by Micki Peluso
I smiled to myself when they told me about their plans. As a mother I believe even grown children should learn by experience. They kept talking, and I had to hang up the phone before spasms of laughter overtook me. My two daughters thought that taking all of their children to a professional photographer would make wonderful presents for the grandparents. They thought it would be easy. Ideas are always best in their infancy.
On the hottest December day in decades, the children were dressed in their winter finery, and off we drove to the Mall. Kelly is blessed with three boys, a good-natured five-year-old, a tyrannical terrible two-year-old, and a one-year-old with attitude. All three were all sick with low-grade temperatures and noses running like Niagara Falls. Endless nose-wiping with tissues on gentle skin resulted in red faces and grumpy dispositions. Makeup partially solved that problem.
Nicole, has a nine-year-old, Nicky, already protesting the humiliation of posing with his “baby” cousins, and a daughter, Bailey Rose who, at four, believes that one cannot be too rich or too beautifully dressed. Local clothing stores know her by name.
The photograph studio is seasonally crowded, with tykes of assorted ages running amok and babies wailing—not my choice for a fun day. The temperature, and parents’ tempers, keeps rising as appointments run behind. One-year-old TJ takes a power nap, while his two-year-old brother, Brandon, makes several escape attempts, one almost successful. At long last, my family is called for their shoot. Nicky, still disgruntled, is itchy from his woolen Christmas suit and has broken out in livid hives. He announces that he may throw up. His sister Bailey, the ‘Calvin Klein’ of the four-year-old set, insists that the tights she’s wearing are certainly not the ones she chose with her outfit and begins to remove them, much to her brother’s chagrin and Nicole’s horror.
The wannabe Ansel Adams, a smile permanently pasted on her face, manages to get all five children lined up. Brandon is sitting in the sleigh as the session begins. For reasons known only to her, the photograher decides this will not work and tries to remove him from the sleigh.
Did I mention Brandon has a bit of a temper? He screams so loudly that the security guards rush in like Marines on a mission. TJ begins to suck his thumb, a habit he’s never exhibited before, and Christopher, his older brother, slinks to the floor in an effort to appear invisible. Nicky tries to pretend that he doesn’t belong with this family. Bailey has her hand on her hip, a glint in her eye, and one foot pushed forward—never a good sign. Now the future photo genius snaps the shot!
The photographer is determined to complete her job. She lines everyone up again for some final takes. It seems to be going well, until she snaps the picture at the precise moment Brandon, who now refuses to sit in the sleigh on principle, catapults backward off the platform. There are more blood-curdling screams, but he’s unhurt since he is a very tough
By now the other parents are quietly moving away from my family, some actually leaving the store. The photographer makes one last attempt to catch the children on film. She is, if nothing else, courageous. All the kids are in place at last. It is a bit much to hope for smiles from them, so she clicks away at the exact moment Brandon once more falls backward off the platform. The shoot is over.
My daughters are not happy with the shots but I find them spectacular. TJ has a startled ‘Oh’ on his mouth, and it may take a while for him to recover from this experience. Christopher has a perpetual smile on his face, but it is rumored that he believes he was switched at birth. Nicky looks disgusted by the entire event, and Bailey is asking for a reshoot. All that can be seen of Brandon is his two legs sticking straight up—perhaps the best shot.
My daughters asked how I ever photographed all six of my kids.
“Are you crazy”? I said. “I never took all of you out at once, except to church, until you went to school.”
Some things must be learned, not taught. Meanwhile my favorite picture with all the kids is a conversation piece, especially the kid showing only two legs.
, author of the award-wining memoir . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang, is a journalist, humorist and writer of short fiction and slice of life stories, fiction and essays. ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog ‘ a children and YA story is about to be released, followed soon by her collection of short stories, called, ‘Don’t Pluck the Duck.’ See more from Micki at http://www.mallie1025.blogspot.com/
The Downfall of Diabolical Geniuses (aka My Parents) by Cody Wagner
If my parents wanted to rule the world, it would have happened. And you’d have no idea they were doing it. They wove a tapestry of sneakiness. Case in Point:
Back in the 90s, there was no texting, no iphone; kids talked on the phone, landlines with cords. My family had one phone and five kids. Those are terrible odds. We fought over phone usage like crazy. Every second of second of every evening, someone was whining
about someone else hogging the phone.
So what did my parents do? Well, they could have sat us down and explained the rules. Or set up schedules of who could use the phone and when. Did they do any of that? Nope.
Instead, Dad installed a secret switch–at the back of their closet– that shutoff the phone.
I’m not kidding. The phone suddenly and mysteriously started going out at 6:00PM every night.
The five of us threw absolute FITS. But what could Mom do about it? “It’s the phone company,” she’d say, shrugging. “I can’t do anything about it.”
And that was that.
At this point, you might be asking yourself: So what happened if a phone emergency arose?
Mom would say, “Oh sometimes the lines get messed up. They feed into the walls just outside my bedroom. If I go mess with them, they may work.”
She’d disappear into the bedroom, shut her door, and we’d hear banging on the walls. After a few minutes, the door would open and she’d emerge, wiping sweat off her brow. “OK see if that works. If not, there’s nothing we can do.”
Lo and behold, the phone would work again! We thought Mom was an electrical genius. Little did we know she was a diabolical genius.
However, all my parents’ “geniusing” backfired my sophomore year in college. They had bought me a new car. By “new,” I mean a 10 year old piece of crap. But it was my piece of crap and I loved it.
My best friend at the time, David, lived out in the country. His house was off a long caliche road. For all you non-Texans who have never heard of caliche, it’s a firmly packed dirt road, not paved but the gravel is so firm, it’s the next best thing.
For some reason, my mom had an insanely irrational fear of caliche. Maybe she had nightmares about a caliche road hiding in her closet. Or perhaps she was molested by a caliche road. Either way, I was expressly forbidden from ever ever ever driving my car down that road.
“A stray rock could fly up and snap your axel in two.” Mom seriously thought a pebble could crack inches of steel. Let me just add to this little scenario the fact Mom didn’t even put gas in her car. She, who knew nothing about automobiles, somehow knew about “pebble axel”.
And there it stood. I couldn’t drive to my friend’s house.
So what did I do? I drove over there anyway—until the evening David ratted me out. We were all chatting in my living room.
“So you gotta hear what Cody said last night in my room,” David said.
Mom flew up out of her chair. “Your room?!” She glared at me. “YOU DROVE ON THAT CALICHE ROAD!”
David’s eyes went from normal to “deer trapped in headlights.”
I sat there saying, “Um…er…. Ummmmmm,” as my brain fumbled for an excuse.
The next morning, I had to work. I stumbled, half asleep, out to my car. Mom walked out with me.
“What are you doing?” I said.
“I have to run to the library.” She headed to her car and started it up.
Shrugging, I went to my vehicle. I turned the key and nothing happened. I kept trying, but still nothing.
A horn honked. Mom was waving from her car. “What’s wrong?”
I hopped out of mine. “It won’t start!”
“You have to be at work!”
I threw my arms up. “I know!”
“Well, get in and I’ll take you. Your dad can look at it later.”
Two weeks passed before my dad looked at my car. Two weeks to the day. And I was expressly forbidden from fixing it myself.
“I don’t want you or your friends messing something up!” Mom said. “You’ll wait for your father.”
Again, I had to wait exactly two weeks. And then, Dad fixed it in about five minutes.
“The battery cable came loose,” Dad said.
Suspicious? Well, let’s examine the evidence:
- My car stopped working the day after Mom became furious at me.
- Mom just happened to be leaving at the same time as me so I wouldn’t be late for work.
- I wasn’t allowed to touch my car for exactly two weeks.
- The problem was a loose battery cable.
I think we an all know what happened: I was being punished. I was too old to be grounded, but, with a little Dad sabotage, my parents found a way.
I never looked at my parents the same after that. I’d always believed the random coincidences and excuses. But they’d taken it too far. Despite mom’s insistence the caliche road shook the cable loose, I knew what had really happened. And I wouldn’t let it go.
Years of needling later, Dad finally came clean. And my parents fell from their positions atop twin towers of diabolical genius.
loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, will be out October 27th, 2015. He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com
or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer
, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40
MY FAMILY by Jon Magee
I am the youngest of six children. My father served in the British Royal Air Force, and my family moved frequently, from one part of the world to another. By the time I had completed my secondary schooling, I had studied in 14 different educational establishments. As a result, my siblings, along with my parents, were the core of my childhood relationships—how do you bond with a grandparent who lives on the other side of the world? With friends you see for a year or two?
My immediate family was the continuity from one experience to another. I remember the walks we took together through the hills and in and out of the caves that surrounded our home in Germany. We lived under the threat from terrorism and military conflict in Aden. In Singapore, we climbed coconut trees to enjoy the fruit, along with the milk inside.
It was as a family that we would also develop a close bonding with people of different races and cultures. We shared picnics together, as if we were all part of a wider family. The colour of the skin was not relevant, but our relating together as people of the human race was.
When it came to Christmas, I recall soldiers being invited to the home to enjoy a family Christmas meal. They were stationed abroad, as we were, with no family at all to spend time with, not even brothers and sisters and parents. We had more than they had in terms of family, but together we shared some of what family is meant to be.
When returning from Singapore on the ship, the Empire Fowey, I recall my mum speaking of my gran and aunt, who we would be staying with for a few months. I looked from the ship wondering who these folks would be, what would they be like. My aunt met us, a stranger to me. I was not sure how I should be relating as a child, yet here was someone that was clearly important to my mother.
During those few months, I found there was nothing to fear. This stranger was not at all strange when I got to know her. She had warmth that would draw children to her, even if she never married and had children of her own. Then came the parting once more. I was a child that needed to move from country to country. A child that nevertheless discovered that family is not just siblings and parents, but also the people of the world wherever we meet and whoever they are, all seeking to know a bonding with the family of the human race.
is the author of From Barren Rocks to Living Stones and Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey. His writings reflect the depth of personal experience, having lived at the heart of much of the major events of late 20th
century history. You can find Jon at https://about.me/Jonmagee.author.minister
MESSY FAMILIES by Linda Varner Palmer
I love movies about messy, aka dysfunctional, families. I know that sounds weird, but the idea of being loved unconditionally—no matter what awful things you do—intrigues me, the writer who tippy-toed through life doing what she was supposed to do because she wanted her parents to be proud of her. Now I’m not saying that my family would’ve tossed me out if I’d rebelled. I had wonderful parents that I love and miss very much. What I am saying is that fear of disappointing them kept me on the straight and narrow. So I like watching a movie about a family that is all over the place.
The Family Stone is my favorite Christmas movie. Set-up: Mom’s breast cancer has come back, and she hasn’t told anyone but Dad, who is doing his best to pretend nothing is wrong so they can have a last happy holiday with their five grown children—Susannah, Amy, Ben, Thad, and Everett.
Susannah is happily married and pregnant with her second child. Her husband will be arriving on Christmas day. Amy and Ben are both single. Thad, who is deaf and gay, is in a relationship with an African American named Brian, who has come with him. Everett is dating Meredith and has brought her to meet the family. He plans to get his grandmother’s diamond ring and propose.
No one but Everett likes outspoken, fashion-conscious, foot-in-her-mouth Meredith. Feeling outnumbered, Meredith asks her sister Julie to join them. Julie agrees, because that’s what sisters do, and hops on a bus.
As the movie progresses, we realize the family is right about Meredith. She and Everett are not a good match. Julie, her sister, on the other hand, is perfect. Perhaps that’s why Everett can’t take his eyes off her. Does Meredith notice? Not so much. She and Ben, who helps her escape to a bar, seem to be oddly in sync. Can you see where this is going? Meanwhile, Thad and Brian are trying to adopt a baby.
By the end of the movie (one scene a year later), we see that this completely dysfunctional family has somehow survived not only the death of their beloved Mom, but also a complete shuffling of the roles they once played. With love, forgiveness, and acceptance, the family Stone has become even stronger and bigger than before.
Another favorite movie is Moonstruck, which is about two dysfunctional families. Mama and Papa Castorini live in a big house with their adult daughter, Loretta, Grandpa Castorini, and several dogs. Loretta has just accepted a marriage proposal from Johnny Cammareri, who has to return to Italy to see his dying-mother. Before he leaves, Johnny asks Loretta to find his estranged brother Ronnie and tell him that he wants to end the bad blood between them.
Loretta finds Ronnie, but he’s still angry with big brother Johnny for distracting him, resulting in the loss of several fingers to a bread slicer. Loretta naturally wants to repair the broken relationship and fix Ronnie, who is definitely damaged goods. Somehow they wind up in bed.
While a big full moon shines down on them all, Loretta goes to the opera with Ronnie, who has promised he won’t ruin her engagement by spilling the beans. At the Met, she runs into Papa C with a woman who isn’t Mama C. Papa tells her he won’t tell Johnny if she won’t tell Mama. Loretta, already annoyed because Papa C doesn’t want to pay for her wedding, doesn’t know what to do.
By the final scene, Papa C agrees to give up his floozy and is forgiven for straying. Johnny, who promised his manipulative dying-mother that he wouldn’t marry, has returned to the US and the Castorini home so he can break the engagement. He finds all the Castorinis, and his brother Ronnie, at the breakfast table. That’s a shock, but Johnny manages to break up with Loretta. He asks for his ring back. Ronnie promptly borrows the ring and proposes to Loretta, who accepts. Poor Johnny—so confused.
The best part? Everyone celebrates the engagement with champagne, even Johnny, because they’re all family now and that’s what families do. There are many other movies out there with the same theme. And I always take to heart the message that acceptance, forgiveness, and love—unconditional love—are what family is really all about.
has been writing for pleasure since the third grade. She was a Romance Writers of America finalist twice and won the 2011 and 2012 EPIC eBook awards in the Young Adult category. Linda married her junior high school sweetheart many years ago and lives in Arkansas, USA with her supportive family. Learn more about Linda and her writing at www.lindavpalmer.com