Celebrating the holiday with your blended family
The days between October 31 and January 1 are my favorite days of the year. I stop short of naming holidays, because there is so much going on at this time that these days mesh into one great big season of smiles. This is the most exciting time of the year, and yet it can also be the most stressful. But cool heads can prevail, especially in our current society where blended families are more the norm.
I remember being a kid growing up in a big “blended” household with all the comings and goings of family and friends. Mom referred to our Brooklyn home as “Grand Central Station.” We lived in a three-story Queen Anne in Flatbush, NY with Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Jo, Aunt Ellie, Uncle Charlie, siblings Kathy, Ken, (me), Mike and Jean, plus a boxer named Hansel. We were crowded in the beginning, but as time moved on and people moved out, we gained some elbow room.
During holiday dinner celebrations, we all squeezed in around the table—somehow. Yes, we had a kids’ table, which at times was in my grandmother’s bedroom. I say, “blended” because my older sister and brother are my half-siblings, but there is nothing half about them in our eyes. Because they are 10 and 12 years older, there was a big “idol” factor in our minds when it came to Kathy and Ken.
I remember being a snot-nosed 10-year-old, getting the crap beat out of me by “Lumpy” in the schoolyard. Then some kid said, “Hey, that’s Orbsie’s little brother!”Suddenly “Lumpy” picked me up by my collar and asked, “Are you his little brother? And if so, why yous got different last names?”
“’Cause his dad died, and my dad married his mom,” I blurted out, spitting the dust from my lips. He brushed me off and told me to tell my brother Ken, “This was a big mistake.” (Yes, Ken had a reputation in the schoolyard that saved my butt that day.)
I hate the term “step” brother, sister, son or daughter—mother and father for that matter, too. There is a connotation to that term “step” that makes me feel as if we are illegitimate. Fast forward 40 years, I have a “blended” family of my own, and I still struggle with the term. Our kids have used the term, “brother by another mother,” which about sums it up and puts a smile on our faces. I once had a “discussion” with the youngest, who reminded me, “you’re not my dad,” to which I agreed and reminded him he had a perfectly good dad, and would he like me to call him?
Raising a family is never easy. With the bumps in the road comes the joy of seeing everyone grow into his or her own.