TURNING THE COLOR WHEEL
I grew up part of a small, somewhat dysfunctional family—parents, paternal grandmother, one sister. By the time I was into my sixteenth year, we’d lived in two cities and four neighborhoods in Canada, and had made the big move from Canada to Arizona. After I married at nineteen, my family’s moving and shifting continued.
But home to me—the place I grew up—will always be the redbrick house on Harris Place in the suburbs of Ottawa. The neighborhood was so new, old farmhouses and fields of sheep were interspersed with tracts of new homes. As neighbors began move in—many Air Force (RCAF) like my Dad—everyone seemed anxious to get settled and establish friendships. Families intermingled, and both kids and adults were in and out of each other’s backyards and homes on a daily basis. My Godparents moved close by when I was ten, quickly becoming part of our family. Our six years in City View were the closest I’ve ever experienced to being part of a large, extended family. (Remember this extended family thing.)
Introspection is everything. It doesn’t always take an analyst’s couch to recognize the past events that shape us, and acknowledge how they complicate our emotional base even decades down the road. I remember one Sunday afternoon picnic in particular, prior to our move to Ottawa. There we sat, our small, well-mannered nuclear family, sipping tea out of thermoses, eating sausage rolls and sandwiches with the crusts cut off, while my parents did their best to ignore the rowdier, usually Italian, families nearby. I behaved as expected, but so wanted to be part of those animated groups: everyone shouting and gesturing, kids one notch below out of control, squirming against the hugging and laughing that accompanied their being scolded. At seven-years old, I quietly I decided I would marry an Italian. I didn’t.
Which wraps around, in a very convoluted way, to my point, that tricky tenth commandment—ENVY—the most recent rock in the road tripping me up on my journey to self-actualization. I’ve always been proud (pride, another trip-up) that being envious was simply not part of my nature. And when it comes to material things, I still believe that to be true. I’ll never envy your spacious home, sports car, or four-caret diamond, but I’m not as unburdened by jealously as I’d like to think. But more background is needed for context.
My parents immigrated to Canada from England after WWII. My father’s parents followed six months later, but the rest of their very large family remained in Britain. Considering the state of England after the war, I’m sure my parent’s decision to start over in Canada was a good one, but there were unforeseen ramifications to their choice. Moving so far away from home meant that their future children would never experience the support of extended family. We’d grow up without cousins, aunts, uncles, our other set of grandparents, and we’d never recognize behaviors and characteristics in the context of DNA. Jetting back and forth across the Atlantic simply wasn’t done back then. Thirty-one years would pass before my mother would see her own mother again.
So what does this autobiographical ramble have to do with the sin of envy? As I recently followed Facebook posts about family celebrations, past and planned, reading cousins’ posts about their shared childhoods, memories of weddings, funerals, and even their everyday lives, I felt that unbecoming shade of green creeping over me. The upside of Facebook is having a window into everyone’s world, but the downside is feeling like I’m always on the outside looking in. That sure sounds a lot like envy to me. Yup. Hard to admit. Not pretty, is it?
So shaking myself off, I’ve decided that when all the human homing pigeons start posting about taking off to join relatives for big traditional holiday gatherings or milestone birthdays, where they will be surrounded by a dynasty of children, grandchildren and loving lifetime friends, I will make every effort to turn the color wheel from green to rosy pink. I will count my own blessings, which are plentiful. I will remind myself that every large family isn’t The Waltons and, as my mother used to say about close friends, “The fewer people who know your business, the fewer there are to gossip about you.” Maybe she had a point. There’s always an upside.
11/12/2019 10:02:05 pm
Small, somewhat dysfunctional family? From Canada? It's amazing you didn't end up doing stand-up comedy. Seriously, good post. And happy Thanksgiving to you!
11/15/2019 05:46:15 am
Lynn this is a fantastic look into your younger life. From
11/15/2019 11:15:30 am
Joyce, thank you so much, and thank you for being part of my extended family :)
11/22/2019 11:26:28 am
Lovely blog Lynn.
11/22/2019 07:46:19 pm
Thank you so much Mark. There is a way to add your email to a mailing list so you get book and blog updates. This is the link http://eepurl.com/gDI49r
11/13/2019 09:39:50 am
I would have loved to have had you in my life whilst I was growing up.
11/13/2019 09:41:28 am
Me too, Sara. You guys just don't know how much it meant to me to finally meet some of you. I wrote to Gran for years and to Aunt Pixie. They were my window into my English family before Facebook. And people wonder why I love Facebook so much.
11/13/2019 09:39:59 am
THANK you Paula. One of my friends (after we moved stateside and just before I got married) used to call my parent's home Disharmony House. So many stories there !
11/13/2019 10:49:16 am
Y'know… "Disharmony House" sounds like a great title for a novel!
11/13/2019 01:24:04 pm
I actually love that. Wouldn't know where to start though.
11/13/2019 12:13:53 pm
How emotionally rewarding it must be to share your childhood past the way you just did. Wish I could!
11/13/2019 01:23:21 pm
TY. I keep trying to write something about my father...complicated man and complicated relationship, but I just can't get it right or get it done. Too hard.
11/13/2019 09:14:13 pm
Substitute Polish family for Italian family. Geeze did this ever evoke a multitude of memories and feelings!!!! I will be processing this one for a while...Thank you (I think)😉
11/14/2019 07:36:51 am
I know there are those saying, "count your blessings, honey, big families can be hell." But... you get what I am talking about.
11/15/2019 03:44:21 pm
Lynn I really enjoyed your post. Family is such a loaded topic. I can relate to your ‘green’ in that for various reasons including small extended family size and some dysfunction my brother and I did not enjoy a large family circle. I do feel that envy at holiday times especially now that I’m away from the small family I do have and get back as often as I’d like. But I love that you turn the color wheel and it’s a reminder for me of the power of gratitude. Thank you for that!
11/20/2019 12:46:57 pm
TY for "getting it." Gratitude and finding the positive is a lifelong process. I have to believe that we are where we are for a reason. What we what is not always what we were meant to have.
11/19/2019 06:55:06 pm
Without a family...what would we do? Facebook helps to keep us in touch with our loved ones but it's not the same intimacy as seeing, hugging, talking and laughing with them.
12/6/2019 01:09:46 pm
We all need to remind ourselves that people, for the most part, only show us the very best or very worst of themselves and their lives on Social Media. And really, we live in between. I tell myself that when I get envious (or really angry).
12/7/2019 07:37:47 am
Thank you for reading and commenting. Just FYI, your comment about living "in between"...the title of my novel is Dancing Between the Beats, meaning we live as we dance, between the beats :)
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