Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Family Nest Years


I was born in Rochester, Minnesota while my father was finishing medical training at the Mayo Clinic.  By the age of one I had already moved to the town I recognize as my home town;  Petoskey, Michigan.  I was raised through high school in this conservative, Lake Michigan resort town of 6,000 people.  Although the environment was sheltered from diversity, it did provide a strong community atmosphere which fostered a sense of accountability and inclusiveness. 

I was raised with two older brothers ( 5 and 6 years older than I) and a younger sister.  My parents lived a very disciplined life and could "practice what they preached".  Despite having the wealth of a physician my father and mother lived a relatively simple lifestyle.  They did not spend much money on themselves and of course all the kids got the same treatment.  I learned quickly that if I wanted toys or candy, it was up to me to make the money.  By six years old I was fishing returnables out of garbage cans and buying GI Joe figures with the money.  By nine I had a newspaper route.  I recall many mystical childhood summer days catching frogs, snakes and venturing in the swamp and woods near my home.  These are where some of my earliest spiritual roots were formed.

Although I do not have conscious recall of my attitude, apparently at the age of two when my sister was born I exhibited many jealous behaviors.  My sister has Down's Syndrome and Autistic features necessitating much of my mother's attention.  I apparently acted like a baby at times to get attention.  At a rather young age I learned to prepare my own food and become quite independent in this family. 

Our family was raised strict Catholic.  I recall many good experiences in Catholic School.  At this age though I did start to exhibit a sense of urgency.  It became a belief of mine that the faster I did something the more I would be rewarded.  I am not exactly sure what set of experiences fostered that, probably too many to recall.  For example I recall racing home after school... always trying to go a little faster.  In piano class I decided Yankee Doodle was better only if I could play it faster.  I was doing my homework for the next day during class.  Needless to say this tendency to rush has been a trait that has been hard to shake as an adult.  Church itself lacked meaning for me at that age.  I do recall some days wanting to be somewhere else and the feeling that going to church was a punishment to be endured.  I am sure the impact of the church on my belief system is more powerful than I realize even now.

My mother is and was very loving, warm, kind and attentive.  She was quite sensitive when I was a child which was great when I needed empathy, but she had a tough time with criticism or rejection by others.  We enjoyed many similar hobbies that have been the foundation of a very close relationship (gardening, cooking, hunting for Petoskey stones, hiking). 

My father is and was very strong, confident, persistent and trustworthy.  He was devoted to his doctoring and the community and grew the support of many people.  He was a powerful role model but like many fathers of that time and culture was often emotionally distant to his children.  Approval was not easy to come by.  He had and has integrity and held a high bar for comparison when it came to self discipline.  A clean and ordered yard and home as well as meticulously cared for cars are just several values he holds strongly. 

My two brothers were like gods to me.  I was awed by there lives and friends and often envied them.  Most of my social grace, of which there was very little, was learned from them.  They also were the first to bring to my attention that my parent's rules were not necessarily the rules of the whole world :)  I appreciated their input in opening my mind and giving me hope for the freedom I would realize when I finally would move out.

My younger sister and I shared many joyful younger days playing in the sprinklers in the yard and bouncing on the bed.  As I got older I do recall feeling ashamed because of her Down's Syndrome and many embarrassing traits.  She would groan out load in church.  More than one time she removed all of her clothes in the middle of a public atmosphere.  Sometimes she would walk right into a home during a stroll down the street even though we didn't know the family.  Lets just say she had a lot more social confidence then I and a lot less inhibitions.

The middle and high school years for me were a mix of emotional experiences.  I felt like I belonged in sports such as soccer, skiing and tennis.  Math and science came easy.  Socially I was a clumsy.  I was not confident and was kind of clingy with my friends that were popular.  I suffered many an uncomfortable day in the lunch room when I got left setting at the end of the table.  Lack of conversational wit was another trait.  I would chime in with a come back three minutes after the conversation had moved on!  And lets just say my lack of confidence really shined with the ladies :)

The high school years were also punctuated often with a feeling that I was "missing out" on the fun.  In an attempt to discourage under age drinking, my father required that I wake him up and blow my breath on him when ever I came home at night.  Needless to say that atmosphere created a powerful yearning in me to want to experiment with partying! 

At the end of high school my confidence got a huge boost when I unexpectedly found out I was Valedictorian.  When it was time to move on to college I had felt a strong need for freedom and discovery and did not once feel sad leaving the household at that point.

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