We Are Family   3 comments

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Before we get started, have you checked out mystery novelist PJ MacLayne’s blog Mountain Musings. Roll on over there and see what she has to say on this subject. She has some great books you ought to check out.

Wow, mothers and daughters — relationships in general, but especially those ….

My mother and I loved each other deeply and agreed on nothing. Zip, nada, zed. I doubt she would have approved of my life choices and I know I did not approve of hers. With the exception of hooking up with my dad, my mom made some phenomenally bad choices in life.

Yet, I admire her strength and tenacity in getting through the consequences of those choices and I am grateful for her passing that survival ethic to me. I just wish that she had not made some of those dumb choices with me in tow and I think, were she alive, she’d owe my brother far more apologies than she owes me. There is truth to the rumor that you grow wiser as you grow older and I was born later in Mom’s life, after she had learned that when you throw mud into the fan, you ought to step to the side of the fan.

I hope I have passed that same survival ethic to my daughter with fewer mistakes made, but probably not. I made different mistakes … maybe better mistakes, but still mistakes. My lovely brilliant daughter is a gypsy bluegrass musician traveling the Lower 48 without a permanent address. Those are not choices I would have made for her.

Oh, do you see a pattern? Yeah, me too! The difference is that I didn’t throw a fit when she decided to pursue her own goals. I closed my mouth and sat on my hands. I type encouraging words into the band’s Facebook page. I emphasize that it is HER choice and that she is always welcome to return home. I look forward to laughing with her over her adventures sometime in the future. She will be a great material source for a novel. She knows I don’t approve, but she also is not afraid that I will reject her because of her choices and she also knows that she can change her choices in the future when she’s ready.

So I’m going to tell a funny story about my mother that is funny because I have chosen to see it as funny and then I’m going to tell a funny story about my daughter that is funny because I have chosen to see it that way.

My mother had no sense of direction. My brother and I have decided that this was because she grew up on the prairie in North Dakota where she could see for 10 miles in any direction. She could literally be disoriented by turning around too fast in a telephone booth. Despite this handicap in a state of mountains and forests, my mother insisted upon taking us into the Alaska wilderness to berry pick and whatever. Remember, there are bears in those woods, but more, getting lost in the Alaska wilderness carries risks even if you don’t encounter hostile wildlife that thinks you’d be tasty with ketchup. Mom got us lost so often that the family dog knew the command “Find the car.” My brother and I have dead-on senses of direction because the dog taught us valuable life skills.

There are people reading this thinking — “That’s not funny. It’s dangerous. It’s horrible. Poor kids!” No, really, it is hilarious because we survived it and my brother and I laugh about it all the time now. Every family has stories like that … the time the parents nearly got us killed, but it worked out okay. My kids can tell the story of the time Dad turned into Jamaica Plain, outside of Boston, in a Seabring convertible. Good times!

So, now for the daughter —

Brianne is a gypsy bluegrass musician and that means she has to travel. The band lives out of a beat-up short bus that was retired from active service because it was old. When she first hooked up with the band, she was traveling across the Dakotas in April of 2013. Yes, the year of the late blizzard. She was asleep in her sleeping bag on a seat in the short bus when the leader of the band (now her boyfriend, sigh) asked her to scoot over so he could go to sleep. Thus awakened, she stared out at the snow falling heavily outside the window and asked the fateful question “Where are we and why have we stopped in the middle of what appears to be nowhere?”

Georgia-state licence holder – “I can’t keep it on the road. I can’t even see the road. So I’ve pulled onto the shoulder and we’ll sleep until the weather clears.”

Brianne (slides window open to test the temperature with Alaskan-knowledgeable fingers) – “Um, how much gas do we have?”

Georgia-boy – “A quarter tank. Why?”

Brianne – “Well, if we run out of gas, the heat shuts off and — well, I’ll be fine in this triple-layer Alaska sleeping bag, but the rest of you …. frostbite, hypothermia, death. And are you even sure you’re on the shoulder? What if a semi comes down this road and doesn’t see us until it’s too late?”

Georgia-boy – “I can’t drive in this stuff.”

Brianne – “Yeah, I heard that, but I can. I have a black belt in winter driving, right? Show me how to shift this thing and I’ll get us to somewhere we can afford to run out of gas at.”

Having never driven a bus before, she then drove 100 miles through a full-on blizzard, mostly unable to see the road but knowing what delineators are for. “Mom, I just kept hearing you as we drove through whiteout in Broad Pass. You said ‘Keep it between the ditches. That’s all you need to do.” The last 20 miles she had a North Dakota state trooper behind her. He wasn’t signalling her to pull over, so she kept going. When she pulled into one of those gas-and-squats off the interstate and pried her fingers off the steering wheel, he asked to see her driver’s license, snorted, and said, “Well, Alaska girl, you just saved your friends lives. I thought I was following a professional driver, which is why I didn’t pull you over, but an Alaskan makes sense too. You drove the (blank) out of that road.”
A couple of days later, Brianne and her friends were selecting a campsite somewhere in Colorado. Everyone wanted to camp down by the pretty creek. Brianne refused. “I kept hearing you in my head, Mom. ‘Creeks rise, roads flood, take the high ground.'” She prevailed. The next morning they woke up to rescue several people who discovered that “creeks rise and roads flood.” That pretty creek was now a raging torrent over the tops of their vehicles, which they were standing on when Brianne and her band of gypsies showed up with ropes to pull them to safety.

When Brianne told me these stories (and I pretended I was okay with them), she thanked me. Why thank me? Because, she said “I kept thinking — what would Mom do? Where’d you learn all that wisdom, Mom?”

Well, to be perfectly honest — from your grandmother — a woman whose life choices I don’t agree with, but who taught me so much about how the world works that I’ve just got to pass it on to my offspring.

Yow know — coz, we are family.

Posted October 13, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in #openbook

3 responses to “We Are Family

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  1. Great story! You taught your daughter well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha…wonderful way to share your story. Wisdom is wisdom, no matter how you get it.


    Traci Wooden-Carlisle
  3. Love the stories. Although you may not think your daughter’s choices are the best ones, she has shown remarkable good sense. That’s a great credit to you!


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