...and I am very happy there.

...and I am very happy there.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanks giving..."Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts." ~Author Unknown

Traditional Family dinner in someone's basement
Circa 1940's

This fourth segment of my Thanks Giving series may be obvious for my regular readers, but it would have to be family. I have already covered parents, spouse, and sons. Here, I emphasize the family I grew up with. In later blogs, I will tackle extended family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and so on. I also consider great friends a part of my family and those members of my church -- my spiritual family, but that too will have to wait for a later blog.
George, Lynn, Elaine & JoAnn Muller
in front of family homestead in West Shokan, NY

I was raised one of seven children and was born eight years after the first group of five, but to this day, my brothers and sisters and I maintain a pretty close relationship with each other. Coming off a challenging year of selling my mom's house to my youngest brother raised some conflicts, but what would you expect when you have seven people giving commentary and input on each step? Feathers were ruffled, but under the surface there is a love that cannot be wiped out by disagreements and offenses due to some process that we had to go through. As they say, "blood is thicker than water" and I see us uniting as a family when the time calls for it.

Having three older brothers and two older sisters was more a blessing than a curse for me growing up. I say curse only because at times I felt I had several moms and dads, especially when I did something wrong. As a baby, I contracted the mumps and my sister Lynn nursed me back to health. She continued throughout my life to be my "second Mom" giving advice wanted or not.  As a defiant child, my sister Elaine washed my mouth out with soap when I back-talked my mom. Elaine and I were very close because she came home most weekends and spent one-on-one time with me. We had a special bond, I felt she was usually fair and justified in her reprimands. As a rebellious teen, almost all my elder siblings played a role in trying to keep me on track when they felt mom and dad were too lenient. While I may have considered this a curse at the time, I can look back now and see it was truly a blessing to know they cared enough to get involved.

Then there were the perks of having so many older siblings. Rick and I were showered with more gifts for birthdays and Christmas than Mom and Dad could have ever afforded. We were often given new clothes on special occasions and whenever our sisters took us to stay with them. We had several places to go to when summer vacation came and it was not unusual for Rick and I to be staying with a brother or sister for a week or two. Whether we were off to NYC or Ohio or Georgia, it was a great experience to be both away from home and off with one-on-one time with a brother or sister.

Did I mention the tons of advice given? Though at the time most of it was unappreciated, it didn't fall on deaf ears. I can remember one time telling my sister, "Just let me make my own mistakes, will you!" But then I would go to that same sister to ask advice as to what to do with a challenge I was having at school. Of course our elder siblings were not experts. Most of them were just starting to experience life outside the home themselves, but Rick and I always looked up to them. For myself I have to say, I always listened and heard what they said and even though I didn't really want them to know it, I tried to take the advice most of the time.

Rick and I were on again/off again friends/rivals through our growing childhood. We shared a room for the earliest years (with so many in the family there were times -- three shared a room!). Then as the elder siblings moved out we had our own rooms. These became our coveted sanctuaries and we detested when the other would invade our domain! I remember how we used to set traps for each other to catch the invader breaking into our rooms. We also made sure Mom didn't mess up the balance of chores. In our teen years, we pretty much went our own way. I hardly remember Rick being around during my teen gatherings or high school years. We became closest after we were out of the house and he played a big part in my sons' lives.

When I made plans to marry, I was told by my sisters that I was too young. The advice continued until I had kids. This was because of the fact that, other than Charles, none of my siblings had ever had any children. It wasn't until I had children of my own that I felt I had finally gained the respect of my elder brothers and sisters.

As we have all gotten older and have entered ages of what we remember our parents being, we have taken on new perspectives of each other. We see each other's moral values, political stands, and even our weak points. There is a pack mentality that comes and goes depending on the topic. Sometimes it's sisters against brothers, sometimes it liberals against conservatives, or righteous against heathen (!?!) (I just put that in there to get some of them riled, heh, heh.), but behind all the opinions and stands and varying beliefs, is a family that truly loves each other and sticks together through thick and thin. We continue to get together for family reunions, weddings and family gatherings and will often be the group that participates and has fun.
Muller siblings at Cousin Lorraine's son,
Scott's Wearley's Wedding 2009

While we have our tiffs from time to time, just watch and see what happens if ANYONE tries to come against any one of us. The Mullers have proven to be a force to be reckoned with. We are family (cue the Sisters Sledge song) and we love each other.

Several of my dad's brothers also had large families. I would be interested to hear how they view their family experiences growing up and now.

Stay tuned, I will continue at a later time with extended family, close friends and spiritual brothers and sisters, not to mention --the Bell and Atanasio families.