My mother turned coughCOUGH a few days ago, while I was away at school.
“Are you doing anything fun for your birthday?” I asked her the day before.
“No,” she said. “We’re waiting to celebrate until you’re back for Thanksgiving. It’s not the same without you.”
That night, I ended up writing her a tearful email of my favorite childhood memories when I should have been working on a Computer Science assignment (which is a tear-inducing experience in itself).
My mother was really fabulous when I was growing up. When I was three, she sewed a cloth playhouse with a mailbox for me. When I was seven, she embroidered Harry Potter onto my jeans. When I was fourteen, she read and reread the same four chapters of my first novel.
When I think of growing up with my mother, I think of our old house; zandkoekjes (sand cookies), driving to the mall to pick up the latest Harry Potter Lego kit, and us singing Joe Jackson to each other around the dining room table. It is beautiful and gezellig (cozy), and it makes me think of Our House by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, a song we listened to together when I was little. Before I understood the lyrics, it was about the home we had, and later it became about the kind of home I wanted for myself one day:
Is a very very very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy, ’cause of you
My dad is different. When I think of growing up with my dad, I think of dying my hair red together (when I was ten). I think of him picking up my brother and me after school and taking us to the movies as a surprise. I think of sitting in my room late at night, doing my homework, hearing a 70’s funk song blast through the house, and running with my little brother to my dad’s room to have a mini dance party.
I think of Our House by Madness, a frequent family dance party anthem:
Our house it has a crowd
There’s always something happening
And it’s usually quite loud
I didn’t notice the connection until this evening, when I was compiling a playlist for Ken to introduce him to my childhood. This is what it sounded like to grow up with my mom; this is what it sounded like to grow up with my dad. This is what our house sounded like.
My parents have spent many years together, and a few apart. Our house is messy, colorful, and conflicted. But as I have been reminded since coming to college, not everyone is lucky enough to have received unconditional love in their life. My brother and I have been.
One of the really wonderful things about growing up in that kind of house is that Broseph and I have also learned how that kind of difference can enrich life. My brother has been a scientifically-minded want-to-be-paleontologist since he was three. He is a brilliant, engaged, hilarious, fifteen-year-old atheist.
I am a nineteen-year-old religion major with an independent streak and an ‘active prayer life’. Just on an academic level, reading the Bible is like Christmas morning for me.
On the basis of our sibling-hood alone, we should not get along. Instead, he is one of my best friends. He is ‘my favorite person.’ His presence in my life is one of the reasons I believe in God.
We have learned respect from each other, and we have learned respect from our parents. More than that, we have learned love from our parents. Until I have kids, Broseph will always come first. And after I have kids, I will trust him to give them the best understanding of the natural world and Doctor Who possible (I would be honored to teach his children about secular faith, but his plans for reproduction still involve cloning).
Now that I’m away at college, we chat online every day. With the uninspired borders of instant messaging, you would figure that there isn’t room for the same messy, colorful relationship we have back at home. You’d be wrong. This morning, we spent ten minutes meowing at our mother on an impromptu Skype call (“Which one of you is that? No, stop it, I hate cats! Broseph! Sara!“).
Our house is still thriving, even with this distance. But, come Thanksgiving break (and my mother’s coughCOUGHtieth birthday), I can’t wait to come home.