High Falutin’

My family, my maternal side anyways, comes from a deep dark pool of hillbilly goodness.  Not just “making moonshine and using spittoons” hillbilly, but real delinquent crime-committing hillbillies.  From drug dealers to petty theft to burglary to public drunkenness or even drunk driving.  Hell, we had ourselves a good ol’ fist fight between mother and daughter not 2 weeks ago.  We are a rough and tumble bunch, with a slight southern accent to boot.

Thing is, I am not entirely sure how to bring my daughter into this mix now that I am on the outside of it all.

I spent the better part of my youth not knowing any different, mind you.  These were the people who were me.  I came from them and only they got me.  My father’s side, my biological father anyways (don’t get me started on the pie charts and graphs we’d need to map this the hell out), were a little distant and my mom’s side was where I spent my childhood.  Cousins, grandparents, aunts & uncles.  We stuck together.  In a crazy world of constant new houses, stepfathers and schools, the constant needed protected and we did.  No matter what.

Someone messed with our grandparent’s land, we all went lynch mob on the neighbors using brooms and sticks.  Someone talked crap about one of us, word spread and it was dealt with using fists and words. I vividly remember fiercely defending my family’s honor at a local coffee shop in front of a lot of people to a woman 3 times my age.  I won.

Even more impactful, anytime someone’s husband beat the hell out of them, and this happened quite frequently, we all rallied in the middle of the night to move their stuff to a new place while our grandfather found the husband and beat him with a baseball bat in retaliation.  Sometimes while we watched.

We were the Midwest’s version of the Corleone’s.

Now, being an adult, especially having a child of my own, and moving 150 miles away from the eye of the storm, I look back in horror at all of this.  Something I used to take so much pride in, our family, my protection, causes me to shift uncomfortably in my chair, make jokes about and shield my kid’s eyes away from the lot of them.

A family system I took such comfort in, I now see that all we were doing was enabling all of the bad behavior present all along to continue.

I try to remember the parts that weren’t violent though, because there were lots of them.  Having sing-a-longs to my uncle’s guitar playing.  Big family meals.  My grandmother’s Christmas Day meals that were open to the whole town.  Fishing and crawdad hunting with my cousins.  Riding three-wheelers from sunrise to sunset.  Smoking my Aunt’s Marlboro Lights, playing pool and feeling soooo grown up.  The Halloweens of trick or treating.  Getting to pick out a cake each year for my grandma to make.   My grandfather’s 4:00 a.m. ritual of making a pound of bacon for us to eat when we got up.

It wasn’t all awful.  Even when I do look back at the fights and the defending honors and the arrests, I do see some bit of “just trying to make it out alive together.”  None of us knew any better and we were trying to hold on to what little bit we could.

Now though, since giving birth to my kid, a fresh new set of eyes on the world, I can’t be in the center of it any longer.  Now it seems sad and pitiful and useless and frustrating.  The fighting and the drama and the stealing and the arrests.  So why do I still miss them?

My younger cousin died suddenly in 2005.  I believe this ended the illusion of our family for me.  He was the first of the group to go not from old age, and it was sudden and awful and violent.  I noticed that while we all comforted each other, the cracks started becoming noticeable.  The family members with drug addictions, mental problems or anger issues no longer seemed quaint and able to control their lives.  These were the ones to go next.  No one was safe any more because one of us could go at anytime it seemed, despite all the fists and protection in the world.  We couldn’t really protect each other and this idea of family, and actually, we were probably killing each other.

I sit here 150 miles away and I think I know what they all think of me since I pulled away.  I’m the snobby one.  The one that went to school and has a career and waited to have children.  The one that has been married longer than anyone short of my grandparents.  The one that isn’t afraid any longer to voice her opinion on the ridiculous behavior of people that I’m related too.

It is easier for me to sit here so far away and judge.  I won’t bullshit you…judging, I definitely do.  All rise for Judge Mental.

I don’t need to get involved in the dramatics or the arrests or family fights.  More than just proximity, I don’t have to rely on them any longer to survive because I rely on myself.  However, there will always be a part of me that still relies on them to know who I am.  To know where I came from and ultimately, where my kid comes from.

I hope they know, despite my distance, that above all the horror I feel when I look back on our childhoods, I don’t feel that horror for them personally.  I still hold all of them dear to me.  I know our lives had to be that way to survive lives that no one had the proper training to give us as kids or even adults. I don’t think for a second we were worse off or better off than anyone else, it’s just the way it was and how we made it work.  Every family has these issues.  I wish desperately they could move 150 miles away too, from all of it.

Even though I have made the choice to not live that life any longer, I hope they know I would still punch someone in the face for them if it came down to it.  Just for being my kin.

I don’t know what to do with my daughter and my family’s dark side, other than tell her all the stories of how much we tried to love each other in the way we knew how.  I will remind her sometimes you can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can’t take all of the trailer park out of the girl.  So on those dark hillbilly parts, just put a dusty old Home Sweet Home mat on the front porch of it and don’t forget to lock the screen door.

Just in case.

-Lulu

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. twanda
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 00:56:56

    Love ya lulu and all yer hillbilly kin! 2004 while my mom laid in a hospital bed, having suffered liver failure during her detox at rehab the dr came in to tell us how it was her fault she was in this situation. That DR. got a verbal beat down (maybe not something anyone would expect had they known our family) and now after a long quest (my kids are 9 and 6 now) I know how to deal with it all. Forgiveness, peace with my identity, familial pride etc… breaking the cycle is hard, right? If it were easy everyone would do it. You are a tough broad… and you aren’t everybody!

    Reply

    • thecrabbucket
      Sep 26, 2009 @ 05:06:08

      Thanks Twanda! You know, your story here made me all the more comfy in my own skin. We deal with things the best way we know how, then we reevaluate and move on. Humans, who’d a thunk it? Thanks for commenting, I am enjoying your input!

      Reply

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