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We put the functional in dysfunctional

standard October 13, 2009 7 responses

I grew up knowing that we had a dysfunctional family. We were just not your classic cookie cutter family that played together, joked together, and vacationed together. We did have dinner as a family every night, but I can remember quite a few meals where none of us spoke. It wasn’t always pretty, it wasn’t always fun, but it was what it was and we dealt.

Or rather, I dealt. My sisters both ran off to boarding school at some point, leaving me stranded at home. (Not that they had an easy time of it. I read Prep. Cured me of any romantic notions about how awesome boarding school would have been.)

I’m going to spare you the unsightly details, which I’d probably get wrong anyway seeing as I saw them through my distorted perspective, but when I eventually left home (at the ripe old age of 23 like any self respecting french student) I wasn’t the only one who left. My mother, father, and I all moved out pretty much at the same time, all heading in our respective directions.

With two sisters living in New York, one parent on one continent, the other on another, and myself out in California, we went from dysfunctional family to exploded family. Seeing as none of us had been particularly close before, we could have easily just left it at that.

Instead my sisters and I rallied. We reached out across state lines and troubled childhood relationships and we held on tight. We clutched at family traditions and reinforced them with our own spin on them. We made a point to call each other more often, to take a greater interest in each other’s lives. And miraculously, we turned our dysfunctional family and made it as functional as possible despite the distance and past.

Every year we gather around a Christmas tree brightly decorated with decorations collected by our mother during our childhood. We sit and gorge ourselves on a meal that we have spent days preparing as a family. It’s our take on our childhood Christmas tradition, which boasted way more cousins, but food that was barely half as tasty (Unless Mom was cooking that year. Then it was awesome.). And I watch my sisters and marvel that we’ve stuck together through it all.

I used to dream that I’d have a family as close as the ones portrayed on TV sitcoms. It’s taken years, but I finally have it.

This post was written in honor of this month’s Silicon Valley Moms Blog book club and the amazing book that we just read: Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You. I try to never talk about my family here. The stories that we share are not mine to publish. But this book was the most fantastic tale of a truly dysfunctional family and in order to do it justice I had to tap into my past a tiny bit. If you want to feel like your family is positively normal, loving, and wonderful then run to get this book. If that’s not what you’re looking for in a novel, then just get it so you can enjoy the incredible talent Jonathan Tropper has for description and characterization. If one day I can paint a scene half as well as he can I’ll be proud.

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