Meet Mother & Dad. Clovis & Winona Travis. (Ooch!) With names like that, they vowed to give my brother and me normal names and we are both eternally grateful for it. My brother made his appearance in 1946 and I came along eight years later. I didn’t realize it when I was growing up, but we weren’t your normal family. We were too normal. There wasn’t a lot of drama. In fact, we were uncommonly mild-mannered. Some might even say we were boring. Mother was a homemaker and Dad an engineer. They were good people. They weren’t wildly successful in the typical sense. They didn’t change the world, but they changed a small part of it.
Notice the band-aid? I was a klutz from an early age. My brother, the athlete and scholar, was kind of perfect. I never let him know that I knew this.
They both came from dysfunctional families and like their decision to not pass on the tradition of unusual names, they also made the conscious decision not to pass on the dysfunctional qualities they grew up with. As the daughter of a strict, fundamentalist, Methodist minister who rarely showed affection and didn’t allow his children to go to the movies or play any games that involved the ‘devil’s tools’ (cards or dice) my mother was remarkably progressive. She was pro-choice long before pro-choice was a word (whether or not you agree with it, her attitude was very unusual for her time), didn’t think it mattered what God you believed or didn’t believe in as long as you were compassionate and hated the racial bigotry that was so rampant in the southern states in the 60’s. My brother claims that when he wanted to drink from the water fountain marked ‘colored’ (he wanted to see what color the water was) she said yes and glared at anyone who even thought of stopping him. She didn’t understand why people thought it was okay to spank their children and when I was suspended in highschool for attending senior skip day she told the principal he was being ridiculous and then asked me if I wanted to go shopping since I had the day off.
Though he was much less vocal about it, Dad was of the same mind. He made it a point to spend time with us and I don’t remember him ever raising his voice. Another miracle, considering he grew up with a father who alienated his children with constant criticism and shouting matches.
My parents weren’t perfect. (what a burden that would have been to live up to) Mother tended to be a little controlling when it came to running her household. Years ago, she came to stay with me while I was recovering from surgery and in the four weeks she was there, managed to completely rearrange my kitchen and most of the furniture. It took me forever to find things after she left. Dad had a touch of OCD. He would always drive around the block to make certain he’d closed the garage door and tended to get upset over trivial things, like how high I could swing before I was certain to fly off the swing and kill myself.
Our lives weren’t lived in perfect harmony. My parents argued, but it was never vicious. I got trouble for staying out too late. (Since my brother didn’t get in trouble for the same thing, I’m pretty sure there was a double standard going on.) Mother didn’t like my boyfriend and looking back I can understand why. On a couple of occasions, Dad announced my male visitor as some long-haired hippy. I was completely mortified. The generation-gap was there, but they understood what mattered. My brother and I always knew we were loved. Affection was a part of our daily lives. Instead of criticism we heard encouragement. They accepted the responsibilities of parenthood and took care of us until we were able to take care of ourselves. Home was always a comfortable place to be and I didn’t realize until much later that this wasn’t always the case for our contemporaries.
The main reason I find this so remarkable is that the legacy they left us is so different than what was left to them. When I see how our children are with their own children, I realize how important that change turned out to be. What we say and do matters and it gets passed on. It’s true of everyone and not just within families. Why be condescending when you can encouraging? Rude when you can be gracious? Judgemental when you can look at others and learn from their ideas and experiences? Every day you have the opportunity to make a difference. It isn’t that hard. Sometimes, a smile is all it takes. You don’t have to change the world–just a little piece of it.
Now that you’ve learned more about me and my family than you really wanted, you’re probably wondering why I’ve diverted from my normal tongue-in-cheek ramblings. I was inspired by Dan Blank’s blog at http://wegrowmedia.com/being-a-success-without-being-a-bestseller/ Next week, I’ll probably be back to exploring the absurdities of life in general as well as the absurdities of life as a writer.
The legacy of acceptance is at work here. We accept that our adult-child is sometimes more child than adult. It’s more fun that way. Just a note–he looks much more like his father, than me.
What do you consider to be your legacy? Let me hear from you!