I was well into my teenage years before it really dawned on me that my family was a bit odd. I mean, hey, a fish doesn’t question its ocean. It just swims. Growing up, I tended to hang around with friends who seemed to have equally odd families. By odd I mean families that didn’t really want to hide their…um, eccentricities. It didn’t faze me a bit when in high school, the first time I called upon my friend Britta (name changed to protect her true identity) her father answered the door in his boxer shorts and a comely woman’s wig. Britta’s parents were German immigrants whose card parties had a pre-war “Cabaret” feel to them (they happened to be in the midst of one on my first visit). The garage at their home was at various times, a headcheese factory and a home-distillery—alternately smelling of carnage and precise cleaning. My own father had a habit of lounging shirtless and occasionally answering the door in his briefs, and I learned how to fashion a boilermaker before I graduated grade school. I’m not making the case here that Britta and I shared well-soused sires, but that I was more familiar with the less upright and the slightly kooky. And really, aren’t all families slightly kooky or odd in their own ways? I’m not focusing on the malicious or truly messed-up here. There are sadly, quite a few of those and they are so often the subject of novels and films. Google “family and books” and the first thing you will likely come up with is “dysfunctional families in literature”. Brutality often makes for compelling storytelling. After the fact at least. Britta and I can count ourselves lucky that we were (and are) well loved, cared-for, and by-and-large undamaged by our quite ordinary, if slightly odd families.
Wacky Family, Wacky Photos
This year, with Valentine’s day (Feb. 14) and family day (Feb 16) sharing the same weekend, I spent some time reflecting upon wacky family love. And yeah, everybody’s got a story. One of my favourite places to look for family stories isn’t in ancestry websites (although those are cool), but at awkwardfamilyphotos.com. The submitted images to this site make me positively giddy. Okay, so they aren’t exactly “stories” in the sense that you get a clear beginning and end, but the pictures shared there are priceless artifacts of our shared allegiances (consanguineal and otherwise). I’m partial to the “Matchy Matchy” families category, where families are shown posed in matching outfits. Take a gander at those and ask yourself whether there really is such a thing as a “normal family”. I mean, the site shows photo studio family cosplay portraits, with mom, dad, and three kids all dressed as dairy cows or clowns! There’s a hall of fame pull down on the site with some incredible head scratchers, and if you really want things explained, there’s a “behind the awkwardness” section where submitters tell the story of the image. It’s fun and all the more so because people submit images and mock themselves as opposed to the mean-spirited derision of some sites that post surreptitiously-taken photos of people on the street or in stores in order to make fun of them. Making fun of your family kookiness? That’s a necessary part of keeping sane!