Driving home from work today, a fun 45 mile commute, one way, I was thinking about all the odd, crazy and wonderful things that made up my family while I was growing up. Most people I know understand that the term “normal family” doesn’t exist and hasn’t ever. The older I get the more I’m able to enjoy hearing about people’s unique upbringing. Family is essential to who we are, how we think and how we live. This variety is the splendor that is the human race. Each of us, in our little groups, clans, families, whatever you want to call. The make up changes from home to home but the essential essence generally remains the same.
So, specifically, I was driving along, around seventy miles per hour, thinking about my own childhood and my family. We definitely had and still have our own quirks, practically our own language. There are multitudes of staples that were both a product of our collective input but also a force that shaped who we were and are as sons (I only have two brothers), mother, fathers, brothers. The area I would eventually dwell on at mile twenty in my trek home was movies.
My parents, brothers and I watched lots of movies. We were one of the very few, back in the early and mid 1980s in Detroit, MI who had HBO. It started there. We got our first VCR in 1986, if I remember correctly. From there, we started renting movies. It seemed every Saturday or Sunday morning the topic would come up: “What’s for dinner and should we get a movie or two?” We had lists of movie inventories from several video rental places. I’m not sure why the quandary took so long because it seemed we almost always settled on one of the following (I’ll probably forget some but here’s the most memorable): Starman, Alien, Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Excalibur, Jaws, ET, Blues Brothers, Poltergeist, One Flew over the Coo-coo’s Nest, Gone with the Wind, Terminator, Terminator 2, Star Wars, Big Trouble in Little China, Rosemary’s Baby (yikes), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Arthur, Crocodile Dundee, The Thing (John Carpenter), The Karate Kid.
Yea, there are more but those are the main ones. Why we didn’t just buy the damn VHS tapes is beyond me but I was a kid without any money so I didn’t worry about it. These films, their humor, horror, action, heroes and villains gave us topics to talk, laugh, philosophize and speculate about. They helped shape our language. All one of us had to do was make a quick reference, gesture or quote from one of those movies and the rest of us understood precisely which point was being conveyed. Movies, literature and music, hell, the arts in general do this for us. They help our brains make connections, help us plan our words and express our feelings.
Movies were just one little set of my family staples. There was and is so much more but those can be discussed at a later time. What say you? What were and are your family staples? What helps showcase the odd, unique splendor of your family?