Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A new kind of "normal"

Erma Bombeck said it best, "Normal is just a setting on a clothes dryer".

How true she is! What defines normal? I hear people describe their lives as "simple and normal." Or I've heard the expression, "she/he had anything but a normal
childhood. So this got me to pondering what is normal?

The normal in our household is that mom and dad both work. Mom during the day, dad during the afternoon and evening. Dad takes to school, mom picks up. Oldest brother babysits during the gaps and grandpa and grandma do in a pinch as well.

Mom goes to AA meetings, and its seen as a "normal" activity. I overheard my daughter telling one of her friends last week, "my mom goes to meetings at the club so she doesn't drink". She said it so matter of factly that it stopped me in my tracks. It's not a big deal to her, just something I do. Hmmmmmm

When I was a child people spoke about alcoholics in low voices. Like it was the worst thing in the world. My kids talk about it as an everyday fact of life. I guess it's just part of our "normal".

Then I realized that normal is whatever world you and yours live in. After reading "Running with Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs I was rather shocked that after a while this young man adapted his chaotic surroundings as "normal". I'm currently reading Alexandra Fuller's "Let's not go to the Dog's Tonight" her autobiography of growing up in Africa, loosing three siblings, a drunken half crazed mother, and standing for a first day of school picture holding an uzi. This was her "normal".

For you see, there isn't any one type of normal. I used to think there was and I spent years chasing a definition that wasn't even defined. It's the human spirit, its what you are used to. It's what your mind lets you cope with that becomes your kind of normal. And like two people no kind of normal is alike. Each one is uniquely different to you and yours.

Yesterday maked the beginning of the school year for our two youngest. Fourth and fifth grade. Much excitment the night before. Anticipation of seeing their friends again and having to adapt to new teachers. As I picked them up from school with two of their friends and dropped them off at soccer practice I realized that our normals are dictated by the here and now of our lives. It's not usual for me to have a meeting at school or the club in the evening, to have to stop at the grocery store, and to begin making a cheesecake at 9:00 at night.

Which is what happened last night. My oldest celebrates his 17th. birthday today, and he asked for a Red Velvet cheesecake and lazagna for his birthday supper. I had a meeting at school, and headed to the store afterwards and cooked until after 11:00 last night. My normal.

As I was making the cake I reflected back on when Alex was little. His dad has worked a second shift since he was two. Our "normal" consisted of just Alex and myself. We briefly lived in the historic district of our downtown before we purchased the house we now live in. We moved in right around this time and Alex had just turned three. I had just returned to college and we had so many good times. Due to the location of the place we were able to walk everywhere and we had our favorite paths. We would walk through the historical grounds, then to the angel blowing fountain and on up to the Mint cafe for cheeseburgers. When we came home, he would have a bath and then play by with toys while a fire crackled in the fireplace and I did homework. A sweet time of normal.

Now he's starting his junior year of high school. Looking at colleges, planning where he may want to live. His brother and sister have friends in and out all the time, and our lives are adapting to another "normal".

It's really quite easy when you think about it. Normal is just a setting on a clothes dryer. Life's normal is how you adapt to your ever changing seasons of life......