Tuesday, November 27, 2007

family tradition essay

* ok. so im not sure if these essays count for our blogs but I decided that it would be better to include it just in case *

“Lauren, what are your exact goals for this week and how do you plan on executing them?” My whole family is staring at me. I can clearly see the relief on my younger brother’s face as he slowly exhales, thankful that he was not the one called upon. My dad is eagerly awaiting an answer to his question and I rack my brain for a reply that won’t disappoint him. I honestly don’t have any “exact goals” for the week, I can’t even recall what assignments are due but I know that if I don’t have something concrete to talk about then my dad will feel bad. “Um, I hope to clean and organize my room this week as well as create a recipe folder of my favorite recipes from Mom’s cookbooks. I plan to start cleaning by first organizing my clothing drawers and then I’ll clean my bathroom and from there do the vacuuming and dusting of my bedroom. Also in order to compile this recipe booklet I will first need to decide which recipes I want and then make copies of them, from there I will organize them by meal and then cross reference them alphabetically.” I pause waiting to see if my answer is sufficient or if my dad requires more. He nods his approval and asks if there is anything that the rest of the family can help with before moving on to the next person.
While this particular scene I described makes my father sound strict and demanding, in reality this is far from the truth. My dad was a captain in the Army for four or five years and rapidly climbed the corporate ladder after his service. He has always been accustomed to leading a company either of soldiers or of focused men in suits.
Contrary to his serious occupation, my dad is actually very fun and humorous. He is always ready to try something new and exciting like bungee jumping or eating a snake meat sausage. When my brothers and I were younger he would play all sorts of games with us when he came home from work. Sometimes we would wrestle with him, the three of us trying desperately to pin him down while ducking to avoid his flailing arms. I remember playing two-hand touch football in the fall with the whole family and beating my dad at chess three times in a row. My dad is always joking around. He likes to sneak up on people and surprise them, something that I have never gotten used to, and he usually has something strange on his head like a folded napkin or some sort of lid that he pretends is a hat. Even when he is being serious my dad is lighthearted, supporting me and my brothers in whatever we decide to do. It is only in our “family meetings” that I described earlier that he ever becomes critical or rigid, a persona I assume was/is reserved for ordering his men or assigning responsibilities at a board meeting.
I think it must be his previous military service and current occupation that cause him to attempt to run our family like a business. We have family meetings at least once a week, typically on Saturday morning. My dad opens the meeting with a few words of praise for our accomplishments over the past week and encouragement for the week to come. He begins by giving a detailed yet numberless description of our family’s financial status as well as an update on where we are concerning our goals as a family. While he is delivering his opening speech the rest of the family is advised to take notes which my dad peruses after the meeting has closed. I usually take notes in a somewhat sarcastic manner which my dad does not seem to find amusing. I scribble down things like “we have a lot of money right now so its okay to buy Jimmy Choo shoes this week” or “we are ahead of schedule on operation yard clean-up so go ahead and slack off for a couple of days.” While I am aware that this is pretty immature, I just can’t pass up the chance to mess with my dad a little bit and it helps keep me amused instead of becoming annoyed and bored. After the opening updates, the floor is open for announcements that anyone would like to share concerning their recent triumphs or momentous events that have taken place over the last week. My mom always has a positive announcement to contribute at this time and usually this encourages everyone else to share something as well. After announcement time, my dad likes to ask each person what their specific goals are for the week and what their plan of action is concerning those goals. As I mentioned at the beginning, this process is usually pretty tense because everyone dreads being called upon before they have a good answer and no one wants to say something that will make my dad realize that this meeting really was not necessary. After we talk about our goals for a little while my dad talks about any current issues going on with our family and extended family. Next, he and my mom discuss the meal plan for the week and pretend to take suggestions from the kids on what we should eat for dinner. Typically my mom will mention that broccoli casserole or lentil burritos sounds good, my dad will second that and then I throw in a comment that goes something like, “that would be fine except maybe we could try something new, maybe something that has meat like pork chops and rice or baked potatoes and beef.” My mom and dad look at each other and say something to the effect of “that doesn’t sound very exciting or different, I like beans and vegetables, meat is so over rated, maybe we’ll eat that next week.” After this short exchange my dad quickly changes the subject to an update on our grades. Usually he would get this information from “Powerschool” online but since I graduated from high school I get to simply relax and sympathize with my brothers as they go through this unfortunate ordeal. The meeting closes with my dad good naturedly congratulating us all on a successful week and encourages us to accomplish our goals in the upcoming week.
While I have described these family meetings in a somewhat negative tone, I really don’t harbor any feelings of hatred or dread toward them. I am actually quite amused by the goings on and I often find it hard not to break out laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. I completely understand why my dad insists upon having these meetings and it really is a great way of staying connected to each other especially when everyone is so busy all the time. The truth is, I love my dad and I respect him so much especially in our family meetings. Even though the method he uses to stay involved in my brothers and my lives is a little too stiff and formal for my liking, I truly appreciate the amount of care he has for us and the interest he takes in our lives. There is a part of me that loves to sit down at the kitchen table with my mom on my left side and my youngest brother on my right elbowing me in the side whenever my dad says something that is entirely too serious. I like being there with my family my pen poised for note-taking and my mind racing to find something that will be an appropriate goal to discuss.
These meetings aren’t entirely useless either. The fact that my dad requires us to come up with some goals for the week has actually helped me to be more focused and driven instead of being bombarded by my many responsibilities. I also like to know what we are having for dinner each night because that information greatly contributes to my decision on whether or not I come home that evening.
While I began this essay by painting a picture of the most tense section of our family meetings, the more accurate scene that I associate with them has a completely different feel. I see the four faces I know best in the world gathered around me in a circle. I feel the assuring warmth of my mom’s hand on my knee and the sharp stab of my brother’s elbow in my ribs. I look across the table and notice the sincere focused expression on my other brother’s face as he diligently scribbles down notes, only looking up for a second to flash me a quick understanding smile. Finally, I take in my dad, excited to hear about his family’s week and help them accomplish their goals in the week to come. He glances around the table, taking us all in before opening the meeting. His expression is, on the surface, serious, but a closer look reveals his normal playful smile flitting across his mouth threatening to disclose the immense joy that he is deriving from this familiar exercise he loves so much. I see myself, sitting there, taking it all in, and I know that, no matter how jokingly I relate to them, these meetings define my family and in some ways myself.

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