In August, we attended a family reunion in Ocean City, New Jersey. To prove that we were all in the same place at one time, we took the group shots. I also managed to get a few of my nuclear family — that I didn’t have to take! But some things remained the same: Aaron poked Mary. Mary squealed. My husband’s hand squeezed my shoulder, and I felt Bryn aiming to bolt. Through a quickly fading smile, I pleaded, “Could we just be normal for two seconds?”
A cousin heckled from the deck, “That’s it. Focus on NORMAL.”
We all started laughing. Yup. Let’s do that. Focus on NORMAL. The ridiculousness of my plea hung out there, right in the open, in front of these people we rarely see but are family. And isn’t it from family that we learn how ridiculous focusing on normal is?
Starting at eight years old, I swam on a swim team at a local pool club. We’d leave the house at 8 a.m. each weekday. I’d hold on tight with one arm around Mom’s waist and the other gripping my towel as we sped on her motorcycle down the east shore of the lake toward the club, the dips of the road memorized by my stomach. At the time she had a Yamaha 250 Enduro Sport, the original hybrid of the seventies, and as she used to say, “It makes the commute fun. And, saves on gas, too.”
At the time I was jealous of those kids whose moms bounced down the road in their wood-paneled Ford and Pontiac station wagons. That was NORMAL. Swinging my leg off the back of Mom’s motorcycle,avoiding the hot muffler and being handed a buck for food, was NOT NORMAL. And metallic golden helmet as a beach bag? NOT NORMAL.
The thing is, none of us is normal and we shouldn’t aim for normal. But what’s pushing us toward focusing on normal is a big one. It’s fear. Big Fat, Capitalized FEAR. Think seventh-grade-locker-room fear. We’ve all got a share of that stuff. That fear is really, really good at propping up our hankering to be accepted and loved and even needed by others.
In the pursuit of happiness, getting over my hang-ups about tracking to normal have done more for my happiness and that of those I live with more than anyone else’s opinion of me ever has. And, I very soon came to realize just how cool my Mom was and is.
And as we waited for the bus in my station wagon this morning, Aaron, our 12 year old, turned to me and said, “I wish you could drive me to school on Dad’s motorcycle.”