my social unit

When I was little, my sister and I had a room full of Barbie dolls. Sister #3 and I appropriately called it “The Barbie Room” as it was a large room filled with Barbies. We each had a large, five-room wooden house, built by our father. We had a plastic beach house and another large, five-room wooden house that belonged to sister #2. That’s right, four houses. But in addition to the houses, we had garages, pastures and barns for our horses, backyards with picnic tables and trampolines and hot tubs. We had a shopping center with a grocery store, a hat store, a sports store, a clothing store, and a shoe store. We had a preschool and an elementary school, a bowling alley and an arcade game room, a nursery and a dentist office. We had a pet parlor and a veterinary clinic, a boat and a jet ski, and vehicles. Boy, did we have vehicles! Convertibles, Volkswagon Beetles, mini vans, SUVs, jeeps…And as one would suspect, we had plenty of Barbies. Every size and every race. I alone had over 30 ‘Kelly’ dolls. Obsessive? Perhaps. Sister #3 and I would spend hours playing Barbies. The beauty of our dolls was creating a story with enough drama and humor each night to keep us in that room until our parents forced us to go to bed. I could control everything about my Barbies. Barbies were the closest I could get to making a movie plot real.

In fact, I always loved movies and secretly wished my life would be a movie. Even when I got too old for Barbies, I would make lists of songs that I thought should be played at different scenes if my life were a movie. And Hallmark movies flamed the fire of desire for a life that screamed ‘watch me on a big screen’. 
Since packing my Barbies away in boxes years ago, I’ve been done creating intriguing story lines. But I still catch myself secretly wishing my life would be a movie.
Because this movie would be incredible.
As no surprise to those who know me well, awkward moments would dominate many of the scenes. The songs throughout the movie would make your ears rejoice in the goodness of music. The love story would be lame and practically nonexistent. The meaningful, quotable moments would come from conversations with old friends. The fun dance scene would be a composite from weekends with college girl friends (one that other girls would youtube to learn). And this movie of my life would not be complete without family vacations. 
Family vacations are horrible and wonderful at the same time. I think this is because family brings out the best and absolute worst in a person. Family knows you well, which is refreshing and sometimes frustrating. With family, there are no fake smiles, no ‘pardon me’s, and no successful lying. This last weekend in KC was worthy of a scene in the movie of my life. Seven people crammed in a little Explorer with enough luggage and food to last a month. Five adults and two children staying in a hotel room with one bed. Potty training, art museums, a beautiful wedding, inside jokes, deep belly laughs, honesty, tears, hugs, dancing, driving the wrong way on a one-way street, shopping, diarrhea, beer tasting, making crafts, sharing food…family.

Here’s what I’m coming realize: my life is better than any plot I could have imagined for my ‘Barbie family’. And no movie scene could adequately capture the essence of my family. There is nothing quite like it. My family has had a critical part in shaping my life. My family has taught me how to love, sacrifice, celebrate, forgive, and communicate. Dynamic, opinionated, loud, and at times dysfunctional…my family is real. My family gives and loves and hopes. Better than the Tanner’s, the Cosby’s, or the Brady’s…my family is mine. What a shame it would be if I came to the end of my life and realized I lived vicariously through television actors or characters from a book. What a shame to look far off for something deep and meaningful, beautiful and rich, when family was right in front of my face. I cannot control the dialogues, circumstances, or weather as I could with my Barbies. I cannot rewind or undo that which has been done. This life isn’t perfect. And that’s just fine. Because this life is such a precious gift. And at the root of it all is family.

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