It’s been a LONG year. I knew that as soon as the kids were out of school a family vacation was a MUST.
We planned to take a trip with my parents and my brother and his family. The last time we all vacationed together was when we were kids and still living at home. With us all grown up, I didn’t exactly know what to expect.
You see when I was a kid, thoughts like WHY CAN’T MY FAMILY JUST BE NORMAL were pretty common.
And, I hear what you’re saying already, “sweetie, no family is normal”.
Well, you haven’t met the Dimmels.
Like the time my dad wanted to teach us the meaning of Easter.
At Easter, most kids get excited about the egg hunt and the basket filled with goodies. They dream of chocolate bunnies and sugar-filled peeps. I was one of those kids (specifically the white chocolate bunny. I LOVED those).
On Good Friday my dad excitedly announced he was going to demonstrate what Easter was really about.
Settled onto our couch in the livingroom, my brother and I watched my dad slowly (for dramatic affect I am sure) pull my Ken doll from behind his back, along with a roll of toilet paper. (I was about 8 and still very much in love with Barbies. Like seriously. Loved me some Barbies)
I did not like where this was headed.
Some of you already know where I am going with this.
My dad, quite cryptically I might add, proceeded to wrap my Ken doll in toilet paper and place him in a tomb, eh empty shoebox. We then watched my dad take him to the backyard and burry Ken.
Ken was supposed to be Jesus, the toilet paper the linen – you get the gist.
Yes. This really did happen.
While my dad was totally ENTHRALLED in his re-enactment of this story, I was a grumbling mess. I was ready to play my next round of Barbie and just COULDN’T PLAY without Ken.
“Honey, you’ll get Ken back”
Seeing a spark flash across my eyes, he quickly added,
“You just have to wait three days”
When Easter morning finally came. I didn’t care about the chocolate bunny or the gifts. What I wanted was buried in my backyard pretending to be Jesus.
I anxiously got dressed to go outside to see my risen Ken, only to find the backyard had been ransacked by something other than a miraculous event. Much to my horror, shreds of toilet paper, cardboard and yes, my Ken doll, were tattered and torn all over the lawn.
Apparently a dog (or something of the like) had found the tomb first.
Dad still claims if it hadn’t been for that dog, it would have made a lasting impact. I argue that if a lasting impact was what he was after, he hit the nail on the head.
(A few years ago, I spotted an actual Jesus Barbie-like doll. You bet your sweet self I wrapped that sucker up and put a big bow on it to give it to my dad for Christmas)
This is just one of SO MANY STORIES I COULD WRITE ABOUT MY PARENTS. My mom and dad are artists (thus explaining the dramatic flair). My dad a musician (touring drummer for Barbara Mandrell) and my mom a dancer (Kansas City Ballet and Dramatic Truth), both exceptionally talented and accomplished in their fields; life was anything but dull.
Our family on vacation. (And, yes, we set the camera and actually posed for this for our own amusement) From the left backrow: my adorable sister-in-law who I swear if my parents would have had another daughter, it would have been her. The guy looking like he's attempting to be superman is my brother. Seriously. This is what he's like every day (his bandmates would agree). My oldest Bria, my husband Zac, me and my super special baby posing like a pro. Front row from left: my niece, my dad being TOTALLY HIMSELF, my middle Lyla, my mom (this is not her dance face. You'll understand at the end of the article) and my other middle Viola.
Oh, but it didn’t stop with my parents. You should meet the extended family. Artists, performers and (you guessed it) MORE performers.
All of them loud, eccentric and ready to put on a show at any given moment.
Like the time I brought my fiancé to meet the Dimmel clan and all of the furniture had been pushed to the sides of my grandmother’s livingroom?? She threw a lei around his neck, promptly informed him he’d just been laid and welcomed him to her Luau (I nearly DIED).
We sat on blankets that acted as tables and she served food while proudly walking on the tables. All to the tune of the piano playing as my parents (and aunts and uncles) sang endless rounds of You Are The Sunshine of My Life. Of course, in four part harmony, stopping every so often in the middle to get it just right.
Dad: Lizzie, what part are you singing? What? No, no.
(sings her part for her)
Mom: Oh, okay Dougie.
Dad: Take it from the top!
All of them sing the intro: You are the sunshine of my life…
Dad: Beautiful! (Commenting in between chords. Perfection apparently is an acquired taste)
Anyone who has attended a Dimmel event knows that this is NOT SOMETHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY. Everything – AND I MEAN EVERYTHING – is at a 10.
But, as a kid, I wanted to be like everyone else. I just wanted a boring regular family. I could not understand why EVERYTHING had to be like a dress rehearsal to the next off-Broadway show.
I swore when I grew up I’d be normal.
And then I grew up.
I got married.
I have 4 kids.
I’ve lived some life…..some fun life. And some really hard life.
And, in the midst of life’s challenges, I’ve somehow been able to pull through. Pull from some deep place inside my soul and get up and keep moving. After all, like my dad always said, the show must go on.
Now, when I look at my children – four beautiful, bright-eyed children – I want to make sure I put into them everything they will need to make it.
IT'S A LONG LIST.
And normal isn’t anywhere on it.
Tree meet your apples. Clearly they didn't fall far. (I promise my kids know how to pose normally...on second thought, this is actually pretty close to normal) And, yes, my brother and I have shamelessly introduced them to the love of all things coffee.
I wonder how on earth I will do it. I talk on the phone with my brother and we play out a million different scenarios of the obstacles they may face and who we want them to become. And, at the end of every conversation, we conclude we can never live up to our parents.
Every challenge that we overcame, we did with the tools they put inside us. Every time the drums rolled and the curtains of life opened, we had a smile and were ready to face whatever was in front of us.
They supported us. They cheered us. THEY RAVED ABOUT US. So much so that I sincerely believed I could become the next Oprah. (Self-esteem and leadership struggles were clearly not an issue! Just ask my cousins who I directed and choreographed in every show in our grandparents basement. I was a MONSTER)
My parents taught us to dream without limits. They taught us to love fiercely. And somehow they crafted for my brother and I a best friend for life.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. My parents are NOT perfect. And, they will be the first to tell you that. But, what they have – what my family has – is something I crave.
My oldest daughter said it best,
"Do you know why Emaw and Papa are two of my favorite people?
They are just themselves. Everyone else is always trying too hard"
She sees at 12 what took me over 30 years to get.
The reason they embarrassed me when I was younger is because they weren’t trying to impress anyone other than God and themselves.
I look at my parents and extended family and see a plethora of talented, brilliant people. Not one of them alike, but all of them clearly wearing the mark of a Dimmel.
I see the thread of who I am woven in each one of them. The innate drive in each of us to be the very best at anything we put our hand to. The strong sense of making a first impression and being ready to tend to “the crowd” if needed. The powerful need to push our own limits. It’s in us. It’s who we are.
This summer I thought I needed a vacation.
But, what I really needed, was to sit in a van and travel with my family listening to my brother and dad pretend to be hillbillies (like at every gas station we stopped at). I needed to laugh with my parents over a glass of wine as my brother and I did reenactments of my mom’s dance face (HANDS DOWN I do this best) and let my children soak up just an ounce of what we had as kids.
We are who we are. Inevitably, we are also who we come from.
When I look over my life, not only did my parents give of themselves to us, but so did the rest. My aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents – they all take part in my story. They all walked some of the road with me.
I see now that it wasn’t just my parents that poured life into us – it was the family village.
I think that’s more what this summer vacation was for me: giving my children their village. And friends, it’s ANYTHING BUT NORMAL. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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