Think “Griswald.”

What Christmas movie family best matches mine?

I asked myself this last night while gazing at our Charlie Brown Christmas tree, filling the room with a soft pink glow. What a Wonderful Life? No, no… when Jimmy Stewart lost his marbles, my mom probably would have let him have it. The Christmas Story? Not quite. There weren’t many F-bombs or leg lamps in my childhood home. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? Yes. Yes! That’s it. My mom is Chevy Chase. The consummate optimist, she’s always looking on the bright side, and she’s endured a lot more than a flying squirrel attack or a Cousin Eddie drinking all the egg nog. All in all, my mom has stubbornly glued our family together.

I met my half-sister Nancy right after she was born. She stayed with us for a brief period of time, and her tiny body was attached to some kind of heart monitor. It made a loud beeping sound when something was wrong. I’m not sure what that “something” was now–maybe she stopped breathing, or maybe her heart skipped a beat. I just recall lying on the floor beside her on a blanket, watching her sleep, curled up like a snuggly roly poly.

After we moved out-of-state, I didn’t see her again until she was about 10 years old when my mom took us to meet her mom at Dairy Queen. Mind you, my mom–who is not related to my half-siblings–drove us eight hours to meet our half-siblings, not my dad. It was the first time I’d ever met Jeffrey and Andrew, my two half-brothers. Over ice-cream and cheeseburgers, we laughed and hugged one another. There was no deep conversation. We just enjoyed one precious hour together.

I haven’t seen them since.

I haven’t seen them face to face, that is. Thanks to Facebook, we reconnected online a few years ago. It felt like a miracle to me to have the opportunity to get to know them again, only this time as adults. It’s been beautiful to watch my sister growing into a capable, responsible, lovely woman. She just started her own business, and she’s the proud mother of a very handsome Chubbers.

And that’s not all. I have a stepsister, Sarah, who has two beautiful daughters with her husband, Jordan. They run their own thriving photography business. I don’t get to see them often, but when I do, it’s like we’d never spent any time apart. And then there’s my half-brother Christian, who lives several states away with a foster family. My heart breaks that I won’t get to see him this Christmas, but I’m grateful for telephones and the U.S. Postal Service. And just a few days ago, I held my other half-brother, Solomon, who has made leaps and bounds since I first met him. His ear to ear smile is completely contagious, and I thank God for every hug he gives me.

Sometimes I think of how wonderful it would be to spend time with all of my family together in one place, even if we just twirled on the red metal seats at Dairy Queen and shared peanut buster parfaits for an hour.

I don’t think my family is perfect. But I love them just as they are, and I accept that we’re all where we are right now for some reason, and I can’t do anything to change that. And having them in my life, at whatever level I can have them, is truly a gift.

5 thoughts on “Think “Griswald.”

  1. Henry Petty (@HenryBlazer) says:

    Awesome blog. “Christmas Vacation” is my favorite movie, definitely. I’ve been quoting the movie daily to supplement my status updates on the facebooks. When my grandma passed away, that was pretty much it for my side of the family. I’m blessed to be able to spend Christmas each year with my girlfriends’ family. We were making out our budget and I selfishly thought in the back of my head “why am I spending all this money on people i’m not related to and distant cousins who aren’t even on my radar” but stopped myself when I realized it’s this family who means a lot to her and, in turn to me.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family, Bethany!


    1. bethany says:

      Thanks for sharing, Henry. And you’re right–at some point, all of us just have to embrace what we have (or at least who we’ve chosen to have in our lives) and go with it. And be thankful for it! My family and I don’t always get along, and we certainly are on opposite ends of the spectrum in many ways. But I just choose to love them regardless. I know that I’m doing my part, that way, to “love one another as He loves us.”
      Merry Christmas to you, Shannon, and your entire family!


  2. Amber says:

    I think about your mom on every holiday. I love how she celebrates them fully. Even smaller holidays. I actual cut out bunny feet on Easter for my kids to find their basket with because of her.


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