Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Fuller House Of Our Own

It was the summer of 2005. I like to call it The Summer of Us.

A house full of family in the summer of 2005.

Fred and I had bought our house in 2003. We closed escrow just a couple weeks after our wedding. It was our dream house. Five bedrooms, a pool, big yard. It was perfect for us and our three then pre-teen kids.

And, as it turns out, for my sister.

And my brother and his wife.

And my mom.

And an assortment of pets.

By 2005 we had nine people living in our house. It was our very own Fuller House. Our kids went to their dad's every two weeks, so those weeks it was just Full House.

My brother and sister and I have always been pretty close, but we each had our demons to battle and sometimes that led to struggles with one another. We led very different lives and lived in different cities and that kept us apart somewhat.

Then our dad died in 1999 and our world changed forever. We spent a week together in my brother's little apartment in California, making arrangements and planning services and grieving together.

Philip T Mikkelson
Philip T. Mikkelson 6-23-1937 to 9-11-1999
When it was time for us all to return to our regular lives, we knew we needed to hang onto that closeness we had gained in that short week. That new found understanding that it can all fall apart in a moment, and any one of us can gone.

A couple months later my brother and his wife moved back to Vegas, where I lived. It took a few years, but in 2004 when her long-term relationship ended, my sister moved back to Vegas too.

Which brings me to our full house in 2005. I have to admit...full or fuller...I loved every minute of it.

There was always someone to play cards, or drink, or dance with...or any combination of the three.

My sister and I would put on our dad's old record albums and dance and sing around the living room. One winter night we got hot and opened the front door to let some cool air in while we danced. My daughters were mortified and fretted that one of their friends would walk by and see us.

Dance Like No One's laughing. Funny life quote about dancing.

I guess we were that bad. Apparently, there's video.

My brother had my back though. He and my son liked to tie a string around a cicada bug and put it under the bathroom door while one of the girls was in there.

I would hear the shrieking from my home office at the other end of the house and couldn't help but smile.

Bet their cicada bug dance wasn't so hot either.

Parenting was easier too. As you know, it takes a village to raise kids - taxi driver, cook, nurse, investigator, entertainment committee - the list goes on. I had my village all in one place!

With so many people in the house, you never knew what you were going to find in the fridge. My brother would go out hunting in nearby areas where it was allowed.  One time he brought back a rabbit and made a stew out of it. Fred opened the fridge and was greeted by a rabbit skeleton floating in a stew pot.

Bugs Bunny on the stove in a stew pot.
After that, any meat without a bar code was banned.

It was during that summer when I realized we really were the neighborhood Clampets. With each of the kids in a bedroom, and my sister and mom in the guest room, we didn't have a spare room for my brother and his wife. That didn't phase them though -  they parked their RV in the backyard and lived in that, although it didn't have a bathroom.

From their upstairs window, our neighbors behind us would often get a glimpse of my sister-in-law walking from our house to the trailer, wrapped in a bath towel.

Backwoods logger in the woods.
Looking back, I see why we weren't the most popular folks in the neighborhood.

If the trailer park in our backyard didn't doom us to unpopularity, then the drunken pellet gun battle between me and my sister and Fred, surely did. One night, my sister and I chased Fred down the street, us on foot and him racing to outrun us on a Razor scooter. He kept turning around to shoot at us with his pellet gun, like he was the Lone Ranger and we the wild Indians.

Good times.

My husband truly lived up to his name as Mr. Wonderful that year. He put up with all the crazy antics of his in-laws with nary a complaint. Except for the rabbit skeleton.

But all good things must come to an end. My sister bought her own house in 2006 and later that same year, my mom got married and my brother and his wife moved out.

Of course, it wasn't too long after that my other sister moved in with her three kids, and a few years later my daughter's boyfriend moved in, then my brother and his wife again. So I guess we've always had a full house.

But that Summer Of Us in 2005 will always be a special memory to me. We came together because we needed one another. It was for various reasons - a relationship ending, financial hardship, emotional strain - but we were there for each other. Just like when dad died.

Dad and the Mikkelson kids in the 70s.
Us and my dad in 1974ish. I'm in the dress. I think it was before church.
Today, my brother and sister and I still have a close relationship and we live just minutes apart. There's the expression "You can't choose your family but you can choose your friends," but when you have both in the same people, it's truly a blessing and not something to take for granted.

Every once in a while... I miss our full house.

Dr. Seuss quote about family and memories. Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.

P.S. This post brought to you my Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop and her prompt: Write a post inspired by the word "Full."

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