I blame my oddness on my family.
You see, I come from an odd family. I was raised (and am still practicing) Catholic by my mother, but there are no less than four other different religions in my immediate family alone. Although my entire family shares the same political party registration (except for one uncle, whom they all consider traitorous), they range from people who support a total ban of all guns everywhere and family members who own armories that would rival anything the National Guard can dredge up. We have tee-totalers and alcoholics, X Sport aficionados and Xtreme Couch potatoes. My grandparents have a farm; other family members look at me like I'm announcing the apocalypse when I suggest that San Francisco isn't the only place worth living. As the youngest of 36 first cousins (and we kept in close contact with second cousins and the "removed" cousins), I suppose it was inevitable that I would be exposed to and shaped by an encyclopedia's worth of world-views.
But because my children are military brats, with all the moving around that entails, they are not influenced much by our extended family. This realization hit me quite recently when I mentioned my sister-in-law's college aspirations and my eldest daughter replied, "Auntie is going to school? For wildlife management? I didn't see THAT one coming!"
Now, on the one hand this lack of influence doesn't bother me much. After every visit home I'm emotionally exhausted from the family politics and ready to move to a remote igloo on some Arctic Alaskan airstrip (no, not really assignment people, that was sarcasm. Please don't take that as a suggestion). And there are certain family influences that I am exceedingly happy I don't have to run daily interference on.
But still, I would not be the person I am today if I hadn't had my much beloved Crazy Cat Lady Aunt O. Or my Aunt Joy, who had married into an Italian family and made the best spaghetti in the world. And most certainly I would not be the person I am today had I not been heavily influenced by my Grandfather, who until he got older was always at the center of a group of friends and bringing stray people and pets to his farm to "get them on their feet."
I really don't want my children to miss out on this! The military moves have made our family much closer than many of the civilian families we know, simply because we have to rely on each other so much and so often. However, I want my kids to have fond memories of a crazy cat lady aunt, too! Well, none of their aunts are crazy cat ladies. And my younger sister isn't really fond of cooking. But she can shop anyone under the table! My kids need to know that part of her!
Yesterday, I figured out the stop-gap measure, something that will allow my children to "know" their extended family despite the long distances involved.
Yes, I said magazines. Glossy, papery, leaded ink filled; you know, not quite a book, but more than a newspaper? Those magazines.
Here's how I'm pitching it to my family (some of them have already taken me up on this). Each of our family members have certain interests. My mother is an avid senior member of CAP. My father is a Civil War and history buff. My brother takes a calculator, triangle, and miniature t-square with him everywhere he goes in case he wants to figure out the specs on some bridge or flagpole or something (he majored in Engineering at West Point). My younger sister shops, my older cousin/sister wields her sarcasm like a finely honed sword of the finest steel. I'm sure that somewhere among my vast and roiling sea of cousins is someone who goes everywhere covered in cat hair.
Now, if my mother sends my kids an age appropriate magazine of aerospace, my father sends them Cobblestone, my brother sends Boys Life, and that crazy cousin sends Cat Fancy, etc. - well then my children, who dearly love to get mail, will be well acquainted with at least the most prominent aspect of that family member's life. And when we get together for holidays, my kids won't be listening to the family's stories with utter perplexity written on all their features.
Or at least, this is my idea.
So far, the kids have received Clubhouse, Jr. from a very good friend on hubby's side and Ranger Rick from my grandfather. Each was read cover to cover more than once. It seems to be working, we'll know for sure the next time we fly out to California and immerse ourselves in family politics once more.