Family Values

Informant’s self- description: “I see myself as very American. I come from a family that my parents have had a happy marriage for many years and I think that has definitely informed my life, more so than I had realized when I was growing up, when it just seemed like, oh that’s just what it is – but now interacting with other people when that wasn’t the case it’s definitely a unique perspective on relationships and everything in general. I feel like that’s a defining thing.  Family’s a really big deal – we have multiple gatherings throughout the year. Most of my family lives in the same state so we’ll all get together a ton of times throughout the year. So family is a big identifying thing and a really important thing to me. Another one is that I like to see myself as a creative person with all the things that come with that, which is – I might be going totally off the rails with this. I feel like – being a creative person I don’t know how much of it is things I just associate with creative people, so I just see that as something I should live up to, but there’s a whole ‘troubled writer’ persona – there are times were you just kinda want to fit in to that. There are times when I feel like I should live up to that ‘ideal writer.’ Another thing that comes with being creative and to me – there’s a romanticism to the bohemian lifestyle, ‘we can just make it with nothing but our art and each other. And that’s all you need to survive.’ And that’s a cool thing instead of ‘that’s a horrible idea, and you’re basically homeless.’ But to me there’s a romanticism in that.”

There’s a story in my family. When my dad was growing up, he was incredibly close with his siblings. So one my dad’s side of the family, he has two brothers and two sisters. And they’re less close now, ‘cause there’s been all kinds of family drama. But at the time, they were incredibly close. And his older brother got married. He was – my dad was just starting college at the time, his brother just finished college and was just recently married. And then there were the other – the other people in the family. His sisters were younger. And the marriage wound up being awful. For my dad’s brother. And she was cheating on him. And he decided he was gonna get a divorce and move out. He told her this, and I don’t know exactly the sequence of events but she basically locked him out of their house. She changed the locks when he wasn’t there. And had all the stuff and was starting to sell his stuff and just give it to the guy she was cheating on him with. So the entire family – as a family thing together, not with their parents but the four siblings – broke into – it was his house, but the locks had been changed. There was some stupid thing with the deed or whatever. But they broke in to the house and took all his stuff back so she couldn’t sell off any more of his stuff. Or give any more of it away. But they were like – it was a family thing they all did together to help out their brother, which has stuck with me. I would say – absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt – my best friend is my little brother. We’re both the type that we say stuff to each other all the time, and insult each other all the time, but I know that it’s one of those – absolutely no one else can do that. It’s one of those “I’m gonna defend them to the death”

Is that a story that gets brought up a lot? Did it used to?

It used to. When they were closer. Whenever they would get together again – not all the time, but there would be something that would trigger it. And they would just be like “I can’t believe we did that.” ‘Cause they dressed up for it. They put on all black and went in to get the stuff. It’s a ridiculous story. So I’m not surprised that they would bring it up whenever they were around each other. I feel like my brother and I – we’ve never had to do anything like that, but we – there are stories even we tell from when we were little kids – like there was a time when we were fighting. Because you do when you have a sibling. So we were fighting and it was something stupid. We had – for some reason there was a bunch of cardboard in our yard. And we had a trampoline. And I was with my friends, and I was probably being mean to him, whatever. And he started attacking us with this inflatable hammer. And we built this – my mom made him go in, and she was “you can’t attack your brother!” and we built this fort out of cardboard, this huge fort. And we were like “no, let him outside, to attack us!” And without saying a word, we were ok, and it had all just been a game. So he was attacking this fort we had built and it became one of our favorite games. We always talk about the fort game and make analogies to it. I’ve taken after that sibling thing from my dad’s side of the family. I feel personally I relate more to my mom, just personality-wise she gets me more, but that feeling of family responsibility – you look out for each other no matter what – you figure things out after but you look out for each other first and foremost. I definitely picked that up from my dad and from hearing about him and his family.


The folkloric quality of these stories is that they were referred back to in the context of the community from which they came, and they reaffirm identity. The break-in story has had generational influence and affected the way the informant relates to their brother.