In family parlance, there are those who say it takes a village to raise a child. I wholeheartedly concur. Through the wonders of social media, I have recently been in contact with a family who, through their shear benevolence, helped shape me into the person I became, and the parent I continue to be. It is my purpose here to at last say “Thank you. You have no idea how important you were.”
I was parented by a fabulous, devoted, sacrificing, smart, and driven single, school-teaching mom. She was relentless in her devotion to my sister and me. And early in the process her sister came along and we added the equally awesome Aunt Marcella to our nuclear mix.
But I must acknowledge some people who played immeasurable roles in who I turned out to be. And that would have to start with the Cullimores.
Arriving from deep Appalachia to Pasadena, Texas in 1966, nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock. New climate, new people, new schools, new everything. But nary a friend. Until a little girl in the second or third grade reached out to me, and my life was blessed with De’ann Cullimore. But with De’Ann I got so much more than a friend. Because she shared her wondrous family with me.
And sharing is the word for the Cullimore family. They scooped me up and took me places I literally didn’t know existed. They took me berry picking. And then let me help them eat the cobbler Mrs. Cullimore prepared. So many Firsts with this family. They took me to see fireworks at Pasadena Plaza. We sat on the back of a giant car and I experienced the awestruck power of a million chips of color and light. They invited me to sleepovers and family dinners served with warmth and cheerful banter.
And Mr. Cullimore taught me to fly a kite! Oh, how I will never forget the first feel of a kite pulling strongly at my fingers. And it wasn’t just the flying part. Mr. Cullimore taught me everything. How to construct the kite. How to put on a proper, functioning kite tail. How to let your string out at just the right time. How to bring one back, and even what to do when a kite got treed.
And, oh! The swimming! Mr. Cullimore was a chiropractic student and their nearby school had…count them…THREE swimming pools their students and families could use! Because I was clearly the luckiest kid in the world, the Cullimores took me swimming many times. And again, Mr. Cullimore taught me so many things. I was savagely afraid of opening my eyes under water. He was so patient, yet so convincing in his argument as to why I should face the fear and open my eyes. And I did! And the bubbles were beautiful! And he was right again!
But even more than the experiences they allowed me to join them in, the Cullimores taught me what a functioning mom/dad/kids dynamic looked like. When I would ask De’Ann if she could do thus and so, she would say, “Well, I must ask my dad.” And Dad would respond, “Well, it’s okay with me, but you must ask your mother.” Wow. What a concept to little lost me. Two parents. Collaborating. Like friends.
Needless to say, I owe much of my own functioning family dynamics to the shared teaching and behavior modeled for me by this family. Our kids are grown and off to college now, but through the years I never forgot how to strive to behave like a family someone would want to be a part of. There have been many kids who have wandered through our doors. And those doors were worth wandering through in large part because of the Cullimores.
Share your family love. Be a part of the village. And maybe you will be the Cullimores to somebody’s kids someday.
To the Cullimore family, my deepest thanks.