What does summer mean to me? Swimming pools and barbecues and ice-cream cones leaving trails of sticky sweetness down your arm, for sure.
But for me, summer also means family.
Every summer we make our annual road trip “Up North” to the wilds of Northern Ontario where I grew up. We come for dips in icy lakes and hikes through fragrant pine forests. We come for fresh pickerel dinners and blueberry-stained fingers. But mostly, we come for family.
I love my family, but we’re an odd bunch. But then, I bet you say the same thing about yours.
In my family money and status aren’t important, but education and intelligence are. We are Word Nerds, bigtime. You can have holey socks and live in your car, but if you don’t know the difference between “affirm” and “confirm”, be prepared for some hard-core smiling condescension.
As we sit around the table playing Balderdash and teasing each other, our smiles as genuine as our steely determination to win, I realize how much family dynamics shape who we become as people.
Take Sherry Wilson-Wong, the heroine of Dance with Me.
Her family is close-knit yet competitive (a bit like mine). While she has always had the quiet support of her hard-working father, she’s feels she can never quite measure up to her younger brother in her status-focused mother’s eyes.
Her recourse? She rejects everything her mother wants for her – marriage and a career in medicine – but her single-minded pursuit of journalistic glory is all about proving her mother wrong and winning her admiration.
Alexi Davydenko, the ballet bad-boy bent on winning Sherry’s heart, is a different story. The child of an absentee alcoholic father and a mother determined to create a better life for herself by cashing in on her son’s talent, Alexi has never known true family.
Sent to ballet boarding school at the age of six, Alexi has had to grow up fast. His charming surface, developed to survive the competitive lonely world of professional dance, masks both a desperate need to be loved and a wariness of being used.
Two very different families, two very different people, f-ed up in strangely similar ways.
Kinda makes your family seem a lot more normal doesn’t it?