Tim Russert’s book, “Wisdom of Our Fathers”, is letters from sons and daughters on what they learned from their fathers. It is a good book with many poignant stories. It even has a page up front so you can write in your own brief story and this got us thinking. Russert is pretty smart and he can scour the country for good stories, but frankly, Big Ed supplies a fair amount of material all by himself. And our mom, as quiet and unassuming as she may be, is good for a few chapters too.
As a family, we aren’t prone to long, gushing, sappy stories about how much we love each other or how important our parents are to us. As Bill the Cat would say to that thought, “Ack!” We also don’t have deep introspective angst over our relationships with our parents and family. That’s a two part issue; first, as is often noted, a life unexamined is right up our alley. Second, our parents and our family are such constants that you don’t need to ponder it any more than you would ponder the ground you stand on. But you don’t need to thank dirt for being solid; we do need to thank our parents for being our foundation. It is not to say we are ungrateful children. On the contrary, we all call, send cards, fire off emails, give them birthday, anniversary, and Christmas gifts, visit until we outlast our welcome, have them stay with us until they outlast their welcome, and show them our gratitude in the way our family always does, by making them an ongoing part of our life. Still, Russert got us thinking, talking and emailing that it is time that we do something more.
Russert’s book is insightful and touching which is all well and good but as a family, that’s not really our style. So we looked to one of the other big icons our life, the Brady Bunch. Okay, admitting that we watched the Bradys a lot is more than a little embarrassing and merging the ideas of Tim Russert and the Brady Bunch may seem a bit, um, strange? bizarre? freaky? but stick with us here. Combining Russert’s classy and poignant montage “Wisdom of Our Fathers” with the cheesy, goofball made-for-TV retrospective “Growing Up Brady” we came up with, “Growing Up Culliton; Wisdom, Laughter and Life Lessons given by Ed and Mary Lou to their Brood.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, the title needs some work, but don’t get hung up on that. We decided to compile a book for Mom and Dad telling them how important they are to us. Not by saying, “Mom, Dad, you are important to us” but instead by documenting the memories we have of growing up. Those shared memories, whether it is Mom and Dad clapping when our names were read at graduation or the family laughing at something during dinner, are much more telling then any trite platitudes.
We decided to surprise them with this gift over Thanksgiving 2006. Our memories, stories, and thoughts are sometimes long tales and sometimes just random snippets. When one of us didn’t have the whole story, we worked together to fill in the details.
Creating this book has been as much a gift to us as to Mom and Dad. So many memories leapt to mind and were captured. But it was frustrating too. For all that we have written we have just scratched the surface. After all, there is literally a life time of cherished memories to draw on. So we accept that this book is not complete. How could it ever be when the story and the impact our parents have on our lives transcends the days at 10 Genesee Parkway and continue today.
Mom and Dad, we dedicate this meandering compilation of stories to you. They are humble tales, written with more love than professional polish. Your children picked up your knack for telling a good tale but none of us are winning a Pulitzer any time soon. We hope this book brings you the same laughs and joys that we experienced growing up and relived through writing it.
From all your family, with all our love,