Unforgiveness and grudges among blood relatives is so much more common than I ever imagined.
One night, my book group discussed families breaking up over an argument or small dispute. Evidently, certain groups are infamous for their contentious ways, as I learned from friends who hail from various places around the globe. One lady said when West Virginians disagree, they simply stop talking to each other; Italians, in contrast, favor a more vociferous cutting off, perpetuating anger over long-forgotten quarrels; and Germans, even after decades of not talking, refuse to visit relatives so their children and grandchildren may go their whole lives without knowing their grandparents and aunts and uncles.
In the Tanner family, this kind of behavior would be considered immature and unacceptable.
Mom was particularly careful to teach us how to develop a thick skin: take offense from no one and have a tender heart. You can imagine raising 13 children, all with very strong personalities, she had to repeat this directive hundreds of times. When we exchanged harsh words, had all-out arguments, or worst of all, engaged in physical altercations, Mom insisted we apologize and hug each other in order to prevent resentments from taking seed and festering.
This practice took lots of practice, but Mom herself lived by the thick-skin principle. Example was the best teacher, of course. She simply refrained from contention and forgave quickly and freely. For example, I often heard her dismiss gossip aimed at her, and she treated squabbles in her own marriage similarly, saying, “It’s just not worth it.”
When she finally had all kids in school, Mom took up refinishing furniture. This hobby gave her a chance to combine her penchant for finding bargains with her sublimated wish to have nice things to furnish Tanner Manor. She spent hours in the garage with smelly chemicals, scrapers, and even toothbrushes to painstakingly remove layers and layers of paint from antiques. Then she’d sand and polish, stain and polish again until she’d excitedly announce that beneath all the gunk she had exposed a beautiful treasure. Similarly determined to find the good in people, she could turn even the most curmudgeonly neighbor or unpleasant storeowner into a friend by taking time to dig into his life a little, to just understand him. Instead of taking offense, she would inevitably discover something loveable underneath his mean exterior.
I'm the twelfth of 13 children. I was born into a poor family rich in blessings. We lived in South Pasadena, California on top of a hill in a big house we called Tanner Manor. These are my stories of growing up there.