I was just seventeen years old.
Christmas morning had so far been a bummer.
While I had many packages under the tree, they were all clothing related.
Nothing was on my wish list, and I didn’t want that new package of socks.
Many years of training in politeness allowed me to put on a happy face, but I was disappointed.
I had hoped I would stumble on a new cassette tape, a game, or something fun.
But there were no more packages.
I checked twice, then piled up my new clothing items and took them to my room.
Setting the items on my bed, I comforted myself with the idea that we would be visiting grandparents later in the day, and maybe they would have some more fun gifts.
Returning to the living room, I helped with the gift wrap clean-up when my dad said, “Wait, there is another package here.
It must have been kicked under the chair.”
It had my name on it.
Almost holding my breath, I opened the box.
Inside were two license plates with my name on them.
I was stupefied.
Usually, I am quicker than that but it did dawn on me finally what that likely meant.
I rushed to the window and looked in the driveway.
Nothing was there.
I rushed to the backyard and noticed that in the neighbor’s yard was a maroon 1979 Buick Regal with a giant bow on it.
I looked at my dad, and he nodded.
My brother was right behind me when I got to the car and looked it over.
The keys were inside.
I might have remembered to breathe.
I sat in the driver’s seat and started it up.
After adjusting the radio, my brother, in the copilot seat, raced around the block.
I don’t remember being happier in my teenage years.
Memories like that remind me that I have an amazing family.
Not just because they gave me the car, but because of the following seven signs that you might have an amazing family.
7 signs you have an amazing family
1. They surprise you
My dad was much wiser than I gave him credit back in those days.
He knew that if I opened that gift first, I would never have gotten to the new underwear and other assorted clothing items.
Beyond that, though, he knew that the gift of the car would be that much sweeter after the boring gifts.
It is much like eating the orange peel before you eat the meat of the orange.
The meat is much sweeter because of the bitterness of the peel.
His choice to add surprise to the mix was ingenious.
I loved it all the more.
Families do that sort of thing.
My parents loved to surprise us.
We went to Florida when I was nine years old.
My brother, sister, and I believed that we would be driving all the way there from St. Louis.
But my folks surprised us by taking us on our first airplane ride.
That was awesome!
Surprises are a critical piece of making an awesome family.
I could go on all day about all the surprising things my whole family has done.
They have traveled to foreign countries to provide medical care for those in poverty; they have gone above and beyond in helping people who have hurt them.
The ability to surprise each other makes a family awesome.
2. They laugh a lot
Even though I was trying to act ok with the boring gifts, my face gave away my feelings.
(I am a terrible poker player for the same reason.)
I had not noticed that morning, but my dad was leaving the room so he could laugh.
Nearly every meal growing up came with laughter.
We were camping once, and a bee landed in the pancake my mom was making, she flipped it over and cooked it right in, and then it was like a game to see who would get the bee.
Now that was funny.
We have laughed together but not at each other for many years now.
The laughter has seen us through tough times and scary times.
Laughter is a force multiplier, and none of us takes ourselves too seriously.
This level of fun makes us an amazing family.
3. Seem to spend more time talking about family successes
I had failed my first driving test and was humiliated by that fact.
While I had eventually passed the test, I was pretty sure I would not have my car until I was an adult.
Even awesome families have that black sheep.
I happened to be the black sheep in my family.
For many years I was wandering and not knowing what to do with my life.
There were others like me in my extended family.
Not once did my family spend much time talking about them or me.
We talked about an uncle who was having a great high school baseball season or an aunt who was becoming a great soccer player.
They talked about the cousin who was getting straight “A”s in school and the one cousin that was looking to be a fashion model.
We focused on the positive.
That ultimately encouraged the rest of us to want to be talked about for doing good at something.
That is the sort of family that you love to be with.
That is an awesome family.
4. Encourage one another to take risks
Driving is always a risk, and my parents took a risk by giving me that kind of freedom.
That was not the only time we were encouraged to take a chance.
When 9/11 happened, all three kids in my family were out of the country.
I thought my mom would lose her mind.
Risks are an important part of life, and we need to be able to take the chance from time to time to swing to the next bar.
An amazing family is not only rooting you on, they are there to catch you when you fall.
Last year I took the chance to move across the country to land my dream job.
There was a great risk.
I was surprised by how quickly my parents were right there with a safety net and lots of encouraging words.
5. Provide A Safety Net
When I received that car, I was not mechanically inclined by any stretch of the imagination.
On the other hand, my dad had spent much of his youth fixing cars.
He was right there, ready to help me every step.
The truth is my extended family is the same way.
My brother-in-law, an eye doctor gives advice on eye care, my wife is a seamstress who makes dresses for my nieces who are into fashion, and my brother has taught me much about fundraising, which is an important part of my current job.
We are there for each other.
That is one way that I know that we are an amazing family.
6. They show up for key events
The first car was a key event and when we went to the grandparent’s everyone came out to see the car and spin around the block a few times.
I know that it was a used car that had seen better days.
It was important to them because it was important to me.
Throughout our lives, we go to each other’s big events, weddings, graduations, and moving days.
With a large extended family, I have helped more people move than I can count.
Those are great times; they have been there for me in good times and bad.
The family is always together on holidays and looks for excuses to be together just because they want to be together.
Retirements are a big deal for the family now, and there are many celebrations.
Our family is amazing because they come from around the globe to be together.
7. Create Memories
Finally, but most importantly, we have had incredible memories together.
We had a mishap in Portland where we broke the sunroof on the minivan.
Once, we were close to the Grand Canyon, listening to a ghost story on the radio, when the car died on what had to be the darkest ride we had ever been on.
I remember birthdays and holidays with much joy.
Memories of last words and many goodbyes have been the norm.
If you have memories, you have an amazing family.
The car only lasts about two years or so.
She was replaced with a different model, but an amazing family can never be replaced.
Appreciate them since not everyone has one.