There were a couple of things I was very specific about regarding home life as a child.
One was the "guest gets to choose the activity" rule.
Don't mess with me on this, People.
I don't know if y'all had this rule in your cul-de-sac, but we certainly did in our corner of suburban Kansas.
If you're the guest, you pick the game or toy that is played with. If you're not the guest, you have to play whatever your guest wants to play. Weren't up for playing "House" today? Well you should have thought of that before you decided to invite someone over to your house, shouldn't you?
Now I know this may sound harsh and unjust, but, well, that's the rule. And if you have to get rid of your Barbies just to avoid ever having to play with them again, well then that's life.
[True story. My Barbies led a short existence. [Tomboy for life.]]
The other thing I just could not get my head around was this crazy notion of a "family room."
Y'all that had family rooms, I just did not understand your kind while growing up. The Brewer household(s) (we moved a lot) had basements, a loft, even a solarium for crying out loud.
But what's that about a family room? Oh no, we never had one of those. We were too high brow for a family room. Or, at least, that's what my adolescent brain thought in order to explain to itself the inexplicable conundrum of why some of my friends' homes had family rooms and others did not.
Am I the only one who struggled with this?
Logically, probably some homes had two rooms for general living space and dubbed one the "living" room and the other a "family" room. But I couldn't accept such a simple conclusion.
Another piece of information I picked up in my sleuthing about this topic was that the family room often did not contain a TV, while living rooms usually did. So I thought of family rooms as the "boring room" where you did Little House on the Prairie activities, like sew* and read your primer, while the living room was for loud, fun, wreckful activities like watching football, dancing, and wrestling, sumo or otherwise.
Yes, all such activities listed above occurred in the Brewer living room.
*And clearly I have come around on my views of stitchery.
So long story short I thought that family rooms were boring and decided in my head that my family didn't need one because I needed some sort of way to explain why we didn't have one. So I concluded that we never sat quietly (in fairness, we rarely did, except at church, and bowed in prayer before dinner and at bedtime) and thus didn't need a room for quietness or togetherness.
But it occurred to me recently that we did have a family room.
It took me 30 years to find it, because sometimes I need things to have clear labels, and our family room wasn't necessarily deemed as such, but was rather tucked away in the nooks and crannies of each of our homes. I lived in five houses before leaving for college, yet the family room managed to follow us to each place, like Santa Claus and his crafty ways.
In the mornings, the family room was hidden in the kitchen, where we had strawberry Pop Tarts with milk, before slipping off in six directions, to work, school, daycare.
The family room was in Patrick's bedroom, where I mimicked his assembly of binders and pencil cases before starting middle school. I learned to open a combination lock, following his patient instructions as he told me about the new school where we would attend together.
The family room was in the loft, under a G.I. Joe tent, reading books to Riley, eating trail mix and drinking Kool-Aid.
On occasion the family room was in the basement, where we took all of our Nerf weapons and had a full on war, each brother or sister in an assigned corner to (lovingly) pelt each other with Styrofoam ammo.
Sometimes the family room would meander to the backyard, where we smashed melons with baseball bats. I admit, my siblings and I were a little Neanderthalish in our youth.
After school, the family room snuck its way into (of all places) the living room, where we fought over the remote and ate corn dogs before starting our homework. We usually ended up watching each other's shows, even if they didn't appeal to us, just to hang out and put off our algebra and social studies.
The family room was in the minivan, where we begged (chanted, actually) Dad to take us to Sonic for lunch after church.
I've spotted the family room in hotels, with delivery pizza on laps. It showed up the weekend of Patrick's wedding, when all the kids were in a hotel room without the parents -- and, naturally, immediately started jumping on the beds, as a soon-to-be sister-in-law looked on in quiet terror.
The family room came outside with us even in bitter cold, as we spent days packing snow into empty trash cans to construct the sledding ramp of the century.
The family room was in the laundry/storage room, where Dad rehearsed his sermons. We kept mum as we snuck in to grab baskets of laundry, while he practiced for his audience of boxes.
The family room has divided and multiplied across the country these days, but it's still alive and kickin'.
You can still find it on my parents' upper deck, with feet up on the railing, glasses of red in hand.
It runs along phone lines, and lands on computer screens, windows of Skype opened wide.
It's in Kelly's living room, my nephew watching Sesame Street from his high chair, Jenny feeding him spoonfuls from baby food jars.
It pulses in the motors of our kitties, and the warm belly of Riley's dog, stretched on our laps after busy days at work (we decided to keep Riley, even though he crossed to the camp of Canine).
It spends a lot of time on my patio, where glasses clink and my sister Abby and I recap our days, make plans for decorating our apartment.
It's everywhere, really.
Some people were smart enough to actually label their family room, but if you look for it, I've found you can spot the Brewer family room all over the place. You just have to be ready to laugh, relax, maybe cry, and hug and say "I love you" a lot (it's kind of a rule, like in Full House). Sumo wrestling optional.