I wanted Normal – What I got was Better

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The Blaskowskis - 1978

This post is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers. Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. They say the book is like “Girl Meets God” meets “Wild” meets “Eat, Pray, Love.” I think the book is inspiring. You can grab a copy here.Atlas-Girl-button_3

I wanted “Normal” – What I got was Better

Growing up as the child of immigrants, I desperately wanted to fit in, but our family didn’t. Kids at school made fun of our name, my mother’s accent, my hand-me-down, homemade clothes and the weird food I ate for lunch.

I just wanted to be normal. I wanted peanut butter and jelly on squishy white bread, not stinky cheese on pumpernickel.

More than anything, though, I wanted a 9-5 Dad, like my friends had. My brother and I only saw Dad on weekends, because he worked second shift (3-11), so we lived on opposite schedules.

While I longed for my friends’ “normal” lives, I didn’t see how blessed we were to be different.

Dad worked customer service for TWA (Trans World Airlines) for 37 years, so while my friends’ families went on road trips, our motto was: a bad flight beats a good drive any day of the week.

It wasn’t unusual for Dad to come home from work on Thursday and tell Mom, “Pack a bag. We’re heading for [fill in the city] tomorrow.”

We flew standby and showed up in our Sunday best, hoping for a seat. Sometimes we got on; sometimes we didn’t, but we knew not to complain. If we missed that flight; we’d catch the next one.

The Blaskowskis - 1978

The Blaskowskis -1978

Dad’s luggage rules were simple: 1) whatever you packed had to fit in your carry-on, and 2) you were the one carrying it. After a few sweaty sprints down airport concourses in high heels to make a tight connection, I grasped the wisdom of packing light. To this day I can travel for 3 weeks with a carry-on and one “personal item.”

Dad’s job also got us great rates at swanky hotels we never could have afforded otherwise. He always said, “We didn’t have a lot of money, but we got to see a lot of places.”

He was right.

Though I didn’t see it then, today I am oh-so-grateful for the sacrifices Dad (and Mom) made to give us what my “normal” friends never had: the chance to see the world. It’s a gift that inspires me, every day. I absorbed Dad’s love of exploring new places, so my feet get a little itchy if I stay in one place too long. I still get some of my best sleep on airplanes. And every single time I step off a plane, I get a kick of excitement that I’ve been magically transported to a brand new place.

Whether your childhood was blessedly “normal” or weirdly different, take time to appreciate the good parts, the unique parts, the silly adventures and the love shown, however imperfectly.

What things did you take for granted during your childhood that you appreciate now? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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    The Conversation

  1. Jamie Janosz says:

    I love this, Connie. It is true – none of us are actually “normal”…and that would be so boring. I loved hearing these details about your childhood. It makes me want to hear more! Tell us more :-)!

    • Connie Mann says:

      Thanks, Jamie! Amazing the difference a couple of decades makes, right? I’m so thankful now that I didn’t have a “normal” childhood–and glad the rest of us didn’t either. Hmmm, I’ve been thinking of telling more of my childhood travel adventures…

  2. Holly says:

    This book sounds fascinating. I was drawn in by the title. I would always say the same thing as a child but for different reasons. Going to grab the book now.

  3. Marti Pieper says:

    I’m reading lots of memoir since that what God seems to have me writing. This one sounds intriguing. And I love/hate your story. I had a college roommate whose last name was Lewandowski, and she embraced her heritage–most of the time. HUGS!

    • Connie Mann says:

      Hi Marti, I hear you. I think most of us love/hate our stories! But I’m so thankful today for parents who loved me and a childhood that let me see the world!

  4. Vera Nachtigall says:

    Loved it!!

  5. Lorna Dishman says:

    Why be normal? I’m not! I loved your story Connie. You were very fortunate to do all that traveling. I love to travel whenever I can. You get to see new things, meet new people and learn about the area. I bet your travels helped spur all that creativity you have today.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Thanks, Lorna. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I think the traveling we did definitely shaped who I am and how I see the world! Keep traveling…it does broaden us in unexpected ways!

  6. Jan Jackson says:

    Connie, my maiden name is Wiggins. You may remember the Carol Burnett character, Missus uh Wiggins…LOL! I was called that and wiggle worm and a bunch of other stuff. Normal is overrated. I am proudly abi-normal. How cool that your dad took you on all those trips around the world. What an education and being exposed to other cultures, not to mention that precious time spent together as a family. My dad died right before I turned twelve in a car accident. He raced cars and was a private pilot. I remember more than one adventure flying with him. Memories are to be treasured. Thanks for sharing yours and triggering some of mine. =)

    • Connie Mann says:

      I’m so glad the post triggered good memories of your Dad, Jan, though losing him so soon must have been horrible. Those crazy family trips with missed flights, etc., now make up some of my best memories!