It’s true, he’s already a gentleman.
And the Paparazzi… the kind my Dad encountered are unlike any Paparazzi I’ve ever seen.
Our friends, the Langenkamps, are visiting from out of state. They and their 8 children, my family of 5, my sister’s family of 5, our little bro and his gehhhhrlfrand Jen, all crammed into my parent’s house for brunch. Bursting kitchen, many of us ate standing up, joyfully taking in the sight of each other. These people are who I look to as an example of cultivating a strong Catholic, family-centered culture in today’s world.
That sounds kind of hardcore Catholic-ness from the outside. But on the inside, this is a family which handmade a paisley print eyepatch for my Dad when he had a “suspicious” spot under his eye, and sent it to him in the mail with a matching tie.
My Dad’s upcoming EWTN interview with Marcus Grodi on the Journey Home television show left a window of opportunity for the Langenkamps, of course:
“MR. FREDERICK, MR. FREDERICK! HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A FAMOUS CATHOLIC?”
“WHAT WAS MARCUS GRODI LIKE? IS HIS HAIR REAL? DOES HE WEAR A TOUPÉE?
My humble Dad, blushing and laughing, replied with a sharp, witty comment, making fun of his own shiny head (which I can’t remember cause I fail at life), causing laughter to ring throughout the house.
“CAN WE HAVE YOUR AUTOGRAPH?! YOUR AUTOGRAPH, MR. FREDERICK!”
It was warm-hearted, hilarious, joyful fun. That’s the Langenkamps, in a sentence.
While I correspond with them via email, I always feel in a terrible rush to devour any tiny advice or stories of their family life that they share, vis-a-vis.
My epiphanies, coming away from the visit, focus on sibling dependence.
We have children, for the glory of God, fulfilling the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage; but secondly, we have children, and we give them siblings, for each other.
The way the Langenkamps have raised their children, has brought about a subtle, yet profound bond which is a rare sight these days.
Many families are estranged from each other. Many of them don’t speak. Many of them fight during the holidays. Many of them gather in a room, fill it with the awkward silence of pride, afraid to speak out of step, lest royal highnesses be offended and run off forever, and apologies aren’t good enough.
This Langenkamp family not only loves each each other despite their bickerings, but they look past them; continuing to love each other, to electively help each other without a sigh of being inconvenienced, lightening the load they bear –infact, vanquishing the thought that it’s even a burden at all.
Amongst the children, although they argue like any sibling might, there is no jealous rivalry. There is a delight in each other’s individuality, in each person’s presence.
In a culture to which the phrase “I am second” is an offensive atrocity and a serious bummer to the selfie-lyfe, I am seeing the billboards of the princes and princesses our world teaches us that we are entitled to be as children. It leaks into and infects our adulthood.
Instead of being a family filled with individual Divas and All-Stars, harnessing their gifts and talents in their own separate ways, often butting heads in jealous competition of one another, the Langenkamps are an example of recognizing the special gift in each child, and expecting that child to use this gift for the greater good of the family, working as one unit.
This culture doesn’t teach about the bond of family, that we can truly “find” ourselves in the seeming mundane reality of family life, OR that honestly, we can never truly know ourselves because to truly know ourselves as a creation of God, would be to fully know the mystery that is God, and we can’t know that because we aren’t God (but that’s me going in a different direction). Outside of it, we are taught that our family exists to encourage us to do what we want and be what we feel, and that if we find that we’re not getting the approval rating we want, go elsewhere.
But the Langenkamps are en example, that while God is the Seed Planter and Mom and Dad are the root of the family support system, siblings are an extension; to be depended upon.
I’ve always marveled at them, watching them grow up. I was always astonished that Nicholas, the oldest, would volunteer to hold or feed the youngest, would be expected to volunteer without begging or luring with sweets, or that one of the younger siblings would rest his head on an older one’s shoulder during the Easter Vigil.
Why do they care about each other so much? Those words couldn’t even surface to my thinking because I was still trying to process what I was seeing.
What I saw, and what I see now, is the true definition of family, of peaceful parenting: the expectation that they should care about each other, that they should do something about it, and that they actively look for opportunities to do something about it.
This isn’t to say that they walk around in bliss, with dumb smiles on their faces and halos shining from their heads. But it IS to say that instead of Mrs. Langenkamp following her children around the house, breaking up fights and fizzling out tantrums over toys, that she is able to sit at the table and talk with me over coffee. What I mean by “peaceful” is that in spite of their grief, their arguments, their scrambling to find matching socks, they have peace in each other. They are their people.
“You’re my people”
I hope I hope I hope I prayyy that I can do this, too. I know it’s a natural inclination to care for our own family members and it’s present at the earliest age. But as we grow, our culture distracts us so easily with its self-centered, self-aggrandizing songs and movies and shiny toys, that we can find ourselves chasing an empty self gratification, forgetting why we’re really here in the first place.
The Langenkamps have helped me to be thankful for family on a deeper level, this Thanksgiving.