My family hails from the OC. No, not Orange County, California. Our OC is Osage County. As in Oklahoma. My maternal grandma left OC as a senior citizen, moving to a joining county. But before that, she’d lived her entire life in OC. Her parents lived there I don’t know how many years. My mother grew up there. My dad graduated high school there and his mother’s house there is to this day occupied by family. While I only lived a few months in OC during a temporary juncture of my life, you can see my roots there are established.
I saw August Osage County last Saturday my kids. For obvious reasons, it resounded with me. The scenery. The familiarity. The attitudes of those who hail from west of the Mississippi but not the far west. Life on the plains, like Julia Roberts’s character mentioned in the film. It’s not the Midwest.
My mother is not the pill popping mess Meryl Streep played. My father is not an alcoholic looking to escape. My family has, to my knowledge, never employed a Native American to cook for them. In fact, my father’s family is part Native American. So while I could not relate to the extreme realities the characters faced, I could comprehend the emotion, tragedy of unfulfilled possibilities and the acceptance of where reality has brought us.
I found myself in tears. I found myself feeling very vulnerable and out of control. Like it or not, we are who we are because of the decisions others have made. We’re also who we are because of our own choices. We move or we stay. We put up with it or we decide to take our affection elsewhere. Or we simply don’t offer any affection despite.
There’s a harshness to the Oklahoma plains. Tornadoes. Heat in the summer. Cold in the winter. Constant wind. Yet resilient people. Remember, the dust bowl occurred here. The Indians were driven here. Oil was discovered and eventually it ran out. Real life cowboys. People who don’t give up easily. That’s where my roots are. Tied up with people who worked hard. People who made it work. People who have enough. I’m thankful for them.
When I read the play, which is the origin of August Osage County, I found myself a bit overwhelmed with the rawness. The language. The family issues. Secrets and realities. Questions never answered.
I think the older people get, the more they either reconcile with who they are or they decide to go completely the other direction. Part of me is envious of my sister. Her family lives a few miles from OC. While like me, she didn’t grow up there, she is now raising her children where her family roots run deep. Her kids will always have an understanding of what they hail from. That part of them will not be hidden.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I regret not raising my children in Oklahoma. I don’t. I do desire they understand a bit more of who we are and why. That comes with time though. Age and years.