March 1, 2015
It’s fifteen minutes before we need to be out of the rental. This will be quick and unedited.
Last year when my sister came from California for a short visit she wanted to get together with the family. Since my mother died we realized the lynch pin that held us together was gone. We are spread out with families of our own and since marriages aren’t happening every year and the old folks are gone, we won’t have the wedding/ funeral reunions with any regularity.
I give my sister a lot of credit for forcing this. It seemed a formidable task to find a location, get the word out, figure out who pays for what, the blah blah of organizing a huge group. My house can hold everyone, but it is a haul for everyone to get there. Now that the younger generation all have jobs and responsibilities, a five-plus hour ride for a family gathering is a deterrent. I had no desire to rent a place and then just sit around and talk and do family therapy. OK in small doses but not a whole weekend. End of February isn’t beach weather and a city location was too expensive.
I suggested a ski chalet. I love to ski as do many of the group, and the others can snowshoe, eat, cuddle up, or read or sleep. We tried it last year and it worked out fabulously. Everyone wanted to do it again. Plenty of outside activity, ski stories, good food and wine at night and rosy goodbyes on Sunday.
We are cautious now about explosive topics. Politics? No. Not around my oldest brother. He brought a ham he cured from a pig he raised on his homestead. Love it. Close to the earth, close to our food. Eggs from my chickens, veggies from the gardens we all have, yup. All on the same page. But when he mentions he named the pig Elizabeth Warren so he could take more satisfaction in shooting it, we all silently didn’t take the bait. I glance at my son who brought his girlfriend for the first time, “You warned her about this, right?” We let it go. Same when he started a rant about Obama’s birth certificate. No takers. Believe what you want.
In years past this would have been hours of fact-flinging, table-pounding, how-can-you-believe-thats. Now it’s silent glances of understood it’s-not-worth-its. We move on to the recipe for the brine for the ham, which, is the best ham I’ve ever had.
This is progress. This is for my mother. This is the valuing of our family bonds, of survival of a very difficult childhood with it’s many manifestations. We love each other and accept the screwed-up adults we’ve become. We’ve coped in different ways and we have become very different people, but I watch how we function together and am grateful. My granddaughter throws her bottle on the floor and it shatters. I grab a broom, my brother grabs a dustpan and without a word, positions it to collect the shattered bits. He moves it slightly and I sweep the glassy dust without leaving a trace. We spoke not a word, but accomplished this task with perfect precision. I pause to marvel at our efficiency, but don’t mention it aloud. I collect these moments and hold them as gifts that take up no space, need no storage, require no dusting, and fill my heart.