Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Extended Family

Dear Christa—

Finally in a rain pattern—and God knew we needed it. I don’t think I could live in Seattle or any place where it rains constantly, but rain when looking toward another dry, hot summer and fires burning close and far—well, it just feels so good. It makes me want to breathe deep and smell the freshness in the air. And I like a cooling afternoon shower. It has a calming effect and soothes me. It feels like coins from heaven falling when Jay is able to skip a watering day.

Extended family is like that for me—a freshness that centers me. 

This year we made it to our big family reunion—the side with 31 grandchildren (the small side).

And after the tables were cleaned and the floor swept and mopped, we looked around (my sisters and I and the cousins who grew up in the Quad-cities with us), and we said, “Do we have to go?” So—many of us decided we just had too much catching up to do to leave so soon.

At first we gathered in small circles, but as the hours moved toward evening, we eventually ended up in two large circles of chairs—the men and the women. I don’t know what those men talked about, but I know when our circle sucked in the last few women. It was when Aunt Marg made reference to a little known family story, and all us cousins said, “Tell us,” and Aunt Betty looked coyly at my mom and said, “You tell it.” And we cousins, we all leaned forward. Then we scooted around to let in the others, because somehow mysterious things draw us in. And Mother told something that I’d never heard before, which ended with “and that better not end up in a blog.”

Then there were stories from aunts that told of years long gone by when they were growing up during the Depression. There were stories of how they’d met our uncles and married young and gave birth (many of them just teenagers) and stories of Grandma who’d lived in her mother-in-law’s house until after Mom, the fifth child, was born (and my grandparents even shared a bedroom with her). The family stories, probably from my grandma, do not paint her as a nice lady. Some asked where certain handed down pieces had originated.
Then we cousins spoke our part—comments like Peggy not eating any meat at Denny’s house, but I was kind of struck by some recounts of women and their men. And as one cousin stated verbatim what she’d said to a neighbor woman making some moves toward her husband, she finished off with, “and you CAN put THAT on the blog!”

These family stories—the nostalgic and even the ugly—they ground us. They make us know that in a world unpredictable, we have a place. We are a part and we are significant. These are the people to whom we belong. Everyone wants to belong.

Family stories go on. After only a day at home, we buzzed off to Albuquerque to see Jay’s brother and his wife from Virginia, whom we’d lived close to back in the days when we were having babies. Those two short days we recounted stories of weddings and grandbabies—stories that I’ll retell when our kids and grandkids all arrive here in two weeks.

Family stories—they are like coins from heaven and rain on thirsty tongues. 

Breathe deep and feel the freshness in the air—cooling rain that says we belong.

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