There is no quiet like the silence of my house as I walk into it after dropping the last gaggle of kids off at the airport following a big family weekend. It’s a palpable absence of voices and happenings and glorious chaos. Monday morning, I sat with a cup of tea and used the silence as a backdrop for reflection.
This past weekend our family gathered to celebrate BF’s milestone birthday. Kids cleared their schedules and traveled from Denver, Phoenix, Chicago, and Carmel. Biological kids, step kids, in-law kids, grandkids in tow, to celebrate a man who defies all signs of his seventy years on this Earth. A man we love and appreciate. A man who has been integral in a successful blending.
As Higher timing would have it, the capstone to our weekend was a memorial service for Pauline Dixon, my first mother-in-law. Watching Jessica and Michael circulate the funeral home chapel greeting guests who had come to pay their respects, and then listening as they spoke the eulogy for their grandmother, I was overwhelmed with pride. Watching one’s children behave as competent, confident adults is almost jarring.
As we invited guests to tell stories about Pauline, BF commented how enthusiastically she had welcomed him into our family, even though for him to do so meant her son had to die. A scene comes to mind of him helping her up the sidewalk for Christmas dinner, her just patting, patting his arm.
Nana, Will You Come Play With Me?
Adi and Lily are adamant that they are both cousins and friends. Having the two of them here together was one of the things about which I was most excited. That is not to say, however, the notion didn’t produce a bit of anxiety. Would these two independent, outspoken post-toddlers share and get along? Would l have anything here they would eat? Would they sleep well, considering time zones and strange beds? Would they like each other and me by the time the weekend was over?
I’m happy to report these two little girls were a grand success! And my favorite refrain from the entire weekend was, “Nana will you come play with me?” Yes, I missed a majority of the adult conversation, but I played. Hide and seek, with the dollhouse upstairs, and with every game in the basement. Such an honor to be included in their play.
My heart melted when I went upstairs and those two precious little girls came walking down the hallway holding hands, “Nana?” they said. I do not remember what they asked me for . . . but that moment.
I stop today to consider the word family and what it really means. The way life circumstances can turn a family upside down and then add people to it and put it back together anew. BF and I often refer to our “first lives.” I’m grateful to feel comfortable inviting a cousin, his daughter, and my brother-in-law from my first life into our home after the funeral. Grateful for the opportunity to be part of blending our little family. And for the way “step” just doesn’t apply to grandkids and cousins.
Perfection and Presence
Is our family perfect? Um, we are humans. Was our gathering free of conflict? Heck no! Just ask Jessica and Michael. Was attendance 100%? Nope. That’s not how life works. Did I even remember to put out all the food I had prepared? Not even close.
But did everyone feel loved and welcome? I think so. I hope so.
Knowing myself and how excitable I can be, knowing I’d have two of my favorite playmates here, knowing I was hosting six overnight “guests,” a birthday dinner, and a funeral, I set an intention to remain present with each activity. And I think I did. The best I know how.
And today I celebrate the word family and all its denotation and connotation and the morphing thereof.