Saturday, May 16, 2009

a celebration of family (and sunshine!)

so today . . . the sun shone in portland, oregon . . .

i was not expecting this--it is, after all, oregon. and now that i live in the land of perpetual sunshine, i fear i am becoming a bit of a weather snob. i hate to admit it, but come on--you already knew this about me, didn't you . . .

anyway, the sun shone. and yet i still spent the day wearing my jeans jacket, because i expected it to be cold. my dad said that the wind was kind of chilly. unfortunately, while my mom and i were out doing errands, we did not cross paths with the wind--just the lovely sunshine. so after a while i gave up and took the jacket off. much better. until we got home and went into the house.

i think my mom's house thinks it is still winter, because it is cool inside. yes, she has heat and it could be turned on, but it is the middle of may!! one should not need heat in the middle of may! and what if it gets hot later? then we will want it to be cool in the house. anyway, i put my jeans jacket back on. and it was much better.

this evening we went to my aunt's house for a bar-be-que. a lot of family is in town for my uncle's memorial service tomorrow, which means a lot of mouths to feed, and so a bar-be-que seemed like a good solution--there would be lots of food, we could spread out into the backyard (at least today we could, because THE SUN IS SHINING) and it was a chance to see those branches of the family tree who have migrated to distant lands (i know, that is a terrible mixing of metaphors--but it's late!)

when we were little, my extended family got together several times a year--always for thanksgiving, christmas, and easter, and then at other random times as well. i don't remember much about thanksgiving, but i do remember the evolution of the gift exchange at christmas, from "gifts for everyone from everyone" to choosing names to "gifts for everyone from grandma" to "let's just eat." and then at easter there was always the chocolate lamb cake with the coconut frosting . . . i hate shredded coconut, but i loved to look at that cake! it was so beautiful . . . and then it seemed like at some point during the summer we would end up at someone's house, running around in the grass . . .

we were a family--a big one. my cousins were kind of like brothers and sisters that didn't live in my house. there were the big boys (4 of them,) the girls (2 of us,) the little boys (2 of them,) and the baby (that's you, nancy!) but, as usually happens, we all grew up and many of us moved out of the area--at first, not too far away, but as time went on the distances became greater. and it was more difficult for all of us to get together, even just at christmas time. our kids grew up and moved out on their own, spreading the family tree out even further. we saw each other less, talked less, probably had less in common. so when we were able to be together, i always felt a little bit at a loss--what would i talk about? who would i talk to? what if they thought, "she is really getting weird!" the truth is, sometimes i just felt kind of disconnected, like my life was so different that i would not be able to find common ground with anyone any more. and so, even though i love my family, i was a little uneasy about spending time with them tonight.

as it turns out, i didn't need to be worried about any of that. everyone was relaxed and easy to talk to. the food was excellently prepared by the people who know how to cook (so you know it wasn't me!!) i was able to sit outside and enjoy the scent of the big lilac tree in the backyard--the best non-food smell God created. i had real conversations with people, instead of the usual, "so, what have you been doing since i saw you last christmas?" and underneath it all, was the understanding that uncle jim would have loved this--his whole family together, enjoying each other's company.

we are scattered. our lives are very different. we have all experienced some unexpected twists and turns. but we are a family. we share a history and a heritage that will always be a part of who we are. we can embrace it, or we can fight it, but we can't ignore it. sometimes it takes a crisis to show what we are made of, and this week we have had a crisis. but it the midst of it, i am thankful for the legacy of caring and understanding that is evident in the people i call my family.

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