My family got back at about 2 a.m. yesterday from a two-and-a-half-week vacation visiting family, friends, and the beach. Welcoming us on our return was a basement cobweb the size of Rhode Island but with a few more residents. Although Ron cleared it away, I'm still getting tangled up in its remnants every time I go down there to do a load of laundry. I was amazed at how quickly our house got taken over while we were gone.
Mold was another squatter. I opened up the cream cheese this morning and figured since it was more green than white, I should find a new package. Of course, the growth there shouldn't have been a surprise. A lot can happen to food in 17 days.
So I've been thinking about what can happen to a family when we just check out, leave relationships abandoned for a while, stop dusting and sweeping and mopping, stop taking advantage of the good stuff in order to clear the way for even more good stuff.
We spent our week at the beach with my mom, a few siblings, their spouses, my sister's in-laws, and a bunch of nieces and nephews. And as chaotic as that might sound (and at times was), it was the best vacation I've ever taken. (Ron, if you read this, I'll exclude our honeymoon.)The weather was perfect, the house we stayed in ideal, the beach almost empty, the waves just the right size for the kids to play in safely all but the last day (Hurricane Bill ticked off the ocean). None of us got enough sleep, but we got in plenty of conversation and laughter and food and sunshine.
I looked forward to this vacation for a long time, but not without some anxiety. Because I have a large family (seven siblings), plenty of personality clashes aren't that uncommon. And we tend to argue and debate (you name it, we've covered it) more than discuss issues. We're an opinionated bunch, and that doesn't mean we necessarily think through our opinions before voicing them--and often stomping our feet while doing so. As we all get older, our kids get older as well. And they're no less opinionated than their parents.
But it's the closest I've felt to my family as a whole in a long time . . . maybe ever. It made me wish we all lived closer to one other so our kids could be better friends. It made me wish keeping in touch were easier. Yes, even with email and Facebook and Blackberries and iPhones, we still manage to go months without contacting a sibling or two.
Though you wouldn't have known it based on how easily we slipped into each others' company again. And I didn't feel like a kid sister this time--or a big sister, for that matter. I was just part of a large family that likes laughing more than just about anything else in the world, so thank goodness that even when we don't see eye to eye, we can still crack each other up to the point of tears.
So this past week wiped away a lot of the cobwebs that have been hanging around. In fact, by weeks' end, I'd say it wiped away all of them. Will they come back? Probably. After all, even if we do this every year, it only takes a couple of weeks to entertain squatters: spiders, mold, resentment, disapproval, judgment, dismay.
But as my nephew kept singing one night: "We are family." And when we do see each other again, we'll just magically wave our arms, clear the way, toss out the green cream cheese, and head for the shore. I can't wait.