I'm writing this at a glass-topped table that seats 10 easily and more if TV watchers drag up chairs to join the conversation. The kitchen has room for several to work at once, a curiously small refrigerator, and a dishwasher we keep running constantly. There are anywhere between 10 and 14 of us here on the beach in North Carolina.
Other than the husbands and wives among us, and the two who are in middle school and high school who still live at home, none of us would willingly live together. The personalities and opinions that surround this table and fill the house-crossing deck in the back are varied and...varied. They don't always mesh. Sometimes we clamp our mouths shout. Sometimes we should but don't.
But our six kids, half by birth and half by law and all by heart, in all their differences, love each other's children. On this trip, Uncle Chris has been 11-year-old Eamon's favorite plaything and Skyler and Fionn have done their best to shock Aunt Tahne. All "us girls" have personalized wineglasses and ankle bracelets that will serve as remember whens for as long as we have them.
The kids love us and worry about us as we age. Whenever any two of them are gathered in quiet conversation, we ask if they are discussing putting us in "the home." Usually they assure me I'm okay, but Dad may have something to worry about. Or vice versa.
The grandkids are fascinating and funny. They know so many different things and their personalities and interests are as varied and entertaining as their parents'.
Like most other families, we spend a lot of time in front of screens. We all have phones, several of us work from wherever our laptops are, and there are televisions and games systems everywhere. Fourteen of us wear approximately 55 pairs of shoes, 33 hats, and 29 pairs of sunglasses (none of which can be found when needed.) Between us, we have at least 20 bottles of sunscreen but can never find the one we want. We have beach towels that are used for nothing more heroic than collecting sand but are very pretty and bright nonetheless.
We've said and done things that are inherent to us. One son slept "44 hours straight" according to his brother. In one day! (Not sure who said that...) Decades after our daughter declared the "tiny belt" on her car needed replacing, it is still the family go-to description of any automotive problem up to and including transmission replacement and blown engines. When my granddaughter and I walked the beach in swimsuits of matching colors, I mourned that no one thought we were sisters. They are not brilliant things, these things we still laugh at, but they are still ones we cherish.
It is special this week coming up on Father's Day to realize that my favorite four fathers are here in one place. They are being reminded of their failures, whether real or imagined, and their successes are right here for us all to see.
We are diverse in our religion, music, food and beverage choices, and--somewhat--in our politics, but share values complete with lines that cannot be crossed. Except that we cross them all the time. Voices are raised, much eyerolling goes on, and sometimes quiet falls between parties. That kind of quiet is heartbreaking at the age I am, because I know no matter how much time you have to spend with your family, it's never, ever enough.
I'm writing this on Thursday, staying inside because no matter how much of those 20 bottles of sunscreen I used, it wasn't enough. We'll head back in a few days, to several parts of the country, using various modes of travel. We'll all be glad to be home, back to routine, to our own beds. We'll all have different remember whens, but no matter how individualized they are, every one of us will have them with us always, in one of those pockets in our hearts that we can open when we need to.
Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.