Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Family Time

Sometimes I just get involved in moments and minutes when my camera should come out of its bag but it doesn't.  These are some of my favorite moments and minutes when I have to rely on words to do justice to the memories.

The summer before Brad's parents got divorced, Brad lived with his cousin Thatcher's family in Wisconsin. That summer over thirty years ago bonded Brad to their family more tightly than any of his other extended family, and since many of them now live in the Seattle area, we made a point to spend one night of our trip with them. Whenever I spend time with them, I walk away with something new I learn about them and many “something news” I learn about myself.

A simple meal morphed into a feast of discussion as plates and children gradually disappeared from view. We spent hours discussing politics, families, marriage, education, family members, and religion.  Although I was an active (and occasionally too vocal) participant in the discussions, the talk didn’t distract me from observing Brad’s family.  

I love how this extended family sits around the table for hours and hours, discussing and debating issues that matter.  Every person has strong opinions, and every opinion is validated, even though mutual agreement isn’t a necessary outcome.  I think it takes a special family dynamic to be able to engage each other in a spirited discussion, remain at odds in viewpoint, and still leave the table feeling like your voice is heard. I learned so much from Laura and David that night as my required reading list increased by four and my perspective on vitally important issues deepened immeasurably.

Royal, his uncle, sat at the head of the table, commenting infrequently but listening closely. When he did contribute his view, it was always well said and equally well planned. Time and again, I was surprised by his depth of thought and wisdom.  One comment that he quietly contributed (so quietly, in fact, that I may have been the only one at the table who heard) was a profound observation of how kids in society used to receive validation and a sense of accomplishment by completing chores around the farm and helping to support their family, while today that same validation and accomplishment is harder to come by as the natural fruit of hard labor, but must be sought from a different source.  That source is most often athletics, where the value of accomplishment is often tainted by whether or not the team loses—having little to nothing to do with what the child feels as an individual.  I’ve come back to that comment many times in the last week—a quiet comment from a quiet man who was just enjoying the comforts of family.

Aunt Chris has a gift that makes everyone around feel welcome, included, and important. Her blue eyes always sparkle with the love she feels for each member of her family, and I believe she feeds her eternal youth with the energy and commotion and love that surround her. She is usually the center of the party, but I noticed this visit that she would silently and frequently slip from the action to complete small acts of service for those she loves—finishing the dishes, talking privately with a grandchild, making up a spare bed, preparing a quick snack for those still immersed in discussion—before returning to the excitement. These small acts of service receive little acknowledgement at the time, but these small actions are what make the big moments memorable, and what binds her family so closely to each other.

Six hours after dinner was finished, we all looked at the clock and recognized the need for sleep, even though we still had discussion fodder to fill many more hours. As sleep began to shutter my mind, I remember one of my last coherent thoughts. As my own family grows older and increases in size and experience and perspective, I hope I can incorporate many of the ways that Chris and Royal guide their extended family to love and accept each one, no matter what.

Thanks for having us overnight.  It was a night I’ll not soon forget. Guess I didn't need my camera after all.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great family of in laws. Glad you got to visit them.