Monday, February 21, 2011

And that's a true story

It's quiet here in my back room, which is making our big dog very happy.  He was thrown off his nap cycle over the weekend, when the population in our house kept rising and rising.  I lay in bed yesterday morning, 'girding my loins' for the day (as Beve would say), and thought of how thrilled my parents would be that so many of the family was gathering.  They always hoped we'd outgrow our childhood quarreling and become friends as adults.  And we certainly have become friends.

There were 11 of us for high tea at our favorite English tea shop on Saturday.  That's a family tradition that even the men are happy to participate in.  We eat our pasties, tea sandwiches, knock back tea with great abandon, then end the meal with the most mouth-watering scones and Devonshire cream one can imagine.  We left the tea room in time to walk the board walk along the Bay right at Sunset, and even with the wind whipping around us, felt blessed to be in sharing the day together.

Then yesterday afternoon, my older brother and his wife pulled up just as I had found a moment to finally get dressed.  From all over the house I heard squeals:  "There's Uncle D!"  Along with my older brother, was BB, all the way from Massachusetts, which was the best surprise of the weekend.  He'd only caught wind of this party last Wednesday, but with the blessing of his wife, came out for five days (it's his mid-winter-break).  We were all so surprised to see him, we might have overlooked R and D for a moment, but we were glad to see them too.  And, channeling Mom, that meant all of my siblings were under my roof in...well, I can't remember the last time we were together at our house.
My sisters and I are wearing our 'sister' shirts, which Mom bought and loved.  I'm on the right, next to BB (who refers to me as Big Sis, because he doesn't feel comfortable calling me BS--Thankfully!). Dump's the tall middle sister, whose plan to introduce her new friend to a quiet subset of this family was hijacked into the extravaganza this weekend has been (BB and RE, the youngest sister, on the left of Dump, are still here).  Dump's friend, B, otherwise known as 'the new guy', was pretty overwhelmed by the cross-conversation, interruptions, strange-half-said-fully-understood sentences that went on all over the place in the last four days.  I think we wore him out with our family dynamics. And yes, I think that anyone--even I--would be overwhelmed in such a situation.

R, our older brother (in the crimson WSU shirt) who looks more and more like Dad, brought up his tripod so we could get a picture of the whole crew.  He set it up out back, thinking we'd stand on our deck where the shadows would make for a better picture.  Unfortunately, as Beve and E kept telling people, our deck is in REALLY bad shape.  18 people, two of whom are sitting on their walkers, apparently do have enough weight to make the thing shift and crack.  We moved closer to the edge, just in time for a second crack, then quickly got off.  The picture (which I don't have, since only R has it) will show only Grampie and Thyrza sitting on the deck, with Beve kneeling between them, in case he had to break their fall.

There's always a whole lot of hard work involved to bed and board so many people, especially for one like me--it's a stretch, to say the least.  But yesterday's very delicious dinner (in honor of RE's 49th) birthday was a perfect example of how we work together.  I think at least a dozen of those there contributed directly to that meal, and the bulk of the sauteing was done by my 16-year-old nephew, the youngest among us.  Pretty cool.  This is what makes family work. When we sat down together (at two tables--and yes, there was a 'cousins' table' and an adult table), we enjoyed what we'd worked for together. Then I put a nickel in, turned Grampie's crank, and he told story after story--some a little less coherently than others, but all very entertainingly.  And he finished every one with the words, "And that's a true story."  (Grampie and Thyrza enjoyed themselves so much that today he told Beve, "That was a great program yesterday.")

So, what was the best part of the weekend for me?  The conversations, of course.  At different times, I had significant conversations with my niece and her husband, my nephew and his wife, my sister-in-law, my sisters, including one with Dump and her new friend, and my brothers.  And that 16-year-old taciturn youngest of the party as well. I feel flooded with awe at the depth of those who are my nearest community. I'm inspired by the way they look at the world, the way they love each other, their parents, their children, the world.  I'm exhausted in a heap tonight, which means that pain is sharpening its fangs on my body.  But I wouldn't change a thing...
 except perhaps for a little safer deck.
And that's a true story.

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