Sometimes the reason that brings me to this chair, shifts entirely when the words start coming. The night I wrote the story about Sean falling as a baby, I had no intention of sharing that, I just started typing and that’s what came out. My Aunt K, (one of the sharpest and funniest people I know, I adore her,) always tells me that words and thoughts will come at the right time. It most often happens with her when she’s helping people who struggled with sobriety. She knows what to say. And the thing I love most is, when she can, she does it with humor. Which is most of the time. The woman is hysterical. And effective. It’s admirable.
No, the night I wrote that blog I was going to write a post about family, the biological ones and the kindred variety as well. We have several of those in our lives. People we refer to as family. I think we all pretty much have those relationships. And if we don’t, we should.
I was thinking first about my immediate family, the Sensational Six, (our son-in-law, The Duke, increases our value from the Fab Five.) What a unique and interesting bunch they are. I originally came up with the idea for this blog because I heard the question, if you could spend time with anyone in the world, who would it be? There are a lot of noteworthy people in the world who would be remarkable to spend time with, people who would, no doubt, be quite memorable. But there is no question, if I could have quality time with anyone in the world, it would always be my family. Hands down. Especially now that they’re scattered across the country.
From the time they were small children and challenged us to think beyond the limits of what we expected from kids, to the accomplished adults they are today, they have always thrilled us. Talk about memorable, there was our three-year-old who told us he was struggling with the concept of eternity, (he is a unique and rare soul,) our five-year-old who wanted a camera and knew exactly what to do with it, (he sees the world through images and has a gift for putting them together,) and our nine-year-old who wanted to create a TV channel that only reported philanthropic stories, (she has, and all who know her would agree, a heart of gold. Literally.) They have made us better people. Theirs is a portrait I have framed with my soul.
I took a picture at a baby shower I attended this past weekend, it was a heartening image; an ecstatic couple, celebrating the entrance of a new person. Soul mates being gifted an infant soul. Does it get any better? I think not. The young couple is a pair that lived in our old house with us for a few months before we moved. They took up residence in my Mom’s empty apartment, (it was attached to our house,) as a transitional space while they waited to get into their new house. The young man is a member of our family, not by blood, by heart. His family and our family were interchangeable, with the lot of them growing up between the two houses. They shared kindred mothers. Sue is a woman I gratefully call a best friend. And I don’t throw that title around lightly.
All of us sat together at the shower, reminiscing about the pains and profits of growing up. We laughed. A lot. Cackled is probably more like it, the rest of the guests at the restaurant probably thought we were enjoying the signature drink with a bit too much enthusiasm. But, in reality, we were drunk on affection. It’s been a long time since we’ve all been together. But new locations and grown up kids hasn’t diminished that warmth, it is as comforting as ever. And can be taken up after long breaks without missing a beat. As the saying goes, we make beautiful music together. We always have.
Another family snap shot I’ve put into my mental album recently is an unlikely group. I’ve told you I go back to my old hometown to teach two days a week. The class I help with is what’s called a, “Fifth Mod.” It’s an extra class added at the end of the school day for students who, for one reason or another, are having trouble graduating from high school. They have two choices, they can take a building maintenance class or video production. Suffice it to say, these kids weren’t chomping at the bit to be the next Quentin Tarantino, more like they wanted to emulate the cinematic impact of, Spicoli, the Ridgemont High resident. They just needed some extra credits to get out of school. At least that was my first impression. (In all honesty, I drove away after the first day and thought, what in the world have I gotten myself into?)
That was before I got to know them.
There was a curious conversation that occurred at the beginning of this semester, they were lamenting the fact that we were losing so many snow days. (Remember? The winter of our discontent.) It was agreed that the administration didn’t understand that we were family and they were robbing us of our time together. I think I can say with some certainty that we all look forward to being together. They are quirky and a bit mouthy and wildly creative. And did I mention endearing? So very endearing. Several of them have emerged as amazing filmmakers as well. So much so that I wish I had the resources to send them to college. Especially because they don’t, and they should have the benefit of attending. But it’s no matter, they’ve found a passion in the art and they will make names for themselves, I have full confidence in them. I’m proud to be in their family. And will miss them terribly when they graduate.
The screen saver on our computer is a loop of pictures we’ve collected over the years. I sometimes sit and stare at them for much longer than I intend. They draw me in and connect me to the clan. The entire cohort. They all speak of joy, but especially the children, our own and the ones who’ve come to us by proxy. They wheel through: Our son’s girlfriends (in BK’s blog he calls them, St. Nikki and Sister Sarah, how I love them,) Sully and Ash (the young couple having the baby,) Sully’s sister and her husband and their kids, Rory, (the son we loved and lost,) our nephew Brian the Brain (who also lived with us for a while,) and his sister Jamie and her boyfriend, Ben, The Jersey boys who are Sean’s best friends, (they are ridiculously talented musicians and regularly support BK’s band, Milton,) Brad, (another child of the apartment at our house,) Our daughter’s best friend and her husband, (whose baby is, seriously, the most precious little girl I’ve ever seen,) The young couple BK is marrying in the fall, (he has done this for several young couples, his nick-name is Rev Kev,) Our God-children, All of our nieces and nephews, and the images just keep coming. Truly, they are the stuff joy is made of. And, although that list was long and indulgent, I wouldn’t have left any of them out; they have brought tremendous love into my life. They should all know.
As is the case with most families, along with the cream of the collage, there are also some images that are harshly out of focus. Estranged family members who chose to saturate themselves with anger, resentment and pride. Misplaced emotions that have removed them from years of happiness. Time they can never get back. Sadly, my children have never really known one set of grandparents. What a waste. But I suppose there are some in every family. I feel sorry for them. It is their loss and it is monumental. But theirs is not a picture I have preserved. They have become a distant and faded memory. The picture I hold most dear is the one that’s crowded with the precious faces of my family. All of them, our children and otherwise, the ones who give purpose to the frame of my life. The ones who love BK and I unconditionally and we feel the same about them. My family. That is the image I preserve. It's perfect.