Saturday, December 20, 2014

Families, Gatherings, Changes...Ah, Life, You Keep Me on my Toes!

 We've had a golden year of having all four of our kids's families living in one city. Not so golden that they're all in our city, but we do have a tiny apartment in theirs, and if we time the commute well, we can be door-to-door in under four hours. It's been well worth the time of that travelling to watch the four, their partners, and their little girls build their relationships through this rich stage of their lives. I've been moved, over and over, to see the love and trust and joy exchanged between uncles, aunts, and nieces. Loving each other's kids has made brothers-in-law into brothers, sister-in-law into sister, in ways that transcend the already good relationships that existed before Nola transformed us all.

But the one constant in life is change, as we all know, and Nola's uncle, our son, is moving back, with his very pregnant wife, to build a family life in another island city from ours. They own a home there which they've rented out while they took on different positions within their respective companies, but as much as they've enjoyed getting to know the bigger city and being closer to some of the family, they miss a broad and deep social network they enjoyed in City # 3. And, of course, their own place, which they've already begun imagining with its second bedroom transformed into a nursery. . . .

Hattie (trying on a hat, appropriately, discovered in the outerwear piled on the bed by guests at a recent gathering) will miss her aunt's gentle play, her uncle's teasing. . . .
But golden years don't last forever. . . .
And young families need to forge their own way (we moved a two days' drive from our families when we were about the same age; those seven years in a small northern town forged our family in many important ways.). . .

We'll just have to work a bit harder at gathering the tribe at one of the three points of a triangle of cities. So that the two little ones below, one sitting happily in her uncle's lap, another in her mama's belly, can hang out under tables and tell silly jokes. Soon our three little girls pictured here will be joined by two more cousins and our clan will perhaps spread out even further.
 Puzzling, this last year or so, over the rift in my husband's family, I watch our young families carefully. and I try to chart a course wisely between the reefs of Interference and the dangerous cliffs of Complacence. I hope that as Elder Parents and as Grandparents, we'll be able to host many more happy gatherings over many more years. And many of those, I hope, will be golden. . . .

 This is the season, isn't it, of family gathering? I'm curious: do you see much need to facilitate  the connections in your family? Who takes on that role? My father used to phone, often, to remind me that it was this brother or that sister's birthday. It used to bemuse me, his habit, especially since I was actually quite good about remembering all those dates, but now I understand better what he was doing. Did your parents nudge you and your siblings together? And was that a good or an annoying thing? Do you do something similar for your own young folk? Or, if you're still "the young folk," do you like the social management or would you like us to "just back off"? I know, I know, you're out there braving the hordes for one last gift, picking up an important ingredient for that Christmas Eve specialty. But if you have a minute, I'd love to read your thoughts. Happy pre-Christmas weekend! And son. . . . Happy Moving. Take Care. Momma loves you! 

22 comments:

  1. My MIL was the "center point" of our family for so many years, and after her death a few years ago we're still figuring out how to keep those family traditions and connections going, but in a way that makes sense in our lives. We've actually become closer to her brother and his family, who we see more often now than before. There's that push-pull from everyone of not wanting traditions to change but not wanting to be the one(s) to pick up the heavy oar of rowing the same course. There are no small children in our family now (and none in the immediate future) so the holiday celebrations are less structured.

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    1. That's exactly right, the push-pull -- we want traditions that hold us together but neither do we want the constraints and obligations of the work they often require. It's wonderful that you've drawn closer to your MIL's brother and family in the wake of her going. . . (I so liked your MIL, that visit we had years ago)

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  2. I'm the oldest of 10 siblings, and we are widely dispersed from our origins in Michigan. I have siblings in Arizona, South Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, as well as a few still in Michigan. And I've been on the east coast (Boston and New York) for 40 years. For the past 17 years we've had family reunions every two years, lasting a week, held at a resort on the west side of Michigan (Lake Michigan coast, one of the most beautiful places in the world). These are wonderful times, and all of our children (and now some grandchildren) treasure them. When I was 24, and thought it would be a great idea to move to a distant city (after the 1972 election, when I headed to that small blue state in a sea of red), I didn't realize that the time would come when I would regret having moved so far from my family, and extended family, including over 100 first cousins. I now have good friends in Boston and NY, and a (step)daughter and three grandchildren in Boston, so even if I moved back to MI I would be far from people I love. Watching relationships form between my children and their cousins, aunts, and uncles, has been a joy. I wish you well, Frances, with your growing family! I know what you mean about the reefs of interference. I often think that my daughter is fortunate that, with two sons only a few years older than her children, my husband and I are far too busy to even think of interfering!

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    1. I'm the oldest of 10 (12 originally) as well, Marie! You don't meet our like often. My parents were both from large families as well, but family reunions were never as well-organized as yours. What a good idea having them so regularly and for an entire week in a great spot. I sympathize with your dilemma -- we, too, have moved away from home and one soon develops new roots so that wrenching happens one way or another. Luckily, these days, travelling and staying connected is so much easier than when my father sailed away from his family in England to begin a family in Canada 60+ years ago. . .

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  3. Families ... I often wish mine was closer. I was raised by a depressive mother who seemed to enjoy playing my sister and I off against each other. We have thus never been close. My four children rub along quite well but the older three have scattered a little now and although we can usually pull them all together for the important dates they lead such busy lives that simple get togethers must be planned far in advance. When the first of the next generation turns up in May I will be interested to see how the realtionships change. I am certainly looking forward to seeing my sons and daughters take on the roles of aunt and uncles.

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    1. Families are so idealized that it's tough when they fall short -- I'm sorry you and your sister aren't close, but I imagine this may be the case as often as the more photogenic representations of sorority. It's tough trying to coordinate getting all four together, isn't it, all with such busy lives. I don't suppose we'll ever have it happen quite as often as it has this year, although I do think the pull of the little ones will have some effect for perhaps the next five or ten years. Fingers crossed.

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  4. We are having a get-together tomorrow at my Mum's. She needs to have her four children under one roof a few times a year. She's hosting and is very anxious about the family in her much smaller home. Nineteen year-old grand-daughter called to say that she's been invited to Whistler and Mum is disappointed but it is ever thus. My daughter is working Christmas, so we will open gifts on Boxing Day. My mum works very hard at keeping her children and those of her deceased sister together.

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    1. My sister and brother-in-law just hosted 32 of us in their condo (about 1200 sq. ft) and we squeezed 20 of us into our 500-sq ft. apartment. Noisy, crowded, and festive. Sweet that your Mum is still working to gather the family -- I suspect I'll be doing the same right into senility! Have a lovely day with your family.

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  5. A summer music festival offers the best chance to get us all together lately . The little ones love camping , we all enjoy breakfast in the early morning sunshine and there's no turkey to roast .

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    1. What q good idea. Music's such a wonderful way to connect.

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  6. I love the idea of all this. As an only daughter of an only daughter and an only grandmother on one side, and a father who was estranged from his much younger half brother on the other side, my family is small. My husband is also an only, although he does have the cousins I don't. So far our two sons and daughter-on-law are close so we try gently to make that last. We try to travel together at least once a year since no one is geographically close.
    Lynn

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    1. I love the idea of traveling together, which puts everyone on new and neutral territory, so that no one has to carry hosting responsibilities and there is such bonding to be had over new discoveries. ...

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  7. My immediate family is very small. I have one child, a daughter. We are very close, but live far from one another. We rarely get together for holidays, because of her work, but we feel that anytime we are together it is Christmas and Thanksgiving! We are fortunate to be able to get together about four times a year for a week or two at a time. My husband's family is very close and we see them often. I have one sister and after my Mom died ten years ago, we became closer than ever. Mom was our go-between and when we had to do it ourselves, we both became more deliberate about it. Interesting the dynamic and how things transition over time. Love your blog!

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    1. Some occupations make travel at Christmas a stressful and/or unmanageable proposition. So much wiser, then, to make a more flexible tradition as you have done.

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  8. I admire the warm family you have created. The great relationships between siblings and partners is an extension of your own love and wisdom. Merry Christmas my dear friend.

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    1. Ah, thank you so much for your kind, sweet words. Hugs and Merry Christmas back to you.

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  9. We have been enormously lucky that both of our adult children live in our new city, for the time being. One is engaged so there is that family to fold in and also to join, with their own complicated blended family history to navigate. The requirement for discretion yet honesty has surprised me and I'm hoping to manage this well- so far, so good.

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    1. I've loved watching the way your move into retirement also meant a move to an exciting new city, and made room for the changing family dynamics of your sons' adult lives. You seem to manage it all with great flair, warmth, and lashings of common sense.

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  10. Your words "I've been moved, over and over, to see the love and trust and joy exchanged between uncles, aunts, and nieces. Loving each other's kids has made brothers-in-law into brothers, sister-in-law into sister, in ways that transcend the already good relationships that existed before Nola transformed us all" ring true here as well. At a recent 4 year old's birthday party, my favorite photo is the one of my son with his 2 1/2 year old niece, grinning at each other so companionably.

    I find that as my parents age (80 and 78) I'm the one who initiates family get togethers with my siblings. Perhaps because I'm the eldest (and, some would say, the bossiest). We'll be going over to the mainland after Christmas for dinner with my siblings and parents, and to spend one night in Vancouver seeing our daughter and SIL's new apartment.

    There are some rifts in my husband's family and I look at our children and their fairly close relationships and wonder how such a thing could ever happen. I have learned that issues won't go away unless addressed, and that some people prefer to keep their head in the sand. Families are complicated.

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    1. Many similarities between us, Lorrie. Your last paragraph captures well what haunts me. My in-laws put so much into their family, and what we're living now, our family rift, would have been an unimaginable horror to them. ... I certainly don't want to imagine it could happen between my four and their families. So I'd better make sure we didn't raise any ostriches! ;-)

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  11. I'm one of 4, and we have remained extremely close, despite our parents' divorce. How to facilitate? Both sets of step-parents have big houses with swimming pools:). My mother has enough space for most of us to sleep there, a few of us now stay in nearby hotels. My father does not, but, 3 of the 4 live nearby and gather often. I will say that we all took our time, moving 3000 miles away for college, and then finding out way back home over 5-10 years.

    In our culture, 8 hours away by car still feels close:).

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    1. My in-laws had a swimming pool as well, and it did make for some great gatherings. Your family relations sound ideal. Funny, I've lived away from family for years, but my relationships with siblings are probably closer than ever. Circling back, a good way to describe it. and it's true, 8 hours by car is no big deal (we were 20 hours' drive for 7 years), especially imagining continents apart...

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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