Family

After Regaling Us with Her Jokes, My Neice Still Has a Mischievous Twinkle in Her Eye.

Yesterday afternoon, while I was wrestling with last years tomato plants and bean vines, the phone rang and I jumped off the vegetable garden terrace down about four feet onto the asphalt driveway to run and get it. I kind of rolled my ankle and it hurt. I have a distinct memory of thinking, “why did I do that?”, as the house phone is rarely other than some form of solicitation these days. But I wasn’t thinking at the time, I was just responding… an old habit, I guess. The other thought that went through my head was, “this better be worth it!”. It was. My brother, who travels constantly, was calling to see if we could come have dinner with his family tonight.

On the infrequent occasions when we get together, the stories roll. I’m guessing my two big kids have probably heard a version of most of them by now, but the various versions of those stories give them glimpses into the past and they still sit, rapt, as we dredge up new and old material. Retelling stories, new details appear to flesh out the memories. My brother is four and a half years younger than I am, so close enough in age that we have mostly the same stories, but his version and mine are almost always different. Instead of this being a problem of whose story is who’s, though, it basically amounts to conflating and elaborating stories until we don’t know which memory we are even talking about.

Tonight we somehow got going on the “rat” stories from our childhood. I would have sworn there was only one incident in which Dad skewered the rat that was raiding our bread drawer, but clearly, after tonight’s recounting, there were two. That got Gillian going a story about my mother trying to kill a bat with a broom until an eight year old grand daughter looked horrified at the thought of hurting “another living thing”. And then there was the one about the chipmunk that Dad was sure was rabid…

On the way home, after spending the evening with their cousins, my kids said that my laugh sounded weird. They said I was laughing really loud. That made me a feel a little sad, because I think they were hearing the laugh that comes from a deep authentic place. Do I not laugh with the same energy at home? Do I let go and relax more in my brother’s house than in my own?

It feels good to sit and be with family with whom neither I, nor, as I told Gillian, any of us, need to pretend to be anything. If we’ve had a bad day or a good day, it makes no difference. Several of us had something on our mind tonight that got talked about in a kind, gentle, and helpful way. Gillian got her 8th grade cousin’s perspective on seventh grade girls. Robby gave his opinion on the high schools my nephew is considering attending next year. My niece got an appreciative audience for her jokes!

It had already been a long day. Last night was the first in many years (and hopefully the last) that I relived memories of getting up every hour all night long, which happened a only a few times with each baby when they were very tiny. Maybe it also happened a few more times later when one was burning up with fever, or running to and from the bathroom with a case of the stomach flu and needed help. No one was sick last night. There wasn’t even anything I needed to do, but between the five kids and two dogs, there wasn’t a chunk of time longer than one hour that I was asleep all night. There must have been three different bedtimes, all later than mine, which was not early, and each time someone was in the bathroom in the hall outside my door, the light went on and the door slammed. The girls in the basement chattered away until all hours. Charlotte fell asleep at some point without getting ready for bed, so she got up at 3 to brush her teeth. The dogs got up every time. They didn’t know what was going on. It was all a swirl. At 5:30 Sherlock sprinted downstairs. I stood by the back door waiting for him to take care of whatever business was so urgent with my head against the door jam and found myself sleeping standing up. It was painful.

Charlotte went back to college this morning. She’ll be home for the summer in two months. She will be finished with a year of college. One paragraph ago, I was remembering being up with her as a newborn.

I’m not sure that my sleep and resting efforts are getting a lot of help!

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