I’m alone with my thoughts and a blank page on January
2nd at 2 am. I’m trying to hold on to some of the tenderness, chaos, and reflection that this time of year brings, before the post-holiday blues set in. I may have missed it.
Time with family is rich, encouraging, stressful, draining, beautiful, awkward, strange, and affirming. The list could go on. And that is my tendency - to try and say everything I can about something. To tie every thread of life into some beautiful tapestry with some incredible lesson I’ve learned from it all (my last post was literally called “All of It” sooo…). But life quite often doesn’t work that way, so I am resisting that urge. I want to write about my family - about the peculiar closeness and unique love that I find with my siblings and parents.
I am fascinated by the delicate balance that is strived for when we bring so many siblings, siblings-in-law, adults, and children into the same world for a week. We all are on such different walks. We all have created rich and full lives entirely separate from one another. But yet we come together, once or twice a year. We sacrifice and we plan and coordinate to gather as one family, because family is important. There is no doubt about that. Are we there to catch up on what we’ve missed? Do we just pick up where we left off and don’t even bother with the impossible task of learning how everyone has gotten to where they are now? There is an awkwardness between those who are more secure and those who are less, between those who have kept up well and those who haven’t. And yet there is also a closeness and a desire to spend meaningful time together that can only come from growing through childhood together. A wealth of memories and references and inside jokes are revisited. New children and spouses are welcomed into the rich history of a love-filled, chaotic, and quite large family. Sometimes I sit back and wonder if it is worth all this craziness. But then I look again and marvel at the richness of familial bonds that transcend time and space.
It isn’t always easy or smooth. There is a large amount of stress on basically everyone as we work to accommodate each other. There are tensions from old wounds and the ever-present, wistful regret that these short times as a family are not enough to fill in all the gaps in our relationships. There are young children running around now, bringing so much joy and wonder but also new pressures and priorities. Sometimes I struggle to appreciate the rarity and value of our limited time together, but looking back I know that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
So here’s to family and all the beautiful, painful, wonderful, and trying things that come with it. I know that my life as the tenth of twelve children is different from others’ family experiences, to say the least. Every family is unique. Every family has its own flaws and blindspots - I am still learning mine. But this family gives me a love I will never lose. This family gives me a home I can always return to. A home I want to someday introduce my own wife to. A community I want all my friends to experience. An example I want to model my own family after.
Once again, words fail to adequately communicate the highs and the lows of the people we grow through life with. As we hear quite often in regards to family - it’s complicated - but the nice, soft baby-blanket that covers every complication is Love. So here I am again on January 12th at 1 am, finally tying up a few threads of thought and smiling at the memories of siblings, parents, nieces, nephews, cousins, and close friends, reminding myself how very blessed I am.