This week’s stop is at the well of extended family. To be honest, it was just some of the extended family. I am the oldest of seven, my mother is the oldest of six, to get together with the aunts, uncles and cousins would mean over 60 people in one place. But for three days we did what we could with the time at our disposal.
To that end, we saw all the parents, some brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews ranging in age from 4 to 30 meaning the conversation veered from school to pop music to the New York Mets’ first no hitter. Then there was the raucous, impromptu dance party in my parents’ kitchen, which no doubt left their neighbors thinking some teenagers were having a kegger while the parents were away. (NB: The parents were away. The teenagers were all over 40.)
Come to think of it, the next party had dancing too. Well, I danced when I wasn’t bowling badly. The rest of the guests, not so much.
But above all of that there was laughter. So much laughter. Contagious, tear inducing, breath catching laughter. What set us off? Things that would make no sense in the retelling, but in the moment, linked every person in the room.
We spent a lot of years living far from our extended family, so Sunday dinners at the grandparents or impromptu cousin gatherings were the exception rather than the rule. We’d swoop in from Arizona, see as much family as we could in a week to 10 days, retelling our stories to a different audience each day. We would pack as much laughter and memories as we could into that time, enough to last the next six months to a year.
As a parent, it was fascinating to watch how our kids’ humor took people by surprise every single time we came back to the greater family. MDR and I knew that their intelligent, sly, skewed way of looking at life was the source of scores of dinners that left us grinning. It was our pleasure to see people who remembered our two being small, impressionable children reduced to helpless laughter by an off-kilter, yet precisely aimed comment.
At times, I’d worry that being so far away would in some way interfere with building relationships among the extended family. But somehow, they made an even greater impression by changing so much between visits and conversations were picked up easily every time we returned.
Raleigh is definitely closer to the family hub than Arizona, even though the drives need to be planned with surgical precision to avoid the potential boggy spots on the I-95 corridor. Being in the same time zone makes all the different in attitude. We’re not quite at the drop in or impromptu stage, but we are working on it.
Because it’s those echoes of hilarity that have me planning the next visit as the current one ends. Those echoes are the threads that wind us back here every single time. And they are the ones I will continue to weave in the narratives from the road.
Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.
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