The Love of Family
Thank God for my sisters.
They always seem to rescue me, comfort me, be there for me just when I need them. I can turn to them with any and all problems. Even when I have a bad attitude and snap at little, insignificant things they are there holding out a hand to pull me up or in for a hug. Across thousands of miles, I know a voice at the other end of the phone will silence while I share and then soothe my frustration or despair. I can count on them for levity and inside jokes and anticipation or fear of what may come.
Today, my older sister swooped in and swept the kids off for an adventure. Ever the puzzle to the parents in our school district, we annually have a five day “winter break” over the MLK weekend. We parents are certainly not in need of a break, as we have just reestablished the early-morning and long-day school routines after the two-week holiday respite. Nonetheless, here we are, day two into five, and by the grace of my sister, I sit in my quiet and clean (for the moment) house, exercising my creativity and brain power. I am grateful—appreciative to have someone I can trust to spend quality time with my kids; thankful that she is willing to take the time to share experiences with them; grateful to be alone, writing, and refreshed when they return; and hopeful that my three heathens will transform into respectful, grateful, and behaved human children while they are with their aunt.
Over the holidays we were fortunate to spend time with my husband’s family and also with mine. There’s something about the time we spend, as my sister-in-law says, “making memories,” with family that is especially significant. These are the people who have been there for you and with you through it all. From the childhood escapades of swiping candy from a neighbor’s candy dish (and getting caught) and packing our suitcases to run away (but never traveling past the front porch), to writing and performing songs, inventing make-believe houses made of candy and half-boy/girl creatures, to my younger sister jumping on a plane to be there for me as I went into labor (and so many other times too), and now the planning of her wedding this May, we share a unique web nuances and experiences lived by only the group that we call family.
During our time together this holiday, we shared meals, exchanged gifts, watched football, played games, but mostly were just together. There was something calming and centering about being with family. There’s no show, no need to impress or entertain. There’s simply, this is who I am. But they already know and love us.
Growing up, my husband, Josh, and his family played a game called, “Pack or Buy.” It’s a how well do you know each other quiz about everything and everyone in the family. The goal was to see who could correctly predict the answer to any question about any family member. My father-in-law thought some of the questions were silly and so threw out the question of whether the kids would rather pack or buy lunch at school. The name stuck. And so do the memories.
We reenact Pack or Buy with our own kids and tried a few rounds at the family gathering this Christmas. While the questions have changed for the adult siblings, the connectivity it creates remains. Josh and his siblings laughed, recalling the questions they asked and answered and the time they spent together while playing the game throughout childhood. No matter how far-reaching we may be from those we love, it’s comforting to know that you’ve got someone who knows what you’ve been through, who you are, and will always be there going forward. That is family.
Unfortunately, there are family bonds that have been strained, injured, or neglected over the years. Some family members choose not to engage, others may not be able to, but the love remains. The memories, the connection, the desire to support and celebrate burn strong.
I am grateful for my sisters, brother, and my parents; my husband, his sisters, brother, and their spouses. Thank God for my husband’s parents who raised him to become the man he is today. Thank you for my cousins and for my friends who are like family. I am overcome for my children and my dogs who are my heart and feed and stir my spirit. I am appreciative for the connections and the reminders that we are all here for one another, faults and all, through thick, thin, and the swelling of impossible times. Thank God for my family that springs from blood and stretches to strangers who become beloved.