Back in the spring we had an idea to plan a family gathering. We knew it was going to be risky. Four adult offspring in different states with jobs and responsibilities can be hard to wrangle. We picked a time that J was still in country, before N headed out to California, that R would probably be between projects, and K could take time off. It almost worked.
Unfortunately, the time right before N went to California ended up being the time he was in quarantine before travel. Thankfully, we also decided to have him visit us in VA the weekend prior to his quarantine period, but the time in the mountains just would not pan out. We tried, we really did. Because even though N is full-vaccinated and he might have been able to make a quick couple days with late night flights and hopes that no one would be looking for him while he was gone, it wasn't worth the risk to his military career. Understandably so.
Instead, we spent one of our evenings with N over facetime, propped up on a floor lamp facing the TV and group JackBox on the screen. It wasn't perfect, but hopefully it broke up his quarantine boredom and it helped a fill the Marine shaped gap in our trip a tiny tiny bit. We had to accept that missing him was just going to be part of the trip.
The rest of the week was very loose. Everyone arrived when they were able. They brought significant others if they could. The house had plenty of rooms for everyone to have space to get away from the others. A movie room, a pool/game room, a firepit, a yard, a nearby trailhead, cubbies and hide-a-ways. Coffee was had on the deck in the morning, smores were had by the fire at night. Scrabble, Code Names, poker, Settlers of Catan were open to everyone and anyone could play or not. The only thing I asked was that everyone participate in making meals. Bec and Max made vegetarian tacos, K and Erich did vegetarian and meat lasagnas, Jonathon created fancy ramen bowls, Ian and I did omelets. And of course there was a night of leftovers.
But really, the week was meant for everyone to just destress. Nothing, even if there was some unintentional stress, was meant to be stressful. Mornings were lazy. We planned only 2 days of something outside the house - one day to go to Boone and complete an escape room, and another to go to the Banner Elk metropolis for an easy brunch. A quick note on the escape room - we do not recommend it. The room was OK, but the owner/game master was of the mindset that only he was the clever one and any team that escaped was not to be commended for their success. He was so dismissive before we even entered the room because we paid for two consecutive times and he was doubtful that we mortals could win in groups of 3 and 4, rather than all going in as a group of 7. Trust me when I say that the room was linear and there was not nearly enough for 4 people to do, much less 7. Anyway, the owner was not amused, and his form of "pride" seemed to come from stumping people and beating them, and not from folks having fun and escaping. ANYWAY...
The house was amazing. The getting there was harrowing for someone with a fear of heights, speed, tight turns, narrow roads, and darkness rolled into one. But the being there was awesome. Becca brought the Mokka, who got to bark at the woodchucks in the yard, the deer along the street, the echoes of other dogs barking, and then basically just lay in the sun outside for hours between pleading starvation. Some of us went for a short hike at the nearby trailhead. Most of the time was spent talking and playing games. There was a lot of pool. We just hung out, and hanging out with your grown "kids" is a lovely thing. I don't care how different we all are - and boy are we different - they are each and every one fascinating and fun people. They are fun to talk to.
They also have vastly different paths and plans, their memories are different, they see their world through different past experiences, hurts, and joys. Having the time to talk to them one on one and in groups, and more than that, knowing they are talking to each other without a parent around, really touches me. Our family is close in some ways and not close at all in other ways - and *newsflash* I'm and only child and I just Do Not Understand siblings. Siblings confuse me. I don't get how they are so different, nor do I understand how deep past hurts and misconceptions run and how those same things shape them. I understand that those things DO shape them, but I don't understand WHY they run so deep and more than that, are so long-lasting. I haven't experienced it, so I can never truly understand how my children feel towards each other and how they have formed each other.
I had a dog as a kid.
I'll add one more note that every time there are discussions with the childrens, I learn something. Mixed in with their hopes and trials is usually something about how I've failed them. That's OK, I have, I own that. As a parent you can't not fail your kids. Some of those failures were biggies with long-lasting repercussions. They are mistakes I cannot fix. It's a reality, it hurts, and their disappointment, frustration, anger, and struggle, hurt too. I love my kids especially for being able to tell me when and where I've screwed up. Do I get defensive? Yeah, sometimes that's a knee-jerk response that pops out, but I'm trying really hard to take what they tell me and study it. I made mistakes and a lot of times I didn't notice, and you can't get better if you don't even know you did it, so I thank my kids for showing me where I went wrong in parenting them - because what I did I did out of some sense of it being the right thing and as they've taught me, often it hurt and I didn't even know. I can't go back, but when they tell me what's weighing on them we can all go forward.
My kids are awesome. They are who they are, and I'm thankful they are my family.