Thanksgiving. That lovely holiday, with the family gathered around the table. Soft music plays in the background, snow gently falls outside. Dad is carving the succulent turkey while the children sit quietly in their seats, mouths watering. The conversation circles the table as each person describes the many things they have been thankful for this past year.
Thanksgiving, that hectic holiday. Mom is trying to gather the family, put the final touches on the dinner, pour the drinks, and carve the turkey, all at the same time. At one end of the table, Aunt Mattie is well into yet another stomach-turning description of her recent root canal. At the other end, Uncle Milt has clearly imbibed too much eggnog. Grandpa is complaining that the pouring rain is making his rheumatism flare up. The eight-year-old twins are poking one another with their forks and fighting over who will get the drumsticks, while the football game blares from the TV in the next room. No one has seen Dad in the several years since he ran off with that floozy account manager.
Who am I? What is important to me? What have I been up to recently (in terms of years), and what are my dreams?
Check out this photo from the early 1970’s of Pete (second from left) with his five siblings. Next month, for the first time ever, all six of them are all planning to get together, with their spouses, for a three-day family reunion. In addition, they’ve invited their dad (who will turn 90 later this year) and step-mom to join them. This is a Major Big Deal. One sister will be coming from Germany with her husband and one of their four kids. A brother and his wife are flying in from the east coast, and another brother-and-wife are coming from the west coast. Everyone is meeting here in Colorado.
The holidays are coming, and with them, the relatives.
For most of the year, we get to choose the people we hang out with. My close friends are my friends for a reason. I admire them, enjoy their company, trust them with my struggles and celebrate their successes. Usually, they meet a need in my own life—I have birding friends, gardening friends, “deep topics” friends and friends who provide an unending source of encouragement.
Relatives, on the other hand, just… are.
Sure, we pick our spouses. Parents, siblings, and extended family, on the other hand, we are stuck with. They just sort of come with the territory. We may enjoy some of these relations, but every family has at least one weird aunt, uncle, parent, whatever.