We’ve had a delightful holiday. Our sons and wife and girlfriend came from far away so we could all be together at Christmas. On the day after, nieces and their families arrived, making us a perpetual party of 19. For most of the summers of my sons’ lives, their cousins came to visit here in Door County, so it seemed right to gather again in this place, even if the water was not swimmable and the leaves were not green.
We had been together in the summer, but like so many places in this country this week, the temperatures outside were subzero. We had to scrap the plans for roasting s’mores in the firepit or even of building snowmen. We did take one fairly long hike of over an hour,
and we ventured out to the local tubing hill on another day.
Three of our heartiest went fat tire biking. On our last day together we walked to our favorite lighthouse across an icy causeway that was beautiful but soooo cold.
And so we spent most of our time inside. We played games and ate, played more games, and ate some more. We put together a puzzle, did a few crafts. Our adult children stayed up late with their cousins, just like they have done for most of their childhoods and teen years together, only this time the parents among them had to get up early. These people I loved as children have grown into adults that I admire.
New people have been added to our family: spouses, girlfriends, children.
As I watched our family interacting, I realized that one of the best things a family can do is let more people in. The women in my sons’ lives have made them better. My nieces’ children make us all happier. Among the 19 of us, there were the occasional irritations, differences of opinion, some tears. ( Really, isn’t that to be expected?) Yet even those, I’m convinced, can save us from the curse of being too fixed, too set in our ways.
We did some looking back- remembering old times, holidays past. But the better part was the new and continuing interactions, the realization that we can be different today than we were in the past and still be loved.
People change us, if we let them. New people change us more than old ones, perhaps because there are no well-worn patterns in which to fall, perhaps because doing things the way “we’ve always done it” isn’t a good reason for doing anything.
My children, et al, are back to their own lives in their own states, far from here. I’ve spent the day since they left soaking up the quiet and reading a book from start to finish.
I am grateful for the time we had together as a smaller family and then a bigger, extended one. Traditions are well and good, but nothing stays the same, and today, I’m very glad that’s true.