I’ve almost got something figured out. I almost do. About family vs. friends. Last week my husband, Sam, and I met at a restaurant with his family for the annual holiday dinner. Three brothers, one sister and spouses made eight people sitting on a long table with white cloth tablecloth and flickering lights. After initial hellos, you look greats and studiously selecting dinner choices, their voices and laughter went into second gear. I heard the sounds of talk over mealtimes I’ve heard at family gatherings for close to forty years.
Amazing how you can be away from it for six months or years and when you return it can still sound like an old Beatles recording of “All You Need is Love,” playing in the background. I don’t know what my family would sound like at such a dinner table. It is more tattered, though it also loved. Decades have passed without all members of my generation sitting at the same table.
So here is what I might have figured out: Well, no, it isn’t. I typed that last sentence, stopped and that’s the end of it. My mind went blank. But this is the step I’m on and maybe it’s one forward, but it could be back.
When I returned home from the dinner with Sam’s family I was feeling very sentimental and full of appreciation. I appreciate their history as family, how they have managed and sometimes mismanaged each other, how they have just assumed I was part of it. How they easily interact with each other after months of absence and they never, I mean this, never, have meanly picked at each other at gatherings. Their plentiful good humor wells from a teasing that respects boundaries and differences.
Through the decades, I’ve crafted a network of friends with some success. Having Sam at my side has helped. This is an area I have learned from him. I have a collection of “brain” friends, “fun” friends, friends for travel, lunch, dinner, (breakfast friends I try to evolve to lunch friends), and “associate” friends in groups I belong to. All these people intermix into one big soup where sometimes you can’t tell the potatoes from the parsnips or turnips till you get a little closer.
I appreciate them, too. They somehow, magically, just accept I am there. I appreciate their history and that they work around my quirks.
Oh, yes, I think this was the conclusion I was trying to write. Family knows my quirks and shortcomings befallen from birth. Friends do not have as much of my history but they have a clearer view of the adult I have become. Dancing between these two stages is a miraculous opportunity to practice a next big dance move by playing with life and its expectations of giving, taking and enjoying, or mixing my metaphors, falling into the soup.