The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Family Holidays

Is there anything that is more laden with paradox than family holidays?  The tug between keeping things the same for the sake of tradition and custom and embracing the constant and inevitable changes is obvious.  Every year is different and yet every year is the same.  In my extended family, the holiday that has been staked out as the "traditional" one is Easter.  There are relatives I ONLY see at Easter and while some of the little details may be different every year, as well as those in attendance, many of the little and big details stay the same.  For both Teri and I, this past weekend was wrought with nostalgia...

Teri's oldest bio baby head (as I have taken to calling them) or her daughter, Ashley, turned 25 on Sunday.  A week ago, my oldest bio baby head, Lucy, turned 21.  Both Teri and I have felt some pretty intense pangs of nostalgia and bitter-sweetness over this wonderful and inevitable maturing.  It only seems a few years ago that they were bubbly little girls.  We don't really feel any older and where has the time gone?

In the days preceding Easter, as I was preparing things to take and we were figuring out what we'd bring to the big brunch feast, I had momentary reality lapses.  Wandering through the grocery store on Friday, I originally thought I'd make a couple big pans of cinnamon rolls (but when I did that last year, the early-attenders ate them all before everyone else arrived) but then decided that we'd make pies instead.  For an instant I thought, oh, Gramps will be happy we've brought a pie. A second later I reminded myself that Gramps has been dead for three years and while he would be quite impressed with Teri's pie baking talents, he hasn't ever eaten a piece.

Memories overlap like shadows with the moment that is.  Sitting next to Lucy at my Mom's on Sunday, I asked her if it seemed strange that her younger cousin, Emily, now had a baby?  She answered with an unequivocal YES.  After all, it seems only a few years ago that my kids and my brother's were also having big battles over who had control of the goat shed.  Now they are adults, building lives, and there is a whole new generation of little people I don't even really know wandering around eating candy and stealing black olives from my mother's brown relish dish.

There were times when I thought I heard my dad's voice or expected to see him standing in front of the fireplace when I walked into the living room (he, also, has been dead a couple years) and yet I was totally grounded in the now of the family incarnation.  Teri was there with me and that feels right.  The kids are the age they are and that feels right as well.  My sister is 40, my brother is a grandfather, I am a lesbian, my ever-perky grandmother is 84 and doesn't really look a day over 70.  There are new partners and spouses and kids and recipes.  I've watched as the food has gone from the jello salads and coffee cakes of my youth, to healthier fare in the 80s & 90s and now to delicious and amazing (and made with butter and chocolate and gravy and glaze) as we've all become wonderful cooks and bakers.

Nostalgia is an interesting gift, but I also think that getting to watch a family grow and expand is an amazing gift as well. There are stories of where the family came from and how things "used to be" but they hold a limited place.  I do believe that my memories of those people who are now gone were a way of honoring their ever-present place in the family tapestry while making room for all the new and change and evolution.  Thank goodness, in my family, there is always more room and when my 82-year-old great-aunt comes in the house and asks me "where's your girl?" (meaning Teri), I feel so grateful that this is the moment of time I get to inhabit.

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