All About Family
It’s that time of year. The almost summer breezes and sunshine are here to stay. The landscape grows lush and full and the northern Indiana humidity is pushing the limits. When warm weather arrives, our house gets bigger. The back deck and the front porch turn into useable spaces. Most mornings will find us out back on the deck, sipping coffee and listening to the birdsong and the wind in the the leaves. I also make the rounds of our containers where baby cucumbers and tomatoes grow and pole beans are reaching for the heights. The extra space comes in handy as summer starts and outdoor gatherings begin.
The first reunion of the season is a big one: my siblings and I are gathering from points east and west and beyond. We see each other in smaller groups as we can. But we last met all together when my father died, eight years ago. Today, in honor of our mother’s 94th birthday, we come together again. The back deck turns into a great room where we eat brunch and supper and conversation flows freely. The four of us also spend a good two hours there, by ourselves, remembering, laughing, crying and listening.
When I joined the family as the youngest, we lived on a large rambling property in Belgium. In the front, large brick posts and a black iron wrought gate separated us from the main street. A circle drive bordered with buckeye and beech trees led us to the front door. The inside front hallway with its marble floor and high ceilings opened onto the downstairs rooms. With two kitchens, one on the main floor and one in the basement, and a dumbwaiter, my mother spent a lot of time preparing meals for our family, many guests and summer camps. And the attic was so large, we would roller skate on its smooth floors. Out back, there was room to run, and swing on swings and even hit a tennis ball on the old tennis court. The memories we made together were built on that house and its many activities and goings on. We lived through frights and lots of laughter. We had adventures and quiet reading times. We took care of animals and of each other. And somehow the bonds we formed in those first seven years of my life are the strongest on earth, nurtured by the love of our parents.
My mother and father were both very busy with their work, and yet they made room for family time, and allowed us each to grow into our terribly varied lives. As they modeled hospitality and understanding, they taught us that creating community wherever we might be is what really matters. So whether in Boston, Seattle, Brussels, Cairo, Madison, Philadelphia, Bloomington, Vienna, Barcelona or Goshen, how we treat others and how we connect to others continues to be our theme. I always knew that if I tried my best, that was what mattered.
When I look at my siblings, I see many variations of life. But no matter where these have taken us, whether we all agree or not, I know love is always a part of the equation. And it always takes me back to that big old house at Number 1, Place Communale in Ohain, Belgium. That is where love became flesh for me. As you gather this summer with friends or family or any variation thereof, I wish for you that love.