I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Family

Family reunion at our parents' home 1982
Taken almost thirty years ago, this picture shows our family and many of its offspring. The top row starting on the left, Pete and Norma Jean, and then Bob and my sister Markee standing next to them. My sister PJ's then-husband Ken and her two sons Joey and Jason surround Allison and my sister Fia in the next tier. Finally, the bottom five are my brother Buz holding his daughter Trish, me, and those two gorgeous hunks in the front are Peter, Norma Jean's son, and my long-gone son Chris.

At this moment in the early morning hours, I sit typing with my trusty laptop in the home of Buz and my sister-in-law Phyllis. Sleeping in the next room are Norma Jean, Allison and her daughter Lexie. Buz and Phyllis are asleep in their bed with their two little dogs Pixie and Bella. Counting me, we are eight souls starting our Sunday in Texas, on our way to a huge gathering on Tuesday of the siblings and our clan. This is all happening because Norma Jean has come to Texas to see her family after Pete's passing last month.

It is also the third trip I've taken in four months, with the longest hiatus in Florida with Norma Jean just a few weeks ago. I'm almost getting used to waking in a strange bed at all hours. I had barely gotten accustomed to being home when it was time to leave again. Hopefully when I return home on Wednesday, I won't need to be going anywhere for a while.

I arrived on Friday and had a chance to be with Buz and Phyllis for a day before Norma Jean, Allison and Lexie arrived yesterday afternoon. I went to bed early last night as usual and woke before everyone else, although I hear little Lexie beginning to make her morning sounds, so my Sunday will soon be consumed with family. Until then, however, I am thinking about the meaning of family.

The camera captured a moment in time that looks solid and real, but none of the people in that picture exists as they were then. Markee and Bob are parents to three teenagers now, and beautiful blond Fia is a grandmother, as is Norma Jean, and Allison (red and white shirt) is in her forties and the mother of a beautiful daughter. My son Chris died in 2002 of a heart attack. Peter is in Florida at Norma Jean's house dog-sitting and making home repairs. It's interesting that the person in the extreme upper left and extreme lower right are no longer alive, and I will always miss them both. It can't be helped, that's the way life is.

Family is important to me, I guess to most of us. Not many these days have as many siblings as I do, which makes for an incredibly large extended family. Years ago before the advent of email and the digital age, we sent around a family letter, with pictures and a hand-written or typed letter from each of us. When it came in the mail, you took your old letter out, read everyone's contribution and added a new one. Mama was still alive then and she also contributed a letter. This went on for a few years, before Pete decided to put together an electronic newsletter with everyone's contribution. We enjoyed that until Buz made us a private family blog on Wordpress, which he cleverly called "Sixlings," and everyone kept in touch there until the entire family joined Facebook. I now keep track of my extended family in that environment, complete with pictures and marveling at the exploits of my grand-nieces and -nephews.

At 68, I feel very fortunate to have the love and support of my five siblings and their families. We are all well and healthy enough to be able to gather here in Texas to celebrate and appreciate this moment in time, which is just that, a moment in time. I will capture it in pictures and will look at it in years to come, remembering this time and place, which will have moved on. My heart is full to overflowing with gratitude for this opportunity.

19 comments:

Teresa Evangeline said...

Beautifully written, Jan, and the way you bring the family together in this post is a real gift for them, too, I'm sure. It is interesting how the people that have passed are framing the photo in a way. I cannot imagine the loss of a child. You sound as though you've found a place of peace around it. I'm glad. You are such a neat person. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

Arti said...

This is a heart warming post... Just stumbled on to your blog and was fascinated by the pic, it is as they say 'One for the album'...
The description that you have written is also beautiful... God bless, have a nice day:-)

gigihawaii said...

Beautiful picture, beautiful words! I am amazed you keep up with your blogs despite having a family Facebook account. Many people (my daughter, especially) neglect their blogs, because FB consumes their attention. Pity.

Red said...

Great post. It fits all of us and makes us think about family relationship.
The last of my Dad's generation left us last year. We now become the "old" guys.
I still have an aunt on my mother's side.
Family reunions are awesome. Too bad we can't do them more often

Grandmother said...

Good for you for taking the time for family and cultivating the relationships that nourish you. Good for you for expressing the gratitude that fills our heart. It will all come back around and nourish the next generation.

Linda said...

This was a great post. Thanks for sharing!

Retired English Teacher said...

You are truly fortunate. The sibling bond that you all demonstrate is a testament to your parents ability to create a sustainable unity that still thrives today. That doesn't always happen. I'm sure you will remember and miss those who are gone while you enjoy those who remain. Celebrate both.

Whitney Lee said...

What a beautiful group. As sad as it is to have lost Chris and now Peter, it's almost amazing that everyone else is still around. We had a big group shot done at our wedding and I have it framed in my hallway. It's sad to see how many of those people are now gone, less than 9 years later. I definitely look forward to seeing the group shot from this years' reunion (I am certain you'll be taking one)!

Family means so many different things to me. You are right about most families having fewer siblings these days. As you know, it's just me and my sister. I think that's part of why we latched onto the cousin deal a few years back-we now do an annual gathering of the cousins. Our relationship is more like that of distant siblings than of cousins. For me, family is synonymous with laughter and support.

Enjoy your time with your family! Take lots of photos, please:)

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Your post makes me think. I also had five siblings... four now. There is some tension, and we don't keep up as well as we should. But you've given me some ideas for increasing communication using one or another electronic medium. And reminded me that I should value my extended family as much as I do my nuclear one, and the grandkids.

The Retired One said...

Wonderful that you can all get together and to keep in touch the way you are. Our family is trying to re-gather through more frequent visits and electronic emails now that we are retired and the "old guard" (Aunts and Uncles) passes.
We are going to attempt hosting a family reunion this summer too.

gayle said...

Have a wonderful time and take lots of pictures!

Anonymous said...

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#1Nana said...

As I've gotten older and my family has spread out the times we have all gotten together are even more precious. I hope you have a wonderful visit in Texas.

Arkansas Patti said...

How wonderful that you can all get together again, not just electronically but physically. Electronics is good by you can't beat touch.
So sorry two will be missing but only in the flesh, they will be in your hearts always.
Enjoy each other and take lost of pictures.

CrazyCris said...

That is a great photo of you guys!

Like you say, family reunions are important... and oh so hard to do! The last one we had with all of my dad's immediate family (my grandmother's descendants) was so long ago my youngest cousin (who is now a mom) hadn't been born! Later reunions for holidays someone was always missing (at her funeral it was me, stuck here in Spain). On my mom's side we managed a few at Christmas until my grandfather died a few years ago. We haven't been able to pull everyone together since then (almost managed last Spring).

Family is the most important part of my life, and I'm usually surprised when I come across people for whom it isn't so. I guess those of us who are blessed with an amazing family don't always realise how lucky we are, and (sadly) how rare it is becoming.

Your family seems to be wonderfully united and in touch. Enjoy the reunion! I'm sure it will be fabulous! ;o)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful reunion! Love the photo. It freezes a moment in time.
Trish

Star said...

That's a lovely family group DJan. I am looking forward to reading more about your reunion soon.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Hi DJan, You need this time with your siblings. Norma Jean probably needs it too..I hope you had lovely visit with them all:)

Shanae Branham said...

Sweet post! Family is so important. I am glad you have a big one to love and enjoy.