Rel­ish­ing the re­union

Maryland Independent - - Southern Maryland Classified - Twitter: @right­meg

Look, not to brag: but as I’m writ­ing this, it’s 60 de­grees out­side. That’s sum­mer in Western New York — a fact my Buf­falo-born hus­band re­minds me of of­ten, par­tic­u­larly when we’re sweat­ing in 100-de­gree heat with 10,000 per­cent hu­mid­ity in South­ern Mary­land.

Though I’ll be back in the Old Line State by the time you read this, we’re cur­rently up on Chau­tauqua Lake vis­it­ing the ex­tended John­son fam­ily for the big re­union. My father-in­law is one of four chil­dren, all of whom have chil­dren of their own. And the next gen­er­a­tion af­ter that — which in­cludes our young son — is al­ready seven mem­bers strong. Com­bine this crew with ex­tended cousins, aunts and un­cles, spouses and sig­nif­i­cant others? Chaos. But the good kind. The best kind.

Spencer’s aunt and un­cle rented a beau­ti­fully-re­stored old home for a week with their fam­ily, and we came to crash on their first full day on the lake. We gath­ered Sun­day — some for the very first time; others for the first time in five years or longer — to eat, catch up and pose for lop­sided group pictures in which half the group is talk­ing, turned or tend­ing to a child.

As­sem­bled with Spencer’s ex­tended fam­ily with his grand­par­ents front and cen­ter, I looked out at a sea of cell­phones and cam­eras and felt grate­ful. I knew when I mar­ried Spencer that I lucked into a large, wel­com­ing, funny group — and I don’t take that for granted. I come from a close-knit fam­ily as well, but we’re a smaller tribe.

The John­sons? The John­sons are def­i­nitely a force to be reck­oned with. Like a cy­clone.

We’d been look­ing for­ward to this re­union for the bet­ter part of a year, though I’ve been wor­ry­ing about the eight-hour drive for just as long. Af­ter our rough flights at Christ­mas, we de­cided to save the money and make life “eas­ier” by driv­ing this trip.

Re­ally, it came down to stuff. We have quite a lot of it. There was no way to get it to New York without pay­ing ridicu­lous bag­gage or ship­ping fees, so the car was the best op­tion.

We did have a few melt­downs, but that was in­evitable. Thank­fully, most mirac­u­lously co­in­cided with rest stops or the ap­pear­ance of those beloved golden arches. In my day-to­day life, friends, I take McDon­ald’s for granted — but like a loyal friend, Mickey D’s is al­ways there when an an­gry tod­dler is close to shat­ter­ing your eardrums and you’ve needed to find a re­stroom for half an hour.

McDon­ald’s doesn’t ask ques­tions. McDon­ald’s un­der­stands.

We made it to my mother-and-father-in-law’s house in the woods by dinnertime. Af­ter pop­ping the trunk to drag in all the ac­cou­trements one tiny per­son needs, Oliver be­gan to ex­plore ev­ery nook, cranny and cord within reach. The John­sons had planned for a cu­ri­ous tod­dler, thank­fully. Ol­lie was im­pris­oned with baby gates in no time. Ah — just like home. On Sun­day, the walls of the lake house prac­ti­cally shook with all the laugh­ter, shriek­ing and gloat­ing af­ter cousin corn­hole tour­na­ments stretched into late af­ter­noon.

Oliver is the youngest of seven great-grand­chil­dren, and that kid sim­ply did not know where to look. He’s used to some ex­cite­ment with his day­care bud­dies, but hav­ing so many peo­ple in a tight space of­fer­ing smooches, toys and con­ver­sa­tion was over­whelm­ing. Ol­lie han­dled it well.

I don’t see Oliver in so­cial sit­u­a­tions too of­ten. We hear re­ports of how much he loves be­ing with other kid­dos, but I’m of­ten off writ­ing th­ese col­umns and not there to wit­ness it. But let me tell you: watch­ing your child reach out a pudgy hand to gen­tly tap the arm of a young cousin? He gives hugs to Spencer and me, sure, but this was dif­fer­ent. This was friendship.

But it’s cer­tainly not all sun­shine, cold drinks and cool breezes. Af­ter a great day with fam­ily, Oliver had an epic melt­down on our drive back to my in-laws’ home. He re­fused to sleep — at all. Just like our upall-night Outer Banks ad­ven­tures, be­ing away from home at bed­time does not agree with him. Or us.

I got frustrated. Ir­ri­tated. By 10 p.m., the hours-long tantrum my son was throw­ing had stopped be­ing cute — or even tol­er­a­ble — hours be­fore. It took my hus­band’s deep well of pa­tience, plenty of milk and the sooth­ing pres­ence of a mu­si­cal gi­raffe, but Oliver did fi­nally col­lapse in his pack-and-play. We peeked in to find him asleep side­ways with arms out­stretched, reach­ing for his an­i­mal. He doesn’t give up eas­ily.

But I didn’t want a rough night to color our other­wise glo­ri­ous day. With fam­ily ar­riv­ing from Ge­or­gia, Florida, North Carolina, Mary­land and In­di­ana, it’s un­likely we’ll all sit on the same sunny porch to­gether again for quite a while.

Good thing we have plenty of pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence.

Now, for the car ride home . . .

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.