And Momma, brother-in-law, my 3 kids, son-in-law, nephew, his wife and sweet Baby Jack. Twelve of us!
Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!
What a wonderful weekend. I was at the beach, and I had my whole family with me. Yes, everyone who is immediately related to me was there. Life doesn’t get any better than this, y’all! Family is what it is all about.
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you as you are to them.” Desmond Tutu
We had a “Family Reunion” of sorts. We all made a special effort to go to Surfside Beach for a long weekend. Now that the kids are grown, it is not easy juggling so many different schedules, jobs, responsibilities, and driving distances to get everyone together. We celebrated my great nephew, Baby Jack’s 1st birthday, a week late, and Mom’s 88th birthday a couple of weeks early. We spent time on the beach, searched for and collected a boatload of wonderful shells, walked, strolled Baby Jack, talked, laughed, reminisced about our childhoods and those of all the kids, went out to dinner, and celebrated with a big dinner at my house Saturday night.
Sunday morning we had a family photo shoot. This time it was not me setting up the tripod, trying to get the timer set on the camera, and rushing back to my place in the pose. We had a professional photographer. After all, we need a good family portrait, pictures for Christmas cards, and photos to commemorate our time together! 9 am sharp – everyone was all dolled up, hair and makeup done, looking very stylish and groomed for our family portraits. I mean you would have thought we were having GLAMOUR SHOTS taken! (I know some of y’all had those done – I did!) So we go to the beach for the pictures, and trust me, we did not need a wind machine to get the blowing hair look. I think we had 50+ mph winds blowing. Even my brother-in-law’s short hair was standing up!
WHEW! After all that posing and modeling (and fighting the wind) we were starving. Headed to the pier, or what is left of it after Hurricane Matthew last October, for brunch outside at Surf Diner. They will be rebuilding this pier, thank heavens.
“No family is perfect. We argue. We fight. We even stop talking to each other at times, but in the end, family is family. The love will always be there.”
Our family is not perfect. We have not always gotten along. As kids, my sisters and I did not necessarily like each other. There are 5 years between us. That is a big age difference for kids. When my parents were backing out of the driveway to take my older sister to college, I was not out there waving goodbye like all the neighbors were (she was the first one to leave for college). No, I was moving my clothes and worldly possessions into her room! For the first time in my life I was getting a room to myself – being the middle child I always had to share a room with one of my sisters. And then there was the time my younger sister told this “troublesome” story to Mom about something she said I did, when actually, SHE was the one who had done it – NOT me! Yes, there have been some rough patches in our relationships and times we disagreed on things in a big way and were not speaking to each other. But no matter what, there’s nothing we would not do for each other. We are close. I have felt closer to, and depended on my sisters (and brother-in-law) this past year more than any other time in my life. But then again, tragedy in any manner always brings families closer.
My kids share a special relationship with each other. There are only 3 years separating them. They have been friends since birth. When they were in high school, the “senior” would drive the “freshman” to school. That was a great bonding experience for them. I remember my oldest daughter waiting patiently (NOT) on her younger sister, to leave for school. Three years later, my son (the youngest) would have the old Subaru warmed up, windshield scraped, sitting in it ready to roll… waiting on his sister to come out and drive them. Time was not as important to the middle child as it was to the oldest and youngest! They were in the same clubs in high school. Played some of the same sports. My son made the Varsity soccer team as a freshman and played with his sister’s senior guy friends who “took him in”. This was fun for both of them. My kids actually “liked” each other as well as loved each other and still do. For this I am so thankful. I have always stressed to them how important siblings are. And as y’all know, I adore and respect my kids and am so proud and thankful for the adults they have become. And I would do anything for them. Well, except allow dogs at the beach house. I have been in the dog house for that one!
“Being a family means you are part of something very wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life. No matter what.”
I want my children to know that I will always be there for them and they should be there for each other. They will always be loved more than they can ever imagine (until they have a child of their own). I asked my nephew and his wife this weekend if they ever thought they could love anyone/anything as much as they love Jack. No, they said. And they said they struggled to imagine how they could ever love another baby as much as they love Jack. I assured them that we’ve all experienced those same feelings and doubts. I told them that I even talked to my pediatrician about this same thing 30 years ago! And that as soon as my second child was born, all those loving feelings flooded over me once again. And again 3 years later with my third child. It is amazing. It is a love like no other. I remember my sweet Aunt Jewelle once telling me, “you can replace a husband, but you can never replace your child.” So true.
Our little family unit changed dynamics last year. I would have done anything for this NOT to have happened to my children. But it did. And we adapted. We are there for each other, talk to each other, and have fun things planned together. Life goes on.
“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”
Yes, there are friends who are as close to family as blood relatives. When we moved to Charlottesville, we knew no one. Not a soul. We were used to doing so much with my family who all lived within 10 minutes of us in NC. Saturday night dinner? Family cook out. Need a babysitter? Family right there. Where to sit in church? On the Holcomb family pew of course. Bless their heart if someone sat on OUR pew! All of a sudden I found myself in a big ocean without my floaties on! Luckily for me, most of my neighbors, especially my next door neighbors, were all without family locally too. So we became each other’s family. I remember one time I was traveling to Winston-Salem to a regional NCAA basketball tournament game where Carolina was playing (of course!). Got about 2 hours down the road and realized I did not have my basketball tickets. What to do? I called my next door neighbor who went into my house and found them right there on the kitchen island. And what did she say? “Where are you? OK. Turn around and I’ll start driving and meet you halfway.” And she did. No hesitation. We talked for about an hour on the phone until we actually met in the middle. How selfless was that?!? Another neighbor took my 2 younger kids home from elementary school one fall day while I was at the doctor’s office with my oldest, because the schools closed early due to flooding. (Nothing like the flooding in Houston – bless their hearts!). My daughter said “I think I just heard schools closed early on the radio” that was playing in the doctor’s office. “No way – it’s not snowing!” (Snow is the only reason schools closed in NC – even a dusting would close schools.) So I did not think about it at all until I got home and found out my kids were with my neighbors. I had wonderful neighbors.
“Family… Like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”
I am so thankful for our family weekend together. Eleven of us plus the baby. And as my Grandmother Isabel used to say, and Mom now says, if it weren’t for her, none of us would be here. So True! I remember my Grandmother in her later, alzheimer-ridden years asking me “Who’re your people?” to which I always responded “YOU’RE my people!” These were MY people, all of them, together this weekend. And I treasure and love them dearly.
So let “your people” know how much they mean to you. Don’t wait until it is too late. Make the effort to get together. These are the people who share your history. Your roots. Who love you and who you love unconditionally.
See you next week!