Every year is a winter family reunion. We see all of Scott’s sisters, even though they are scattered around the country. (The few years Susan didn’t come, she was living in a boat in the Bahamas. It would be very hard to hold that against her.)
We’ve grown to a crowd of twenty, and we descend upon go to his oldest sister’s house for a gigantically long weekend. Between one dinner with his mom and another (on a different night!) with his dad and stepmom, we have some three to four days of mad tea party carnival. And every year, it’s fucking amazing.
I stand in awe that Holly can host the lot of us, feed the lot of us, house most of us (our family stays in a hotel; her home and my sanity have their limits), make it all fun, and still somehow maintain her position as a vice-president in a company. I’d be locked in an asylum.
Her daughters are old enough to help. And we all try to bring something. But mostly that means Judy brings a bunch of food from six hours away, our family brings cookies from ten hours away, and Scott’s mom brings popular dinner dishes. Susan lives on the west coast. There isn’t much she can drag on an airplane.
This year, though, Holly and family got a highly contagious stomach bug the day before we were all due to arrive. Susan had already gotten in and so wound up as nursemaid. The rest of us avoided them like we were vampires dodging sunshine flavored garlic.
Caroline was crushed. She’s trapped in a world of expectations that reality can’t match this year. Everybody else adapted merrily on the fly. Judy re-routed to Cincinnati, and we planned two days of slapdash holiday.
Scott’s dad and stepmom live in an apartment, and we would never, if not for necessity, have tried to crowd four kids, one of them Sam, into that small space. But we did it this year. And we enjoyed them more than we dreamed possible.
Poor Holly had tons of food that went to waste because we couldn’t come. The day after we got together with Scott’s dad, the rest of us ate what Judy and Scott’s mom had prepared and exchanged gifts under his mom’s tree. The four youngest cousins (that term being relative, as Judy’s youngest is fourteen and our oldest is eleven) got to enjoy each other in a way they never have. And the adults. We sat still and talked. I could walk away and breathe (i.e., hide with a video game for ten minutes) without guilt.
Tons of other shit went wrong. We forgot half our gifts in Montgomery. Caroline spent several weepy hours proclaiming she had two holes in her heart where Holly’s daughters belong. Sam was … well, himself. And we had so much fun.
Next year, we’ll be back to the usual rumpus, and it will be better than ever for our having missed it this one time. It felt good to take a season off and move more slowly. It felt good to enjoy the family we had and teach Scott’s mom how to Skype with the ones we didn’t. It felt good for once to temporarily shrink the tribe.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.