There are a number of November and December birthdays in our family, and I’m happy to be back in the area to celebrate them. Nephews and nieces are reaching major numeric milestones while their children – my great nephews and great nieces – move into their teens and twenties. I’m glad I’m not getting older. What I am glad about is how much our family has grown up over the years, not merely chronologically but emotionally and spiritually.
While it’s safe to say we did the best we could most of the time, there were also times when we let things get pretty ugly. Has your family ever been like that? I remember issues over who got some lamp, or one kid breaking another’s Christmas toy and his parents “did nothing,” or someone not showing up for mom’s birthday. (At least once that was me. The wind chill was 80 below and I just wasn’t going, especially after my car broke down on a frigid winter’s evening in what was then Black Panther territory. Excuse me!)
Or there was the time someone didn’t bring enough hot dogs for the cookout, or “he” used a harsh tone in telling “her” to be quiet, or mom decided we’d take our Christmas gifts to each other’s houses and the battles that ensued, or so-and-so invited someone from outside of the family (don’t ya love it.) That was an issue quite a few holidays. “Honestly, how can you call this a family gathering when she keeps inviting strangers.” Heaven help us.
But wait, there’s more. Unfortunately, too much to mention. There have been some seriously ugly confrontations. Our soft little egos or big fat ones, as the case may be, have caused us to get into some pretty big pots of sh-aving cream and stay there for a long time. We miss those who are still gone, protecting themselves from the old us.
On the other hand, I see a definite improvement over time. Including me. I learned to really forgive myself, pardon others and use what happened as a course correction. We’re here to learn, my brother once told me. I have learned that I’d rather be happy than right, that happiness goes along way. It’s something to be shared. It delights me to watch my family grow ever happier with time.
Walking along the Indiana Dunes Beach a few weeks ago, my niece Jenny told me she and her cousin Dave wished the family “could just get along.”
“Why can’t we just get along?” I wish that question guided every family gathering, every email, every phone conversation, everyday. For some of the children in our growing family that seems to be their mantra. I see that guiding them and our family going forward. We’re doing much better at just getting along.
So Happy Birthday to the November and December “babies” in our family. Congratulations on growing older and wiser, and showing our family how to do the same. We’re evolving into really good people. I’m happy for all of us.