We were up at my brother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving yesterday.
For a lot of people I know, this would be the dictionary definition of Hell. Not visiting my brother-in-law specifically – most of those people have never even met him, and really, he's a perfectly fine person – but rather the idea of spending an entire holiday with their own family. For many of my friends that would be a minefield of political arguments, general insensitivity toward food allergies, passive-aggressive and aggressive-aggressive treatment, and other forms of grinding aggravation that all adds up to a general wish to be anywhere else with pretty much anyone else, up to and including Congressional hearings.
Me? We had a fine time.
Of all the things I am thankful for in this world – a long list, actually – the fact that I actually enjoy spending time with the many branches of my family ranks right up there at the top. My various in-laws are great people. They have accepted me into their lives and I enjoy seeing them. There are things we have in common and things that we don’t, but we don’t get too worked up over the latter stuff. People are people. If you treat them well and they treat you well in return, the rest is just details.
There was a horde of folks there yesterday, actually. My brother-in-law and his wife and five kids. My sister-in-law’s parents and siblings. Various cousins whose relationships I have never been able to keep straight. Kim’s parents. The four of us. It was a full house, and as you’d expect with that many kids running around, a loud one.
We ate and were glad in each other’s company.
And next month I will get to do it again, this time with my side of the family as we gather together for Christmas. My parents are the sort of people I would want to hang out with even if we weren’t related. My brother and his family are wonderful. Sometimes my brother’s in-laws come down and we enjoy spending time with them too. I miss the years when my uncle’s side of the family would join us – the group simply got too large to get everyone together like that for holidays, as we kept adding marriages and children, so mostly they gather in Tennessee these days – but that’s how it goes. We have a good time when we do get to see each other, whenever that may be. There isn’t enough time in the day to have all the time I’d like to spend with my family, and we are too far apart these days.
I am surrounded by good people.
I am related to good people.
And if there is any gift I would like to pass along to my own children, it is that they continue to be surrounded by good people. That they know how their family is fun to be with and they actually would look forward to spending time with their various family members as much as I do.
It’s a hard world sometimes. Having family you enjoy being with – who are a refuge from that world rather than a representation of it – makes all the difference.