Saturday, September 09, 2006
Yesterday was my grandmother's 80th birthday. We call her Oma -- growing up it was Oma and Poppop, Oma and Poppop. Poppop (Oma’s husband) died seven years ago, but he was with us today, in spirit -- I have no doubt about it. Nothing was more important to him than family, and for Oma, the biggest gift we could give her was all of us together. We (my mom, dad, Oma, and I) drove from North Carolina to New Jersey; my brother and his new wife flew in from California. My mom's two brothers and their families were here too -- all Oma's children, their spouses, and grandchildren.
I can hear my family downstairs -- my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. I can hear my Aunt Shirley laugh and someone is singing -- actually, several people are singing. Two TVs are on – cars race around a track on the big TV, and in the kitchen, chairs circle around a tiny TV playing a home decorating channel. I want to write about all I'm feeling in this moment, but i also want to go back downstairs and join everyone, be part of the noise, the semi-chaos, the energy.
So for now, I'll just say this: I'm grateful, grateful, grateful. I'm grateful that we all love each other so much, and perhaps more importantly, how much we like each other. I'm grateful that we all give good hugs. I'm grateful for the beautiful day, for how loud we are, for how accepted and loved I feel. The way we go back and forth, sarcastic, loving, funny, loud. I know I keep saying loud, but people are generally much quieter in the south. I don't mind it so much, but I'm aware of how much free-er I feel to be myself. It's like traveling to the home of my ancestors, speaking my mother tongue. Something in me relaxes and feels right, in a way that I don't quite feel otherwise, even though I've lived in the South for 28 of my 35 (almost 36) years and consider it home.
Not knowing when we would all be together again, Oma wanted us to take a group picture. I came downstairs all showered and clean, and I said, "Look, let's take the picture before I either get sweaty or spill food on myself." I told that joke several times and each time, a different family member laughed. (Telling jokes and stories over and over again seems to be a common family trait.) They laughed because it's true, though everyone also agreed it was a good idea.
There were several artistic directors for this photoshoot -- lots of ideas for how to fit fifteen people in the picture. We were laughing from the beginning -- Morgan, a sophmore in highschool, posing on a faux bearskin rug, plus all the adjustments it took to make it work, not to mention all the opinions that needed to be considered. We took three nice pictures, everyone smiling, and then Morgan and I posed as models on the floor. Everyone joined in, and the resulting photo is posted here.
This photo turned out to be Oma's favorite picture. Morgan said it best, and often, sort of laughing, but utterly serious -- "I love my family." I'm not sure everyone would get us, but we definitely get each other.