Stephanie and I were sitting on the couch watching Parenthood on TiVo last week and in one of the scenes, the entire family had gotten together to spend a routine evening together. While the parents were in the kitchen washing the dishes, cleaning up and talking about a new boyfriend who had been invited to join them, Stephanie turned to me and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have regular family dinners like that?”
“We do, Stephanie,” I replied.
“No, Doug,” she said forlornly. “You know what I mean.”
“I do and we have them,” I said as the commercial break ended and the show started again.
Ever since Stephanie’s mother passed away, some of our family members have dispersed like dandelions in the wind. Kathy was the glue that kept those traditions alive and made sure routine dinners as well as holiday celebrations were the foundation for a cohesive family unit. Since her passing, life has scattered many of the family members to the four corners of the universe for one reason or another.
I understand that my explanation of how and why those familial bonds have tethered is rather simplistic but the sentiment over her yearning to have what her mother believed was the cornerstone of the family was not lost on me. I did know what she meant, but I also meant what I said. We have created our own celebrations and although it may not be “traditional,” it was important to our family nonetheless.
Stephanie drove into Boston last Wednesday to take a licensing exam that, if passed, would allow her to move another step higher on her career lattice. She had been studying for weeks and she was nervous about passing because it had been more than a decade since she had studied the theories and the principles of social work in her Master’s program. She had worked really hard in the weeks leading up to the test to make sure she knew all of the material but as the day finally arrived, I could tell she was still unsure of whether she had studied enough.
As she nervously drove away, the kids and I decided to make a Turkey dinner with all of the fixings to celebrate her accomplishments. Whether or not she passed was irrelevant, we wanted to recognize all of her hard work while spending a nice evening at home. As soon as her car was out of sight, the kids and I went right to work to prepare a feast in her honor.
The phone rang a few hours later. I looked at the caller ID and saw Stephanie’s cell phone number pop up. As I answered the call, Stephanie excitedly yelled into the receiver, “I passed!!!”
She not only passed, she passed with flying colors! I congratulated her and when I hung up the phone, I immediately called Angie and Bill to come help us celebrate Stephanie’s latest achievement. We picked up another friends son from preschool and when they made it to our house later in the evening, we made sure they stayed for dinner.
And for the rest of the evening, we celebrated, reminisced, toasted the future and had a wonderful evening with our extended family members while all of the kids played nicely together. Like a scene out of the show Parenthood, it was just another routine evening when our extended family members descended upon our house to celebrate the latest accomplishment of a sister.
While I was finishing the dishes, Stephanie came down the stairs after putting Chloe to bed and walked into the kitchen. “Thank you, sweetie,” she said. “Tonight was a lot of fun.”
“Well, that’s what we do when someone in our family has something to celebrate. We invite our family members to celebrate with us.”
“I’m going to miss them,” she said softly.
“They will come visit us but more importantly, we have family members waiting to celebrate with us on the other end as well.”
Stephanie smiled and kissed me, “We are truly blessed, aren’t we?!”
And she is right, we are blessed. We have the best of both worlds. We have great family members who are separated by distance who constantly support us and all of our decisions even though we can’t spend those daily moments with them. And we also have people in our neighborhood who have become an extension of our family. It’s what happens in a global society. As our sprig of the dandelion in the wind landed in the grass in our corner of the world and took root, we added to our family tree. And our family is truly blessed by the additions we have made to our family tree throughout the years.