We gather. Weekly, monthly, yearly. Every chance we get. In various places, configurations, groupings. Looking forward to these occasions, we count the days until the next one, make them up. They all have a different flavor.
Heading to the mountains in early November, we celebrate the Mama’s birthday. That is the excuse, but the real reason is to gather, to be together. Here, we are family, old friends, a rag-tag band of disparate folks who simply love each other in spite of our differences. Here, there is good food, prepared by many hands. My brother-in-law Brian causes smells to come from that kitchen, reeking of heaven, inviting bears. There is music, hymns, silly songs, old ones. Games of “Oh Hell”, our favorite card game played over coffee and Bloody Marys in the morning, over wine and martinis at night. There are hot tub confessions, validations, encouragement. Much laughter, connection. All of us, looking at the beautiful nature, saying “Oh”.
In a tradition we call “Friday Festivities”, we meet at my Mom’s house, bearing wine and appetizers, stories from the week past, every Friday night. We have done this for years. A big gathering in years past, now smaller since my sisters moved away. Sometimes it is just me and my parents, but it is still good, a connection that we depend on. We catch up, we need to.
A variation of Friday Festivities is Music Night, every month or so. Music lovers in this family, we open our doors to friends, neighbors. We play and sing, going around the room. In my own living room, this is some of the best music in Music City, y’all. Joe, my brother, writes some gorgeous words. My Dad sings, clear tenor, words he wrote, or old hymns, beautiful. When we are lucky, friends who are actually IN the music business join us, we have a good old time. We are just as happy when it is just the core of us, good food and good company, lovely voices, sounds going up to heaven.
In September, girls go to the beach for a week. Oh, this is the best week of the year. We pack into a little condo, fall into our roles. Someone goes to the store. My sister-in-law Sandy cooks fragrant meals, made with so much love. We smell the food, breathe it in. Someone cleans up, makes the coffee, loads the car with the beach paraphenalia, sets the table for cards, makes the mimosas. We girls are drawn in by the ocean, the calm, the company, our love for the food….for each other. As years go by, rituals are added, places to lunch. A wooden swing on a porch overlooking the ocean, a strong cup of coffee and a bagel. Good stories, laughter, family, friends. What a gathering.
On holidays, we gather. Christmas Eve, we meet at our church, we hold candles, hold hands. At the Mama’s house after, we have soup & cornbread & dessert. We hug, connect. Children run crazy, adults sit and talk. Feel the love. Christmas day, we meet for dinner, after long hours of cooking, preparing. We form a giant circle, holding hands, my Dad prays, kids antsy for the chocolate. The connection is palpable, electric. Children dance in circles, our future. They eat in our laps. Wrapping paper, ribbons & bows, everywhere.
This is a season of gatherings. In my family, I am grateful that they are often, that there is no need for a holiday for us to come together. I wish all of you the pleasure of gathering, for the joy it brings. For the closeness, the love.