Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"I am so happy."

When we reunite with my brother's family, I find myself soaking in every second of togetherness, hanging on every word, action, smile, kiss, hug and conversation. I want to capture it all and bottle it up so I can recall the smirks, nuances, laughter and grins months later. I commit to memory the peals of giggles as my brother, like an addict, searches for the cookies he bought earlier that day, thinking we all punked him better than Ashton Kutcher could ever dream as he peers in the same darned cupboards seven times over for the missing sweets. Which finally, it is determined, never made it out of the store in the first place.

I love seeing the cousins reunite, always tentative at first. How does one act around the relatives that we only see every few years? The knowledge that love is present and undeniable ultimately trumps the awkwardness that they feel, which lasts for all of thirty minutes. 
They enter the surf, connecting with the common goal of mastering the waves despite the unusual sensation of balancing on their feet as the sand evaporates beneath their toes, threatening an embarrassing fall in front of these forever friends.
Later the cousins join together in the hot tub, where in such close quarters there's no escaping real life conversations. I find myself eavesdropping on them, hearing Kahley provide the undeniable life lesson that "High School is going to be so much harder...just you wait, Jay." I smile, and walk away. Moments later, I hear reverberating laughter from the tub from all but my nephew. My auntie hairs raise and I come running to his defense, hollering: "Are you all being sweet and kind?"

"No. But that was the funniest thing I ever heard! Chloe just got him good!"

Ah. Sibling rivalry at it's finest. But Jay is still smiling, a good sport, willing to keep hanging with these cousin friends, knowing that he'll have a turn to jag back at some point. Sarcasm will find it's way through.
And with thirteen-year-old testosterone-filled boys,  it merely takes the hint of a bunny's ears to get someone back.
Jay. My first and only brilliant nephew. I cradled him in my arms when he was three months old. Every interaction with him involves a vacation - sometimes for me, sometimes for him, and in the best of conditions, for the both of us. He's introspective, just like his father, my big brother. He's quiet, but emerges from his inner sanctuary with each passing hour our families are together. He eats like no other human being I've ever known. He loves a good Pizza Roll. Or ninety. I think I shall mail him some for his next birthday. I love to watch him, when he doesn't realize that I'm doing so, and wonder what goes on in his head. He's a thinker, that one.

Then there's Chloe. My first and only spunky niece. She stole my heart the day I met her, just a few short weeks after she was born. When she was five, she gave me an amber colored plastic gemstone while we played makeup, much to her father's chagrin. I promised her I would carry it with me forever, in my makeup bag, to always remember her.
I still have the gem and show it to her as I apply her makeup once more, this time on the Southern Coast of California. She smiles at me, and steals my heart yet again.
Then serenades us with her mad violin skills, to the thrills and cheers of our family and surrounding neighbors, who offer up their applause for an encore.  I know how hard it can be to have an older brother. And if there's anything that I want Ms. Chloe to know, it's that she can go anywhere, do anything and be anything she wants to in this life of hers. Aunt Jennifer will always cheer her on, and encourage good makeup application.

Ah. My big brother.
Moody. Brooding. A self-proclaimed, introverted hermit. I've sought his affection and admiration my entire life, as most little sisters do.
Now I don't even have to coax a smile, or a shred of recognition or acceptance. He offers it freely, and I will delight in it forever.
I love him so.
My sister-in-law Kelly might as well be my soul sister. She is kind, quirky, crafty, intelligent, unassuming and possesses more patience than any other person on the face of the earth. We steal away whenever we're together, because yes, we want to talk about everyone else. About my mom and dad. About my Mr. Grumpypants big brother. About prankster Mr. Musky. About our kids. And everyone lets us do this, for a time. Then we all join together. And just....have so much fun. We don't waste time being petty or critical or judgmental. We just love.
And drink and eat and laugh and smile.

Outnumbered by their offspring, my parents just sit back on this trip, soaking in the sun and basking in watching the interaction between "the fruit of their loins," as my brother so eloquently states.
The first day we all reunite at the beach, my father, who sometimes has difficulty communicating his thoughts and feelings due to a stroke he suffered fifteen years ago, sums it up thoroughly to my mother as he watches us all play at the water's edge.

"I am so happy."

Sometimes the fewest, simplest words are best.

In the end, when I really think about it, I don't hate that my brother's family lives so far away. In retrospect, I actually love it. Because when we are together, we relish in every single moment. I closed my eyes often on this trip, remembering a feeling, hearing everyone in the room laughing at Mr. Lost Cookie Boy, or the exchange between uncle and niece as he blows wind.


"You know Chloe, everyone farts."

"Sheesh, Uncle Tony! I know that, but you don't have to be so LOUD about it!" She shakes her head in disgust, and rolls her eyes. "Ugh. Chicago people."

And I can't wait...I simply cannot wait, to be with them again.



  1. Smiling through the tears, memories of our youth at the forefront of my mind. So proud of all of you, your beautiful children, and your amazing parents who showed me the true meaning of family from a very young age. "I am so happy" reading this memoir.

  2. I keep forgetting to comment on this one - and I have to. This is my favorite so far, although it is hard to choose a favorite from the wedding dress bawl fest, the big fish dork incident, or from any of the cabin adventures. You are so gifted and I'm going to start sharing your blog more widely. For all of us who have amazing, varied, wonderful, crazy "families of origin", this vacation story captures the heart squeezing joy of simply "hanging out" with our loved ones. Your pictures help tell the story (John is still that sexy-brooding-handsome guy he always has been - hi John) and both of you married beautiful people and created beautiful families... Anyway, love love love this one. Keep em comin' Jen!