The last car turned out of the drive, leaving a puff of dust in its wake. I turned to my husband with a weary smile. “Another family night in the books.” We strolled along the pebbled walkway toward the open grill, passing through the smoky scent of hamburgers and brats that trickle through the gentle breeze. The playful grunts and whimpers of three dog friends pouncing between chickens and children still reverberate across the yard in my mind.
Four years ago, I tossed out the idea of family night, wondering if the notion would only fold up in an ever growing list of my goofy ideas. It did not make that list. Miraculously, a tradition bloomed that drew our blended group of four daughters, their husbands, children, and dogs to faithfully meet at our place every Thursday evening without fail. That is, until the strictest phases of the pandemic played out.
After the dust cleared, so to speak, as well as the virus in two of our family members, we resumed our mini-reunions complete with food and laughter, celebrations, and commiserations. That’s what families do. Common sense as well as a host of research tells us this much. The act of sharing and connecting through seasons of life lead us to form protective bonds to weather the storms we face. Human connection is powerful. Healthy child development is associated with multiple, close connections with caring adults. I admit that these traditions are just as vital to my own stage of life as I waltz through mid-life.
Sifting back through the evening I am still relishing in the flutter of eyelashes that drew a flock of gasps as we hovered around our newest family member, our three week old princess. Our seven-year-old grandson colored Spiderman alongside his aunt, while two little beauties in pig tails pranced through the room wrapped in long strands of discarded packing paper. They resembled Greek goddesses or possibly early visitors to a toga party. After dessert, we finally located three son-in-laws amongst dainty pillows on the swing bed of the front porch talking sports.
I sometimes worry that these nights won’t last; that the same old birthday banner and tall candle at birthday celebrations or the familiar chicken and dumplings or crockpot chili will disappoint. But, more importantly, I pray the connections will keep coming, the memories will keep rolling in, and the Thursday nights will stay a commitment until I pass the torch one day.
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