This week, my 6 siblings and I, living literally coast to coast, are gathering in the middle to celebrate our parent’s 56 years of marriage as well as my father’s life of 80% of a century, as my youngest daughter loves to tell him. Preparations for this occasion began last winter in the hope we could gather the 3 generations, no small goal in today’s busy busy lives. With the aid of computers, google calendar, conference lines, and a bit of compromising summer schedules, every single member of our family will be together, the ultimate gift for a man whose definition of family often was “all together”.
In the process of coming to agreements for the weekend celebration-the location, the activities, the menus-even when we would have the conference call for these discussions!-ghosts of childhood past mixed with the differences in lives chosen as adults. We not only learned where we still nursed hurts from our childhoods past, we also learned where what we thought of a sibling could be happily updated. And most importantly of all, we learned that “family” was being maintained and honored no longer by the patriarch of the family as much as by us 7 children through our active commitment to working together, even with ghosts and differences real.
It brought home once again, the power-and need-for rituals, perhaps even more so now in our world of speed and information. All 7 of us have lives full and rich with to-do lists large enough to fill years of time let alone a weekend. And yet, in wrestling with the issues of and compromising for, the commitment and details needed to gather in the mid(middle)west for honoring our parents, we chose again as adults to share time and space together again for creating and honoring our family.
Cultures have long understood the need for ritual gathering for the pleasures of the celebrations as well as our need as humans to gather in community for the guidance and support it offers as well. While we may no longer need to gather in order to see who among us needs supplies to make it through the winter, we certainly have not lost the need as humans to gather for offering-or receiving-food for our heart and soul.
So off we go to gather as family, honoring parents we are grateful to still be able to hug and kiss, and to take up the mantle of “family” from ones who have carried it so long and so well for us children. And by doing so, we are offering our children this gift of ritual of gathering we call family, imperfections and ghosts less important for now than the reminder that love and community are matters worth more of our time and less of our differences.