all in the family

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I am spending a few days with my nephew and his family. Well, he isn’t really my nephew because he isn’t the child of one of my siblings.  He is my husband’s nephew but to be honest I don’t distinguish that way. In the family tree he is a nephew and he and his amazing wife just had their fourth child. They had a son to add to their beautiful family of three daughters. My nephew is in the National Guard and his two weeks of active duty is falling right after they have added this fourth bundle of joy to their family.  They had asked if I would be willing to spend a few days helping out with the kids while he is away.  I said yes and actually came a couple of days early so I could see him.

Even though I didn’t have the luxury of spending hours and hours with him and his siblings as they grew up, I am receiving the priceless gift of a “grown up” relationship. My sister-in-law and her family have always lived half way across the country. They were in Kansas and we were in New York.  We made a two “treks” to Kansas and they would travel to NJ to visit my husband’s parents.  There were always Christmas  and birthday cards and gifts exchanged and telephone calls every now and then.  Unfortunately distance and the expense of travel, raising children and working doesn’t make frequent visits some thing that happens as often as you would.

When we got married, Bruce and I decided that Thanksgiving would be spent with “his side” one year and “my side” the next year. I have continued to alternate that way ever since we started that tradition.  The great thing about that is I have never cooked a turkey.  Even when my mom stopped hosting, my sister started hosting and her husband started cooking the turkey.  Four years ago I did host Thanksgiving at my home but my brother-in-law cooked the turkey. Two years ago I hosted at the Barn but my brother-in-law cooked the turkey again.

This past Thanksgiving was a Van Hine year.  As I started thinking on that I realized I couldn’t expect by 93-year-old mother-in-law to cook and I probably couldn’t get her to come to my house.  As I pondered the situation, I had a little thought that would become an amazing blessing.  I asked my mother-in-law if she would like to travel with me to Kansas to have Thanksgiving in her daughter’s home. First I mentioned this idea to my sister-in-law and she stated “mom will never travel to Kansas”.  I just had a thought that she would.  Last September my sister-in-law was in NJ and we went out to lunch with my mother-in-law.  And I asked my mother-in-law “Do you want to go to Kansas with me for Thanksgiving?” And without hesitation she said “Yes”. Wow – okay, road trip with mom. So I made our travel plans. Keep it simple was my goal. Non-stop, don’t fly too early, easy parking, request a wheelchair. After the plans were set, I explained to mom that I would drive to her home in South Jersey, spend the night and then we would drive to the Philadelphia Airport.  We would use a parking service that I had used before so it was simple.  Go to parking place, they drive you to the airport in your car so you don’t have to get out or move your luggage. And it worked.  But it more that worked because my sister-in-law and her hubby arranged with their kids and their families to all show up in Kansas over Thanksgiving weekend.

The day after Thanksgiving my mother-in-law got to see her 3 grandchildren, 2 of their spouses, 5 great granddaughters and 2 great grandsons.  It was busy and loud and wonderful.  And I got to reconnect  and spend time with my nieces and nephews and thus the trip to Minnesota this week. So today I taught little girls ballet, played with playdoh, washed dishes, folded clothes, encouraged a tired mom and held a 2 week ago baby – it doesn’t get better than that.

One of the things on my bucket list is to take a train across country and visit family, friends and acquaintances along the way.  But I think I might just have to get on a plane in the next year to visit a niece and her family in Chicago, a nephew and his family in Fort Collins, and another new baby – my brother’s grandson due in a few weeks in South Carolina.  The great thing about family is those bonds that bind you together can always be strengthened by spending more time to together.  Airline ticket – $$$, first piece of luggage -$$, food on the plane – $, spending time with family – worth every penny.

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