“This is not the year to try to make things normal.”
That was in response to the unpleasant task of uninviting our friends to our annual Labor Day gathering at the cabin. Todd and Susan and family have never missed in 30 years, but the Same Time Next Year event was not meant to be this year. The feeling was mutual. Mingling two family circles was not wise.
These COVID times have certainly limited our connection with such friends. The ability to travel together, invite friends over for dinner and host them at our cabin suddenly evaporated. Fortunately, in its wake we still have family – the silver lining. Having extended our circle to include all our children and grandchildren back in late May, our greatest opportunities for socializing have centered around spending time with these loved ones.
Minus our friends, Labor Day weekend became a full family gathering. We still numbered eight adults and six children ranging in age from 9 months to 10 years. Thankfully, the weather allowed us to spend most of our time outdoors, sparing us from a juggling act in the cramped space of our modest cabin.
I love nothing more than being surrounded by all my children and their kids. I’m so grateful for the closeness of our bonds, and the fact that they all still enjoy one another and choose to spend time together. And yet, I’m conflicted. So many people and so little time to talk. I want quality visiting time with the adults, yet easily cave to the insistent pleas to join the little ones in their play, or read to them.
In the end, what lingers are memories of precious moments. Spontaneous snippets of time that fill my heart.
Little Michael’s infatuation with riding a tiny trike. Despite his limited vocabulary he easily cajoles several of us to join him. Time and time again down the little hill. He insists. Points to illustrate his instructions. I laugh so hard my stomach hurts.
Ben’s excitement and determination to master the art of rowing – a prerequisite to learning to pilot the little fishing boat and motor. Taught by none other than Dartmouth oarsman, Grandpa. The grin on his face when he succeeds. The invitation to be his passenger on his training runs.
Happy hour sprawled across the deck and beyond. Little fingers picking out only the green veggie straws. Adults with their favorite beverages. Two Elsa princesses in attendance. The cacophony of conversation swirling around me.
Pontoon rides. Wondering if we are over our weight limit. Redistributing passengers to keep the front afloat. Admonishing Grandpa when he exceeds cruising speed. Ogling cabins on the shore.
Carrying on the home-made ice cream tradition. Will it freeze this year? Yes! Best Oreo Mint ice cream ever.
The list goes on. Introducing young ones to the sauna, the “warm room.” 3-year-old Maren swimming in the lake with me, immune to the cold water. Baby Crosby army crawling across the lawn. Watching my kids parenting their kids, aunts and uncles spoiling them.
We certainly missed our friends. But I am thankful that to date COVID has allowed us to still come together as a family. Even more than normal.