Being the summer of me considering becoming a professional wildlife photographer, maine-ly because the critters keep showing up – miraculously – when I am actually carrying my camera, I was not at all surprised to see this guy rock up (literally) the other day when I was sitting in the Vampire Room* having coffee.
I named him Kevin.
Then we saw him again in another neighbor’s yard.
And then again across the cove.
And then we saw several of him, all at once, down by the water.
And all of a sudden, over the coming days, there were lots and lots of them, just wandering the neighborhood.
It was like a Kevin Family Reunion.
The Kevins have joined in several family gatherings happening on the street this week.
And it got me thinking.
There was a time in my life, for real, when the concept of a family reunion was so foreign to me that I thought it was a Hollywood thing.
Why on earth would an entire family choose to be together outside of the mandatory holiday gatherings of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter?
I also noticed an odd and coincidental phenomenon: The church was also trying to convince us that it was actually open each and every Sunday in between those holidays as well. So it came as a surprise to know that family gatherings and church gatherings seemed to take place, and kind of often, between holidays.
It would have been so easy, and I know it is so easy for many who have grown up in dysfunctional and/or broken families, to dismiss close families as contrived, fake.
To be suspicious of them.
And, of course, resentful.
It was commonplace, when I was growing up, to hear the adults in my life deriving a strange sense of glee when something went publicly wrong in a family they thought was ‘happy’. An unplanned pregnancy, perhaps. Or a kid caught with drugs.
And then there would be the ‘of course’ pronouncement, “See? No family is perfect.”
Even back then, that pronouncement seemed glib.
“Perfect” was unachievable. And lumping anything less than perfect into one big quagmatic ooze of sameness became a soothing salve for the dysfunctional soul.
I suppose I could have viewed these families through this cynical lens – I mean, I was trained for it – but I never did.
A family that worked better than mine did wasn’t something to be poo-poo’d. Those people had things to teach me!
I was a sponge.
I had the privilege of watching friends’ sisters irritating each other to the point of screaming and slap-fights over ‘borrowed’ burnt orange Gap corduroys, but eventually getting over it when the culprit gifted the victim one of her three coveted meatballs at dinner.
I saw innumerable threats to never speak to a mother or father again, due to some ‘completely unfair’ punishment, become a great family story later on.
I saw adult children roll their eyes, or even well up, at their parents for being old-fashioned or for having pushed a touchy emotional button.
And I saw college-aged kids completely dismiss traditions, religions, habits, and teachings from their childhoods.
It never occurred to so many of these people to turn away from their sisters or brothers or Moms or Dads or grandparents. They figured out how to navigate their relationships in a way that kept them connected.
And they wanted to hang out with these people.
Even in between holidays.
Like, on purpose.
Which brings me back to the Kevins.
The Kevin Family Reunion began as my own kids showed up here, we’ve had a houseful for a few days.
At the same time the house across the cove had somewhere between 40 and 50 family members in for their own reunion.
The house across the street is full-up too.
Same with a few houses down the street on either side of us.
Kids and grandkids screaming with glee (as they plunge into frigid ocean water, considered ‘warm’ in Maine in August) and parents and grandparents laughing and playing games are sending glorious sounds wafting through the salty air.
Family shenanigans and histories and memories-yet-to-be have landed, appropriately enough, right here on Landing Road this week.
And none of it – none of it – is “perfect”.
But a lot of it is awesome.
No, not every family works. Not every family can.
Mine, the one I was born into, didn’t.
I could have projected the faults and darknesses of my own circumstances onto the rest of the world, having grown up that way.
But that would have been the act of a closed heart and mind.
I don’t know what forces were at work way back then, to open me up to what was possible. To cause me to pay attention to what could be.
But I am grateful for it. And if I could bottle it, I’d share it liberally.
I just now watched a kid and a black lab simultaneously cannonball into the water, from a dock across the cove. They screamed and barked (I think the dog did the barking) while a heap of fellow humans – some short, some tall, some young-ish, some old-ish – wHooped and clapped and laughed.
And I have a huge smile on my face.
I’m so glad I believed.
Thanks for readin’.
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*The Vampire Room is a room, off of the living room at The Inn, that – when the sun goes down and the windows shift to matte black – looks shockingly like a miniature version of a chandelier’d and paneled room Bella Lugosi would welcome you into for a drink.
A drink for him, not you.