I snapped this family photo this past weekend and every time I look at it, furtively during a meeting, scrolling through my phone or catch it on Facebook, my heart explodes. It isn't because it is a classically styled, family Christmas card-esque image. Most of us are in bathing suits, my sister and I are squinting and the dogs look like they are plotting an escape. My wrinkles have wrinkles, my leopard bathing suit totally clashes with my sister's nautical towel and my stepdad's face is shrouded in shade.
But home explosions come from what this picture means to me. It represents a break, a pause, a chance for some family time. It was my stepdad's birthday on Friday- somehow, in the midst of moving, packing and living life in Toronto, my husband, sister and I managed to align schedules and get up north in time for a celebratory dinner. The rest of the weekend was absolutely sublime, with a family trip to an anchorage five hours away, where we barbecued, jumped off the boat, laughed our faces off and drank more wine than water.
The "kids" (husband, sister and I) took on the food buying, prepping and cooking, while the eating duties were shared with my parents. We went all out, emailing ideas and selecting some of the best food possible. There was even a SPREADSHEET schedule. But we decided that for a man who has everything, the best birthday present is steak (and sandwiches and eggs and bacon and cheese and prosciutto) and family.
With a plan and a menu, with everyone pitching in, it was one of the best weekends we have had as a family in a long time. Distance, work and other commitments get in the way sometimes, making priorities very fuzzy. The stress of our recent move threw us out of communication and relationships were tested. Things were getting hairy in the family unit, and it wasn't just because three of the five of us are ladies.
I think that one of the most important takeaways was that I acted like an adult. For the longest time, I went up to my parents' and fell easily into the kid role. Oh sure- I did help out, bitched about mortgages and talked about work, but I was still the kid. There was always an expectation that my parents would be the parents- make the plans, choose the food, do the work.
It is shocking that I still expected things to go my way.
This time, everyone around the table had their adult pants on. We were equals, pitching in and helping out. There was communication about what we would eat, group decisions on what we would do and a fair share of roles divvied up between us. I think we all moved to a new level this weekend, one where we communicated with ease and enjoyed each other's company.
Cue the heart explosions.