Family Time

Winter                                     Waxing Moon of the Cold Month

Kate sees this trip as vacation; I don’t.  Family related travel, the bulk of what I do, has a different purpose and feel.  It’s about relationships and the hard work necessary to maintain them.  It has the flavor of duty, but duty in a positive, not an obligatory sense.   The hard work has its pleasures, yes, lifting Ruth up in the air as she giggles, helping Gabe push his toys around on the floor, but it also has its rough edges.  A relationship with a sister, troubled since birth, breaks bad in a new, more intense way after she becomes pregnant.

The parents of young children face a plethora of challenges, too, noise and activity levels after a hard day at work, insistent demands for attention, keeping the kids safe indoors and out, little time for themselves separately or together.   None of this is new, this is the ancientrail of child-rearing, but it is one meant to happen in an extended family.  In our case, as in so many, many others, children and grandchildren live in one state, grandparents, uncles and aunts live in another.

This means that much of the work of the extended family must happen in short bursts like this one for face to face time, and then over new technologies like Skype, less satisfying, but much better than the phone.  Face-to face  allows temperature taking, a sense of the lived reality of day-to-day life, while Skype gives a brief glimpse into a sometimes hectic moment.

None of this was ever meant to be easy and it’s not.  It is, at the same time, the most satisfying and long term work most of us have in this life; it certainly is in mine.

All of which is to say that I could use a vacation.  You know.  Turn off the cell phone.  Turn off the e-mail.  Stop the newspaper and the mail.  Board the dogs.  Get on a train and maybe a ship.  See something new or something outdoors.  Kick back.  Read.  Workout.  Climb on a ruin, or wander down a forest trail, see a new museum.  That sort of thing.

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