Pickled Pigs' Feet, Y'all. Photo by Me, taken outside Gaffney, SC, 6-17-12.
Family is hard. That was my big take-away from this past weekend. We went down to Atlanta to visit my brother and his family and had a lovely time. They are lovely people. And still it was hard. It's hard to fit one family into another family's life. Assumptions are made in error. Expectations are misbegotten. Children who are trying to behave themselves get tired and act out because that's the only way they know how to say, Enough!
What saves us? Moments of generosity. The sudden understanding that what someone needs is a few minutes alone or a cold Coke or forgiveness. Humility. Baseball.
We left on Sunday feeling connected to my brother's family, feeling happy for our time together. And it occurred to me that being with family, like everything else worth doing, takes practice. We haven't been to Atlanta in a long time--usually we see the Atlanta folks at my parents' house in Kentucky--and as a result we made mistakes. Rookie errors.
We failed to take into account, for instance, the fact that no one in my brother's house really cooks. So a lot of time and energy went into planning on where to eat and what time we were going to eat and how we were going to get there (one car? two cars?). This doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you have kids, it is a big deal. You can't just whip up a quick meal to fill the stomach of a cranky child. The child gets crankier, tensions increase, the hosts bicker about the best place to go and how long it takes to get served ...
You get the idea.
So next time we'll know this, and we'll keep in mind that my sister-in-law gets frequent migraines, and my brother's probably going to work Saturday mornings, guests or not, because his job his demanding and that's just how it goes. Next time we'll keep this in mind and make our own plans for the morning. We're okay with that. We just didn't know.
Now we're getting ready for a trip to the beach. Right now I'm focusing on the ways it won't be perfect so that I can be pleasantly surprised, the way I was pleasantly surprised when Jack got stuck in the direct sun at brunch on Sunday and didn't complain or trade seats with the Man, who was sitting in the shade and offered to switch.
On our way back from Atlanta we stopped outside of Gaffney, SC, and bought peaches at this spot:
This is my favorite kind of place in the world. We bought a watermelon, too, and it had seeds. Lots of spitting going on around here, folks. Lots of spitting.