Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Post No. 2

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.


Heather said...

I agree. It is hard when two families get together for a while. Each family has their own rhythm and routines. I always love it when we get together with others, and I also love it when we are home again or they go home and we can get back to real life.

Pom Pom said...

I know what you mean. One time we spent a few days at the beach with Bill's family. The sister-in-law is a fabulous cook but she had to work so I remember eating sugary cereal for breakfast because I was starving (I think I was nursing). Food is a big deal when you are a house guest.I vote for staying in hotels.
I hope you have a wonderful time at the beach. Soak it up for me, okay? Write a poem!

Angela said...

Pickled Pig's Feet AND coated tofu? What an esoteric diet you enjoy!!

I love my own family [and my in-laws too]but share the struggle of 'slotting in' when we are all together. I think if we saw each other more often it might be easier. And like you, have been incredibly proud of my kids behaviour when things are strange and different and less comfortable than we would like.

It is RAINING here. AGAIN. I shall take solace at my sewing machine. blessings x

Tracy said...

We have family members we can spend weeks with....and others that spending a few hours is more than enough. Our 3 weeks with one of Dh's brothers when we visited them in Colorado was magnificent. We weren't ready to come home yet! I suspect that level of comfort with another family is hard to come by.

wayside wanderer said...

You really put this well, graciously and yet, there it is. The truth of the matter. We've experienced this, too. Short visits are best. :) The thing I learned on our trip to my moms: Make sure the morning coffee is caffeinated. It is not nice to deprive the unsuspecting of their caffeine.

I hope you have a lovely, enjoyable trip to the beach. Wish I was going.

Gumbo Lily said...

Mixing families is difficult. Everybody is used to different foods, different snacks, different routines and then mix it up. Yikes! It is refreshing to hear that you recognized this and were able to be gracious amidst the difficulties and not become bitter.

I would love to see the South like you just shared. Love it!


GretchenJoanna said...

You've said it all so well, Frances, and didn't even use the word *grace,* which is what you all were learning to give. Thank you for a wonderful post.

Jo said...

What fabulous roadhouse stands you visited. Hope you bought a lot of peaches!

Life is a never ending chain of opportunities to become a better person, isn't it?

magsmcc said...

This is why I love you, Frances. (We've just had a let's drive round both sets of grandparents Sunday.) This is how I know I might survive my children surviving me surviving the summer, which starts for us in 3.5 school days. There is hope. There's hasn't been torrential rain in two days. There has been rain, obviously, this being Ireland and all, but it hasn't flooded patios or carried away caravans in Wales. And I'm not going away to a caravan in Wales. And there is you. Reporting. On hope!

Susan said...

There's nothing quite like family. And nothing like a place that sells P-nuts. Both deserve our patience and acceptance as is. No changing them; no need to try. No, sir.