Every year, my grandpa’s side of the family gets together at the end(ish) of summer. Sometimes we call it a “family reunion”, other times we call it the “summer sizzle”, but really it’s just our annual summer appointment to hang out with each other. We head down to the coast and we barbecue and we watch the sun move from high in the sky to just above the horizon. It’s a good day. It’s always a good day.
But typical of any get together, there’s a beginning. The part where we are so happy to see each other but don’t always know where to start. We get together twice a year, so usually when the end of summer rolls around we haven’t seen each other since our holiday get together in December. So as we hug and smile and start our day together, we try to figure out where we’ve been and what we’ve done in the last eight months—which can be tricky, because sometimes it’s hard to remember what happened in the last eight days.
What stories do we have to share? What made us laugh or cry or shifted our perspective? Did we travel anywhere? Are we living somewhere new? How about those Dodgers? Is there any good gossip to spill?
Even with family, there can be that moment of nerves or awkwardness or pause as you skim through the days that have passed since you’ve last seen each other, through all the good and the bad, wondering where to start when someone says, how are you?
But the best part of family—or at least our family—is that there’s space for that. Space for pause, space for awkwardness, space for you to consider the question and how deep you want to go with it. Because in my family—my great, big family—there is always someone willing to lend an ear, or to gossip with, or to joke around with, or to sit quietly next to. No matter what you’re looking for, you can find it as you walk around the patio or stand in line for food or lounge around on the couch.
In my family, there is permission to just be. And that doesn’t come with a responsibility to say everything on your mind or tell every secret or have everything figured out. It doesn’t require you to always know what question to ask, or to necessarily say anything at all. In my family, and on this day, there is room to just embrace the love being offered, and to pass it on to the next person.
So even when things feel shy in the beginning, when we don’t quite know where to start, we know that in time—sometimes a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, sometimes as the sun makes it final descent—there will always be ease waiting on the other side.
And by the end of the day, when we’re all tired and a little dehydrated, when we’re no longer sitting up straight on the couches, but slouching into each other with feet propped up on knees and elbows tangled with elbows and heads resting in laps, we’re saying anything that comes to mind. We’re loose and we’re giggling and we’re delaying the end of the night. We’re sassy and we’re repeating inside jokes that took shape earlier in the day. We’re debriefing and we’re already planning when we’ll see each other again, because for the last eight hours we’ve been reminded of the ease that exists here, and we want to make plans to find it again, as soon as possible. Because after the small talk, we’re just us, we’re family. And that’s what makes it a good day.