Do you remember the conversation at IntrepidCat's Bat Mitzvah?
We were standing in the hallway, waiting for Daddooooo to be found for the family picture. Not a surprise, waiting for my Dad. The world's most easily distractable human, it wasn't unusual that he was missing. The picture had been his idea, but that, of course, made no difference. He was lost, not where he should be, having an adventure someplace other than where we were waiting. G'ma was stewing and steaming and looking for him. It was strangely comforting to have this little domestic dispute at the end of a lovely family gathering.
His absence gave you all time to realize that every one of his grandchildren was standing in the same place.
We couldn't come up with the last time that had happened. There was the mid-1990's, when Daddooooo was going in for brain surgery and all but the California cousins - my kids - were gathered in Oceanside for a "Bye Bye Brain" party. One or the other of my kids managed to get to some of the other celebrations, most of the cousins were able to get to a Seder or two, in New Jersey or Maryland, but the whole crew never managed to travel to the far reaches of the continent where my family and I were dwelling and so this event, this homey and loving and simple and special party was truly a gathering of the clan.
You all liked one another. There wasn't any teasing or ostracizing or ignoring or pandering or poking... well, there was some poking but what else could we expect from 7 kids between the ages of 6 and 16? You were all wearing those wonderful T-shirts, created especially for the occasion.
Daddooooo was still MIA and you were all mindfully milling around and enjoying one another's idiosyncrasies and I was reminded of family gatherings when I was young. The Cohen Family met at Chanukah every year, all 8 of the still-living siblings of the oldest generation with their children and grand-children in tow. There were a lot of us - 141 cousins were counted at one point. We ran around and under and through the grown-ups, avoiding Aunt Evelyn's cheek-pinching fingers, enjoying Uncle Jack's slightly racy jokes, grabbing snacks from unsuspecting fingers and giggling away into the corner to savor our stolen treasure.
There was never a question of "when will we see them again?" - the holiday would come around next hear and we would pick right up where we left off. Time may have passed, but we would always be there.
And now, a generation later, we are scattered to the 4 winds. We are in Hong Kong and Los Angeles and South Carolina and Israel. Some of us are dead and some of us are ultra-religious but the last time I attended a gathering of that group there was animosity and jealousy and back-biting and annoyance. Perhaps those things had always been there, hidden from my purview. I wouldn't be surprised.
But that afternoon in Harrison, wandering between a country club and a backyard, surrounded by kids-who-had-grown-up-to-be-judgmental-adults, I longed for the care-free laughter of those holiday parties. We weren't looking for things to annoy us back then. We were just looking to annoy other people... older people... our relatives.
And here I was, 30 years or more later, the grown-up amongst young cousins, loving the scene. The kids were trying to get my goat, a phrase from those long ago parties that resonated still, decades later. Random tickles, bad jokes at my expense, secrets shared behind mouth-covering palms - the next generation was picking up where we had left off. I was in heaven.
And then one of you asked about the next time you'd all be together. The eldest were off to college and leaving for family gatherings would become even more complicated. Graduations would be celebrated, but many of them would occur during finals or vacations for one or more of you. Holidays would be celebrated within the bosom of your nuclear families; traveling to G'ma and Daddooooo's house for Thanksgiving was a tradition that never really took hold for us.
"A wedding," one of you said. You'd all show up for a wedding. And who would be first, one of you wondered? Big Cuter was the oldest but the consensus, without a pause or a hesitation or a bit of discussion, was LITTLE CUTER. She turned pink but the rest of you were certain. She had the social skills and the looks and the love to start the pathway towards the next generation.
I know you didn't think of that then, but I did. I saw you all as grown-ups, shepherding your own kids into the semblance of a loving portrait for the camera, just as I was attempting to do now that my own dad had finally reappeared. You were all shapes and sizes and you were looking to the future. You saw yourselves as connected and as a part of something on-going and wonderful. You were planning your future, and it was going to take place at my daughter's wedding.
And now she and SIR are up on The Knot. She's written the story of their meeting and their engagement. They've chosen a date and a venue and I want to alert you to watch your mailboxes for a Save The Date card.
We are expecting to see each and every one of you. After all, this plan was made years ago. And you promised.