Monday, January 30, 2017

52 Stories: A Birthday, Gatherings and Family

I found some photos of a family gathering at our first house. From the ages of the children and my haircut, I am fairly certain this is Eric's birthday in 1990, so his 28th.

The official #52Stories question I found on FamilySearch had to do with what sacrifices your parents made to make holidays magical. Riffing off of that, these photos are special to me because they remind me of all the times my parents and siblings made the effort to gather together for birthdays and holidays.

These show a simple celebration, probably on a Sunday evening. I can see a couple of my brothers and my nephew, so I make the assumption that all the people living in Maryland at that time came over to wish Eric a happy birthday, so probably my folks, the 5 youngest siblings living at home, and my sister Stephanie with her husband and little boy. I love Eric's smile as he displays his gift, and the fact that he is letting Jeffrey help him open another one.

We loved being surrounded by family for the first years of our marriage, and now that we have no family nearby, it's more difficult to remember to invite people over who aren't related to make sure that occasions like this are marked. It's definitely not a forgone conclusion that Eric or I will have any kind of formal gathering for a birthday, especially one that includes cakes and dessert plates and the blowing out of candles.

My parents are just the best at supporting their children. They always set such a good example of being there for things, and they continue in that example even today. I have memories of so many Sunday night birthday parties for whomever was in the area, and Thanksgivings, church occasions, and all the rest. They made the effort to gather, and it showed us that gathering mattered.

In this time of my life, a lot of my ordinary gatherings are virtual, but they bring all the same joys. Every possible Sunday evening, we and our kids fire up the old Skype app and we video chat. Sometimes not everyone can get on, but that's okay, the habit is in place. It's always a moment of joy when one of the kids will initiate. "Are we chatting tonight?" is one of my favorite texts to see, because it means that this gathering matters to them, too. We joke and see the grand-girls and the grand-dog and exchange inside jokes. We tease each other and cheer each other on. It's so important to me. It's also very tender for me when local friends we love include us in their important gatherings. It creates a feeling of belonging that helps smooth the rough patches of life in a very real way for me.

About these photos: I had short hair! I haven't had hair that short in years. I got it cut short again when we lived in Georgia a year or so after this, but ever since I permanently gained almost 50 lbs after one of my pregnancies, I just couldn't deal with my round face and short hair, and it's been long or medium length almost ever since.

I was an avid maker of my own clothing back then, so I did make that dress. I loved floral prints, and this was most likely a Laura Ashley pattern. My memories are often based on sensory experiences, so I remember this fabric and the details of making the dress. Oh the puffed sleeves!

Our little house was full of old things. All our furniture was used, and some truly was antique. None of it was valuable, but I remember enjoying putting things together on our to make the house cozy. Blue and mauve were the colors of the day.

Johnathan had glorious hair from the time he was born. It seemed that if I cut it, it was grown back and hanging in his eyes the next day. When he was born it was dark auburn, but by the time he was this age--just over a year--it was strawberry blonde.

From the angle of the photos, and the fact that I am in them, I imagine that one of my little sisters or brothers took the photos, which warms my heart and makes me treasure them just a little more.

I am grateful for the way I was raised, which firmly established family as the basic building block of daily life. It was never a perfect family, but that is actually the point. An imperfect family that keeps trying to be a family will always be an important way for people to learn and grow into good adults.

This project is a bit desultory, I know, but I'm doing the work and recording the moments, and that is what matters to me. All these photos are now scanned, labeled and in an album, and that actually makes me want to jump up and cheer!

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