Last time I observed this vista it was late fall and Handsome Chef Boyfriend and I were headed to Brattleboro for a visit with his mum. Yesterday it was further afield for a celebratory sendoff in Massachusetts at the home of a sibling, whose daughter and her husband and young family will soon leave for a new life overseas. Big changes for everybody concerned. I tried to document the day as unobtrusively as possible, but I can’t pass up a chance for more storytelling.
I’ve landed smack-dab in the middle of a very big family of very good people, traversing many generations. This is not the first time HCB and I have joined this extended group to celebrate with them, nor will it be the last. And it has never been precisely the same combination of people twice; people have busy lives and come from far afield. But where this particular multi-generational family is concerned, everybody tries their best to get there.
There are lots of babies and toddlers right now. Which means lots of young parents. And some middle-ish ones. And grandparents, and even some great-grandparents. Big brothers, young sisters, nieces and nephews. Husbands and wives, widows and friends. Many generations in the same place, at the same time. For my part, I am still somewhat of an observer in this setting.
Yesterday I was thinking about a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote above the chalkboard in my tenth grade English classroom: The years teach much which the days never know. It occurred to me that this same bit of wisdom could hold true with a multi-generational family: there is love and enrichment to be found in every unit of a family, more still in the family as a whole. Young, sharp minds hold no sway over a lifetime of experience. Nor can that lifetime be complete without the tincture of youth to keep it alive. At least, that is what I would like to think.
Seeing my own child from infancy through his adolescence—in spite of the time I spent chiding him about various things throughout his rough-and-tumble teen years—pushed me outside my comfort zone and gave me an edge I would not otherwise have possessed. (And as he steps into grownup shoes there are signs he was actually listening to me on occasion.) In short, he made me a better teacher and thinker than I’d have been without him. I could not have foreseen that when I signed on to parenthood.
There was talking and listening yesterday, some of it loud and boisterous, some whispered. And envelope-pushing and discovery. And good food and company. And chiding. And wisdom flowing in many directions. The thumbprint of the past was there, and celebrated. And hope for the future was everywhere, unmistakable.
The only thing missing today was actual face time with my boy, but we had a nice check-in with each other, as we do most every day. And this, from HCB and his going-on-thirteen-year-old:
Surprise Mother’s Day geraniums, to keep me from stealing the ones outside a certain Vermont welcome center. It’s the kind of thing that is the domain of the older generations: if age bestows upon you the capacity to pick flowers out of other people’s gardens, as I have been told it does, then why not liberate entire pots of geraniums?
And anyway, there’s an attorney in this great, big ‘ol family, plus one in my own Tennessee family. So the way I see it, I’m covered.
Someday my grandchild will beseech me once again to tell about the time I was arrested for stealing the flowers. And I shall be happy to comply.