LSS: Boatload of family

Everybody involved knows it could have gone either way.

With 18 family members spending six days and nights together — and what with family dynamics being what they are, let’s be real. It really could have gone either way.

But it was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

To celebrate, my parents — especially my mom — wanted our whole family (including children, spouses and kids) to be together for a week. After debate, discussions, compromises and a ratification process that surely rivaled the Geneva Convention, we settled on going on a cruise together. For a year, we’ve been making arrangements — that’s how long it takes to coordinate the schedules and make arrangements for 18 people to go on a weeklong adventure together.

Yet, other people do this all the time. Indeed, large groups of people do this all the time. All I have to say is that I tip my hat to whoever organizes all those family trips and cruises.

I handled the logistics of this one. Such planning is not for the faint of heart. Most of my family is either afraid of me or recognized that this was a chance to take it in and be, as my niece said, an “accommodator”. Fortunately, they had the good sense to refrain from offering any unsolicited critique or much in ways of complaining.

By the way, if you have a person in your family who seems to magically make all sorts of events happen, let me tell you, it’s not magic. It’s hard work. Hug them. (Who am I kidding?) Hug her. Send her flowers. Tell her she’s wonderful. Don’t complain if the cole slaw isn’t just how you like it. Getting all this stuff together and trying to make sure all the pieces and parts fit, the place is clean, everybody gets invited and gets there and not offend or aggravate anyone in the process requires energy.

I will admit I was nervous going into this trip. My expectations were not high.

Family dynamics in my family are like most families — they’re complicated.

For us, differences in political opinions transcend most of our interactions.

Yes, you’re right — that’s crazy. You are correct — people, especially families, shouldn’t let a little thing like politics cloud relationships. All I can say is that we’re trying not to let those issues creep in to discussions. We’ve been down that road before, and now we’re better. I believe when we’re together my family lives in a constant internal battle not to make assumptions or say off-handed comments that presume another’s views. We’ve all made this unspoken commitment to each other in order to remain as a cohesive family unit.

So, on this cruise, the 18 of us were on a boat big enough to do our own things as necessary and contained enough to get together often. Some of us met for trivia competitions. Some of us met by the pool. We cheered my baby brother on in the hairy chest competition. Before we had dinner together every evening, we gathered for at least an hour. My mom asked each of her children’s spouses to orchestrate simple programs about our family, offering a chance to honor one another and hopefully our children gathered some of the family history, as well.

We all took part in the programs — my parents, my brothers, their wives and all of our children and spouses. The gatherings were magical. They were beautiful. They were good for us. Adulthood gets in the way of families sometimes, doesn’t it? And that’s where our family had been for a while. After a week together, I feel a new kinship with each of them.

Even though none of us knew what the trip together would hold, my parents were right. A week together is exactly what my family needed.

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