This is a shout out to people that host get-togethers, gatherings, family reunions, holiday affairs, and just good old-fashioned dinner parties. Having more than a couple of guests over makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed. Can you serve guests Ramen noodles? (Just kidding, I know you can’t because someone actually had to tell me in my early 20s that you couldn’t.)

Since losing our father just shy of a year ago, my brother has reminded me of how important it is to make sure family sees one another. And this wasn’t an easily-learned lesson. We’ve had some pretty good fights along the way. We don’t have a whole lot in common and were never super close — maybe because of our six year age difference — but he has a really good point. This Labor Day weekend he threw together a last minute barbeque that brought together our immediate family and our step-family. I don’t see my two step-sisters, their husbands, or their children very often – maybe once a year. My daughter doesn’t quite remember them from our last visit, so when I explained to her that I have two step-sisters, her 3.5 year old brain went right to Drizella and Anastasia. She couldn’t quite seem to wrap her mind around the fact that they were nice.

My step-nephews and niece are smart, well-rounded kids with plenty of culture. But they’ve never ridden ATVs or dirt bikes. Well, this weekend they had the chance to. And my step-father brought up a rocket with a parachute man; he and my brother hooked it up to a car battery to create a parachute man that has gone higher than any parachute man has probably ever gone. My brother got a trampoline a couple of days ago; my daughter and I spent most of the day on that. The neighbors’ dogs, who roam freely between their yards, came to visit and ran in the field with the kids all day.

And I got to catch up and laugh with my step-sisters, who are as different from each other as my sibling is from me. We were able to share my-parents-are-drivin-me-nuts glances. We were able to relax and let the kids run wild and lose their minds.

I forget how important it is for my daughter to spend time with her cousins, especially being an only child. I tend to get wrapped up in my own little nuclear family, stressing about the limited time that the weekends allow. I sometimes find it annoying to have to spread ourselves between other people, as terrible and selfish as this sounds. But this is my family, my daughter’s family, for better or worse. And getting to know one another teaches us about ourselves, where we came from. I know plenty of people who have family issues or conflicts — minor or major. And some stuff is just insurmountable, so this is not my attempt at a recommendation to mend all of your fences.

But I appreciated my brother’s efforts to reach out.

And if it weren’t for those of you that plan and orchestrate these events to bring people together, well, there probably wouldn’t be memories and pictures and family bonding. And just plain getting to know each other as adults. My Dad would have been happy to see my brother and I getting along so well.

“If you don’t believe in ghosts, you’ve never been to a family reunion.” ~Ashleigh Brilliant

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