And so we heal

I grew up as one of the lucky ones.

The youngest of six daughters in a house with paper thin walls. I grew up with curlers in the bathroom, a bevy of family birthday celebrations, a closetful of dress-up shoes to choose from when I wanted to play Nancy Drew or Charlie’s Angels. I was introduced to frosted lipstick and platform heels at a young age, with my mother none the wiser.

It was fun, the chaos.

My house was always packed for the holidays. We filled it on our own, with husbands and grandchildren, presents and laughter. My house was the one people wanted to visit. You couldn’t be lonely with my loud clan. And my parents generally made sure people weren’t—lonely, that is. We had many “strays” at our celebrations.

I just returned from visiting my raucous clan. A little less loud, more on the near side of tame as we age, we still gather. Mom and Dad are, sadly, gone so the celebrations have changed a bit. But we still gather—and as we gather, so we heal. Nevertheless, I am sad as I unpack my overstuffed suitcase.

This week, I got to do the things that make life “normal” for me. Chase my niece’s daughter around while chatting about everything from giraffes to cartoons– remembering doing the exact same thing with my niece a few decades ago. Listen to my youngest after his return from an NBA game, breathlessly excited about the hot dog and the pretzel and LeBron and oh yes—his older cousin, the one who took him and made said game an adventure. With tickets my sweet sister provided.

I got to meet old family friends for dinner and reminisce—with much laughter—about their parents who are now deceased but still fondly remembered. I got to eat my sister’s newest pie recipe and quibble with another of my siblings about who was now taller. Per usual, we argued over who was picking up the restaurant check—nearly arm wrestling each other to get to it. All of this is oh so normal in my world.

I don’t want to misrepresent. It’s not all sunshine, roses and pats on the back. When Dad died, there was some radio silence between some of my siblings for some time. We don’t always agree. We don’t always even like each other. But somewhere in there is love—dysfunctional as it is—and so we heal. When we gather, we heal. In the same way that gathering with a couple of my old college friends recently reminded me of who I once was—of the girl still inside of me—gathering with my family does the same.

There is something inexplicable and irreplaceable about being with people who knew you when you wore knee socks with shorts. People who saw your awful perms and are too quick to remind you of things you’d rather forget—like bowling trophies or old boyfriends. People who knew your father had a temper and hated people walking on his lawn—but had a heart of gold at his soft, squishy center.

My family does not always see how lucky they are. Most are still blooming where they were planted, en masse. I now get a taste, each year, of what it’s like not to be one of the lucky ones. I am bound here—away from my family–for the holidays, but see my sons for only an eve or a day so they can also spend time with my ex. I am now the stray that is invited to friends’ celebrations, or not. I now know what a quiet holiday feels like. Still foreign, to be honest.

Give me the chaos. And with it, give me the healing.

I know some of us have had to find our own tribes. Not everyone is born into one they can stand—or one that can stand them. But surely there is a gathering for each of us out there. And having had far too much of feeling tribeless, I truly think one of the ills that ails society as a whole is that we move fast and far from those who love us from Day One.

Find yourself a little controlled chaos this holiday. I recently wrote about Linda, a woman I met on the train who seemed lonely. Too many Lindas out there.  I still remember vividly my son and I dropping off holiday cookies last year to an elderly woman down the block. Her children were coming to see her on Christmas Day, traveling from other states. But, at 90-something, she was alone on Christmas Eve with a TV tray in a quiet house when we delivered our goodies.

That breaks my heart. This year, let’s create the gathering. And in doing so, hopefully the healing also.

Wishing you both as we begin this holiday season.

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29 Comments Add yours

  1. reocochran says:

    I better quit while I am ahead. My brother is younger. Sorry, I was with him from Wed night until late this afternoon at University Hospital in Cleveland. I should just head off to bed. Have a wonderful week ahead, K.

    1. candidkay says:

      Cleveland! My hometown:). University is a good hospital. I hope he is doing well!

  2. reocochran says:

    To clarify, my messy words, I meant to say I’m more in a different age bracket than you are, Kristine. 💐
    I still remain 18 months younger than my brother who is actually blessed, since had it not been Thanksgiving, we would not have known about his fall! 🕊

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m so glad the timing was the way it was–would never wish a fall on anyone but could have been so much worse! And I remember my mother being where you are–just showing up at my sisters’ houses with a small app or something. After years of a LOT of work:). It’s a blessed relief, I’m sure.

  3. reocochran says:

    I like how my family is rather noisy and “messy” with less Martha Stewart than I used to try and instill. 👑 🤗
    It has been quite strange with my brother only 18 months younger having a quadruple bypass heart surgery at age 54, now falling over Thanksgiving. . . Brain surgery to remove a blood clot. Yikes! I’m more in a different age bracket so at age 62, I suppose there will be my challenges.
    I miss having Home Central for over 25 years. I have to admit, at times now, I smile thinking I passed the baton on to my youngest brother, my oldest daughter and my only son. I rotate through and bring veggie tray or fruit tray or a nice pie or bakery cake. . . It is special to sit and watch, not always bustling around. 😀

  4. Beautiful dear K, and packed with truth and good sense.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Cynthia! I know you like to gather your tribe and I’m sure they look forward to it.

  5. Spyro says:

    Terrific post – coincidentally I am going to meet up with my extended family this weekend – I haven’t seen many of them for years – on the one hand I can’t wait, on the other I know we are not the same – but I remember the visits to them from my youth – these were some of my best times – of course my Aunt/Uncles, parents have past, but I carry those memories as I see my cousins – so yes – I can’t wait to this weekend – thank you – Spyro

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I love that you have that gathering to look forward to! I hope there is lots of joy and laughter included:).

  6. An Amazing big family you grew up in Kristine! And a great reminder to share our abundance of love and kindness with others less fortunate 💕💚💕Thank you

    1. candidkay says:

      Love big families:). I hope you’re looking forward to an amazing holiday season.

  7. Aunt Beulah says:

    I like the way you refer to large family gatherings as a time of healing, Kay, because that’s how I feel every time I’m with my many siblings and their offspring. It’s a relief to be with people who know so much about me — the good, the bad and the ugly — and love me nonetheless. Every word of this post rang true for me.

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s such a blessing, isn’t it? And this year seems one where a lot of us might need to gather and gain strength/heal, given what is going on in the world.

  8. Amy says:

    “And as we gather, so we heal.”

    Yes… and for those of us fortunate enough to have loving families, (however imperfect they may be), there is nothing like the happiness of reconnecting, all together and in one place. I’m glad you were able to plug in and recharge with your dear ones this Thanksgiving. I know your hours of family togetherness were too brief…

    Alas, life conspires to pull us all in unanticipated directions. Far-flung families have existed throughout time… I’m grateful that I, at least, am able to talk on the phone or FaceTime with our faraway children or my dear cousins. When I feel lonesome for my family, which is often, I remind myself how lucky I am to be blessed with people I love and dearly miss…

    I often reflect on those in the past who waved farewell to home and family and stepped aboard boats or covered wagons bound for distant lands. So many never saw parents or siblings again. Contact, if any, was limited to letters or postcards. I can’t imagine how difficult those goodbyes must have been.

    There are too many goodbyes in life and not enough hellos as we all scatter to the winds of circumstance…

    I agree with you that we should keep a weather eye out for those who are isolated, not just during the holidays but all through the year.

    As always, a thoughtful post from you.

    Hugs from me. xxoo

    1. candidkay says:

      And, as always from you, such a thoughtful response :-). I picture your home as a haven for your friends and family. You have such a beautiful, comforting, gentle spirit that I am sure it pervades your home. And I am sure that all those lucky enough to help you celebrate at the holidays feel it and are healed in someway. Wishing you a wonderful start to the holiday season, my friend! We have just hung the wreath on the outside of the house and I have a new Christmas tree on order. I can almost smell the cookies :-).

  9. Cindy says:

    Beautifully written & I can so relate! Thanks for the reminder to celebrate the little things!

    1. candidkay says:

      I hope you did that this week!

  10. cristi says:

    Being reminded of where we came from certainly helps us understand where we are, with gratitude usually. I was just thinking of something you said to me last year around this time. Something about keeping the holidays simple. I’ve never met you, but your voice is in my head…I kind of like that; and it helps me understand where I am, with gratitude. So thanks for the inspirations & blessings to you during all the gatherings!

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m so glad that anything I’ve written has stuck with you and been something that touched your heart or made you think. It’s why I write. I feel that we all need different things at different times. Being born and bred with the chaos, it’s my go to. But I also believe that quiet holidays are sometimes the most healing for those who need it. Wishing you whatever you desire this holiday season.

  11. markbialczak says:

    Happy days and lovely times to you and your boys, Kay. Thank you for sharing your special view on our world.

    1. candidkay says:

      And To your family also, Mark! I hope you are able to create a little joy in chaos this holiday season :-).

  12. Very beautiful Kristine. Only that love can touch regardless of what we are built from. We all have our ‘bits’ but it is in accepting therm regardless that show that this love is true ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh yes, Mark. It’s healing to be around people who know all of your messy bits and love you anyway :-).

  13. A lovely, poignant post Kristine. My house was never the chaotic house full of people, as I’m an only child, but in those days family got together every Sunday – first at my grandparents, then later shared between my parents and my mother’s brother. It fell off after a while and now our families rarely get together – quite often only for funerals, which is a shame.

    1. candidkay says:

      I hear you. Family Sunday dinners seem like such a healing tradition. And yet, so few people that I know do them anymore.

  14. bone&silver says:

    That’s a lovely post, and yes, while ‘family’ does not always mean the one we were born into, a gathering of your tribe is always healing and healthy fun. It’s grounding isn’t it? Like you reconnect with your place in the scheme of things? I cherish that feeling, & this post brought it back to me, thank you 😊🙏🏼 G

    1. candidkay says:

      Yes! Grounding is the perfect word. You are placed within the larger scheme of things but know who has your back:).

  15. So many things you write about in this post have prompted me to remember holidays with my own family. I wish you joy and chaos!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Right back ‘atcha:).

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