When I was a kid, our school district did not have “spring break”. Everyone else did, but we got “snow days” instead. And if we didn’t use up all five of our snow days, then maybe we could tack a little extra onto the easter weekend. But it was never a guarantee.
That never stopped us from loading up the van in mid-March to participate in the annual pilgrimage to Virginia for St. Patrick’s Day. We converged. Every year. It was always epic, and it was always worth it. The grown-ups had a different experience than we did. Of course. But I see in retrospect, that we gifted that time to each other. Take us to Virginia and let us run free with our cousins. Trust us. Let us work it all out. Let us get in over our heads. Let us party in the safety of our family. Let us learn that we gather to celebrate and honor heritage. Let us value tradition. Let us learn and practice the ties that bind us. Let us hug and let us laugh. Let us know each other so deeply that we love each other for life…..
This year, 2018, was a welcomed chance and opportunity to get it back together. A cousin announced his wish to shared sacred vows of love and commitment to the love he has found himself wonderfully and unexpectately embraced in. he invited us all to come. ALL OF US. To witness his great joy. To support him and choke back our tears of joy as he glowed in the comfort of love. Cause we’ve gotten together for other times too. For far too many funerals. For far too many sad times…
Spending St. Patrick’s Day weekend with the “Burnetts” at Allenberry Resort in 2018 is already a lifetime highlight. It was void of drama, and filled with love. Every smiling face I looked at, looked right back at me. We were all genuinely, authentically thrilled to be spending time and space together in celebration of love and family. It could not have been more perfect. I could not have been more grateful.
And that was not all…
I arrived via my first ever red-eye in DC at 5am. Mooch was there to scoop me up. He declined early morning breakfast, and we headed straight for his place instead. We spent the first few hours catching up, and then chose to nap. When we woke at 9am, Nora was at her prime. Through the marvelous inovations of Steve Jobs, I was no stranger to Nora. She immediately hung to my neck and scrunched her little fingers on my back. We were in love with each other. i suddenly have an even deeper understanding of what being an aunt means. I get to spend an entire day giggling with and squishing Nora.
The next afternoon, my aunt Ree arrives in perfect regalia. She is packed and loaded for a party-on-the-go. She informed us, as we were pulling out of Manassas, that it is appropriate to dress “irish” all month long. March is officialy Irish Heritage Month…it just isn’t promoted like the others, she says. I believe her. I’m sold. We will celebrate all month…which is close to what we already do…
Mooch and I hop in with Ree. We are officially road tripping. We scoop up Megs in Leesberg and I get a sneak peek at her place for the first time. We continue on, road tripping together to PA, to Mark’s wedding, making each other laugh and getting under each other’s skin. I am constantly patting myself on the back for the decision to drive to Denver to fly to Virginia to drive to Pennsylvania, to be with my family to hold up our own.
I know…I’m easy to please…I can find happiness under any rock. But the weekend at the Allenberry was a special kind of family love and happiness.
People try to point out to me all the time that the way we are doing is, as a family, is not the way everyone else is doing it.
I made a choice to plant my fresh roots in hardscrabble soil on the far side of the country from all the love and tradition that tethered everyone before me. I knew how strong the bonds were. I knew that geography could not affect the bind of the fabric our parents had intentionally thread. I had faith that love is all you need, and that I had plenty of it.
Since the day I set up my tent and staked my claim in Wyoming, I vowed to myself to always stay connected to “home”.
I have honored that promise. I have travelled “home” annually since I left the east coast. I do my best to make the entire loop. From PA through MD to VA or in reverse. It has always been the most important thing. When I see posts of Comeallya’s that I’m not around for, my heart aches and swells. So sad to miss it, so happy its occurring.
I got to ride from PA back to Coll’s with Ernie. And it was wonderful to have a real deal, real time check in. and it was even more wonderful to massage Schmull’s Chinese point #6 together and record her contractions.
And when Coll left for the hospital is was real nice to be in her space with Quinn and Alice and Nanny and Pa. and Mooch and Kathleen and Nora too. I have never been there the day-of…only a few days later, so I felt a little giddy and honored. and when the snow storm post-poned me for 2 days, I was thrilled. I got to have squishy Molly on me all the moments I could. Again, I had the overwhelming sensation of Aunt.
It’s a different kind of love, right?! Having an aunt, being an aunt. You share your DNA. You share your family patterning, you share your greatest strengths and your tragic flaws. You learn to completely let go of what you thought might be, and whole-heartedly embrace what is. It is a love I only half understood as a niece…and now grasp more fully as an aunt.
And to add just another feather in the hat of the m. effing fortune I am showered with, I volunteered to give up my seat on the plane for an $800 voucher. I got a $1,000 voucher and a ticket 4 hours later. In the meantime, Megs picked me back up, took me to the Green Turtle, insisted on the big beers, invited Sharon and Shellie, and dropped me back off at airport. It was the kind of winning all-around that had me high-fiving people in the boarding area.
To make the journey happen, I had to sell 60 yoga classes. I had to drive the 8+ hours to Denver and park in the faraway lot. I took my first red-eye and was welcome by the smile and hug of my brother. I got to spend St. Patrick’s day weekend with the family who defined it for me in the first place. With the cousins who knew that I could not watch Silver Spoons because I gave up Ricky Schroeder for Lent one year.
It was the best of all possible worlds. Molly came home during the storm that grounded me and I was able to be there. To hold her on my chest. To imprint. To be an aunt. To Molly. And to Alice. And to Quinn. And to Nora too. It was a real special time.
To live on the edge of it all comes with a fan of consequences. I’m am forever grateful that time spent in the love and good times of family has never been compromised. It is the most important thing. It will always remain the most important thing.
Love is all there is. Love is all there is.