I’ve started to think of family. . .whatever the configuration. . .as a story. There is a larger story of the extended family–ancestors and family history and traditions. Then there is the story of the immediate family–the daily things and events that make up the days and years of our lives together.
There is an amazing beauty, though, when the immediate family story is celebrated by the larger family. That is what happened for us over the weekend.
This is Amie (my niece) and Allen. In September they are going to have a baby girl, who they’ve named Delainey.
Stories are already swirling around Delainey. . .embracing her. . .claiming her as our own as well as Amie’s and Allen’s child. She cannot escape this and it is our fervent wish that she will one day embrace her parents’ story. . .and grandparents’ story and ultimately add her own. When we meet her we will delight in the retelling the story of her joining the family.
So the Great Grandmother, Lucy, declared that there should be a family shower and forty of us gathered together and posed for pictures to celebrate the new life being added to the family.
The pit was fired up for fajitas.
Games stations were set up because what is a shower without games. . .and this family can get pretty competitive. Here the object was to draw a picture of the baby on the paper plate on the top of your head.
The purpose of this game was to guess what kind of candy bar was melted into the diaper. (Dylan, who is almost four, absolutely refused to play–he couldn’t believe people were actually tasting things out of a diaper). It was funny to watch how seriously people considered each diaper tasting.
Of course when you are a member of such a large family, the child raising advice is never ending. A station for tips was a “must have”.
And even though Amie was adamant about NOT sitting around opening gifts (even requesting that nothing be wrapped), she had to bend to tradition and hold up each and every gift so that we (really just the women-folk) could coo and laugh and celebrate everything baby.
There was a lot of love and much thinking about Delainey in each gift, especially with the beautiful quilt that Amie’s Aunt Liz made for the baby.
And here’s my point: As much as Amie wanted this to be a low key baby shower with little attention being placed on her and Allen and the baby, we couldn’t do it.
We decorated with pink. . .we played games. . .we made her hold up each gift and acknowledge who it was from because in essence we were celebrating as a larger family the newest story maker. . .we were celebrating that the larger family story would continue to grow. I wanted to say to Amie, “Yes! This is a party for you. . .but mostly it is about Delainey becoming part of our story . .and that deserves the special attention of a celebration.”
As Lucy, matriarch of the family, ages and slows, there is a sense that these family stories are ours, the next in line, to carry on. Lucy has been an amazing family historian, documenting through word and object those things that have made her the person–daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother–that she is. She has been the center of the family’s story, with Delainey’s pending birth adding another offshoot of it, like the vines of a plant that shoot off of the root and start a new plant.
What the young children, and to a certain extent the teenagers who seem bored with the festivities, might not understand is that they are part of this story in ways that are life giving and, at times, restricting and binding. They erroneously think that their story will be totally different and separate and grander than the one that continually encircles them and weaves food and traditions and photographs and subplots around them. They won’t escape to live forever on that island of youthful perfection. You can start your own story. . .but you can never break from the one that you come from to begin with. Embrace it. Celebrate its craziness. See its goodness. Know that you are, in fact, carrying the plot forward.
Maybe one of Delainey’s gifts should have been a pen and a pad of paper.