The family that puns together

I just said farewell to my extended family, after several days of extreme togetherness for my grandmother’s funeral. We’re a farflung lot. We came from Boston, Minnesota, Iowa, Washington and California for the celebration of her life. I think that since my uncle enlisted in the Navy out of high school, the four siblings have never all lived in the same state. (Maybe briefly in the ’80s?) The far-flungness gets worse with my generation. (At one point, my family of birth lived in four households across all four continental US timezones.)

The four siblings - then and now
The four siblings – then and now

You might take from that an idea we don’t like each other. Nothing can be further from the truth. These people are awesome. They’re hilarious. Entire conversations were conducted entirely in pun. The jokes flew thick and fast. But, generally, they were kind jokes based on wordplay instead of insult. We spent a ton of time catching each other up on our lives – the full parts of them, including the complicated challenges and feelings. I’m related to some kind, intelligent people who are interesting to be around. They listen. I sometimes feel like I won the family lottery.

There are many ways the celebrate the life of a person who has died. With three pastors in the family, we did the funeral in grand style. (Although none of the three actually conducted the funeral. There was just a wealth of liturgical knowledge and some extremely moving speeches.) My aunt and I had a bit of a reunion tour – I rented a trumpet. She was often my accompanist in high school, and we played several pieces together which was awesome. Grandma had arranged much of her funeral (including picking her lavendar casket and the funeral home) but the only part of the service she’d specified was that my aunt sing “The Silver Cord” – a hymn I’d never heard before but which was a beautiful expression of faith. (I can’t believe there are Fanny Crosby hymns I don’t know! Few chances to learn them either – they’re no longer much sung.)

Rehearsing before the funeral
Rehearsing before the funeral

But in addition to the traditional services of the funeral, we remembered my grandmother – and each other – in other ways as well. We ate meals prepared with the loving hands of her daughters and daughters-in-law that were her favorites. We looked through pictures together. We told and heard stories of her, and the family. We read through some of her letters. We made jokes about a notebook that said “Ruth’s Notes” and was totally blank. (I used it to record the funeral planning.)

My favorite remembrance was heading up to a place that was very dear to her. A bunch of us went up to Yosemite to spend the day. Grandma had loved Yosemite, and a lot of the warmest stories came from camping trips (when she’d taken the FOUR kids up by herself, sometimes!) I am a mountain girl myself, and it was great to see the places of story in legend in real life. (The superb weather didn’t hurt either.) We even found the “Indian Caves” which have an oversized place in family mythology. It made my heart glad.

Can you spot the uncle and brother in this picture?
Can you spot the uncle and brother in this picture?

It was hard to take our leave of each other (despite the fact I am pretty sure we were all completely exhausted – it was as action-packed a funeral week as I could imagine). It was just that we enjoyed each other so much, and it’s hard to see how or when we might be together again. May we all be so lucky as to have families who we can spend a week in close quarters with and leave with only warm feelings and a wish to be together again soon.

Three cheers for Marmee!*

My mom has come out to visit. I know Holy Week might seem an odd time for a pastor to be a continent away, but Spring Break coincided with Holy Week this year and she is also a teacher, and so she came! My father is coming out in a week or two. My mother-in-law is coming out towards the end of April when I am going to FRANCE (and Amsterdam) for WORK with an agenda that has a bullet point for WHITE ASPARAGUS SEASON. This whole work thing is going fantastically, if you ask me.

Anyway, it’s sort of feast or famine with help for us. For reasons I’m still attempting to work out, our relatives are less inclined to visit us in February? Why on earth do people not feel downright DRAWN to New England in February? The mind boggles.

But it’s been awesome having my mom around. I sometimes feel guilty for how hard it is not to take my mom’s time and help for granted. Like of course she’ll make me my favorite cinnamon rolls. And of course she’ll get up with the kids so I can sleep in. She’s my MOMMY. She’ll take care of me FOREVER. And then I think about 27 years from now, when I’ll be where she is now, and wonder if I’ll be so gracious. It’s a sobering part of parenthood to remember that everything you expect from your parents, your children should have a right to expect from you. Do you hold your folks and yourself to the same standard? I hope my husband and I can live up to the ones set for us!

She took the kids on Sunday, after church, so my husband and I could be cultured dilettantes. We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, courtesy of a neighbor who gave us tickets. We wandered the dim remains of The Secrets of Tomb 10A and marveled at the items which have traveled so very far through time and space to arrive before us. We ate overpriced pastry at an artistic table and drank cappuccino and no one interrupted us. Then we had dinner in Cambridge, followed by an evening of gaming and hanging out with friends. We didn’t get home until late. It was AWESOME.

I think a little more concerted attention, as well as the final arrival of his in-process molars, has really helped Thane. He’s developed a deep and abiding love of apples. You wouldn’t think such a little guy with so few teeth would be able to eat an entire apple, leaving nothing behind, but you would be wrong. “Appa! Appa! Appa!” Happily, it also keeps him occupied while a grownup type person cooks dinner. It will be interesting to see if he’s permanently leaving the “Cling to mom’s leg and weep while she prepares dinner” stage behind, or if he’s just taking a hiatus with it while he has Grandmama to shower attention on him. He has started talking a mile a minute. I was trying to remember if this was 18 month old standard, or if it’s Thane-specific. The nice ladies at daycare comment on it nearly every day, though, so I’m thinking Thane specific. One of his favorite phrases is “E-I-E-I-O”, which means exactly what you think it means.

Grey is just full of awesome. I LOVE LOVE LOVE 4 years old. He’s so much FUN. The imagination is off full tilt. The knock-knock jokes rise to new levels of zany. He’s solicitous and loving. He’s finally ceasing to NEED the naps that he dropped nearly a year ago, so is less tired. He remembers everything, and we start to get precious glimpses of his life without us. [DIGRESSION: including the fact, which we’d completely missed, that they don’t heat up his lunch at preschool. They do for Thane, so I ASSUMED they were warming Grey’s lunches of soups and casseroles which all were designed to need heating. But no. Cold spaghetti. Cold potato casserole. Cold everything. NO WONDER he didn’t eat his lunches. I wouldn’t like cold macaroni and cheese either! So after a bit of foaming at the mouth followed by a bout of self-recrimination I took the blessed opportunity of another grownup in the household to run to Target and buy thermoses. Star Wars themed. Because I pay attention to the patter, which now has a strong, if ill-informed Star Wars bent. “Did you know that Annakin cut of Dark Vader’s head?!?!?” /END DIGRESSION] Grey plays these wild, imaginative games with other kids. Yesterday one of his friends came over and they disappeared and were playing games with shifting rules defined by parameters grownups can’t possibly imagine. Delightful. With me, in the blessed space cleared by mom making dinner, Grey and I turned into Annakin and Luke Skywalker, with Thane playing a surprisingly convincing R2-D2. There were laser noises and epic light-saber battles up the stairs. Even Thane got into the laser-noise action, bopping around saying “pew pew pew!”

And after the truly epic deluge of the last week, today the sky has emerged washed clean. The lawns are greening up. The forsythia is out in shocking yellow to color-deprived eyes. My hyacinth waft perfume on the afternoon breeze as I return to my home in daylight. I will not be TOO cold in my Easter dress this Easter, for possibly the first time EVER. And the Easter Bunny has brought some fun stuff for two little boys. I’m in an Easter spirit and frame of mind, this Good Friday.

Anyway, there – sans thesis statement of unifying theme – is what’s up with me lately. How about you?

*Bonus points if you catch the reference