The clock is ticking . . .
In approximately fifteen hours it begins. The youngest son and his spouse will be arriving from that community mecca of Mormonism—and, no, they are not Mormons, but exist peacefully in their midst—to kick off the start of the Fourth of July celebration. Eleven hours later the daughter, her husband, the nearly two-year-old granddaughter, and a little over one week old granddaughter arrive from the nearby big city to join in the festivities of celebrating the nation’s birthday. Five hours after their arrival will come the son-in-law’s family—mother, father, and two brothers; plus, there will be a good friend of the son’s wife joining us about the same time. Add into that mix that the oldest son canceled his brief vacation back to the land of Big Red, the number three son looking forward to the big celebration, and the wife and I . . . it beginning to stack up as a natural plan for chaos. As they say, whenever two or three gather, someone always spills the milk.
Like the rest of the nation all of us are looking forward to celebrating our independence . . . or at least using that as an excuse for getting together for food, family, and fun. We are just as patriotic as the next family, but, at the same time, we are also gathering to do some other celebrating. We are celebrating the youngest son’s birthday while he is here. We are celebrating the youngest son’s and his lovely spouse’s first wedding anniversary. Thrown in there will be the celebration of the newest addition to the family—our lovely granddaughter and her presence at the table. We will also, semi-celebrate the oldest granddaughter’s birthday—which we won’t officially celebrate until later in the month of July. Plus, we are throwing is a semi-reunion for the daughter-in-law and one of her childhood friends and bridesmaid as she travels up from the Cowboy State to see her best friend. Are you keeping all of this straight . . . are you beginning to sense ominous clouds of chaos building?
So, there will be fifteen people and three dogs in our house to celebrate the day on the Fourth . . . fifteen people . . . that is eleven more than usual . . . and, they will be in the house for endless hours into the wee hours of the night. An introvert’s worse nightmare. Oh, sure, the first few hours will be fine . . . everyone will put on their best faces, exchange pleasantries and small talk, sip beverages, play a few games, and tell the same old stories over and over again. The pattern is well-established through the generations of all families, everyone knows his or her role . . . it is just how it is. Yet, somewhere there is a magical nexus that tips towards the dark side . . . and, then things begin to change.
Facial expressions change . . . suddenly there is more rolling of the eyes and other musculature manipulations of the face that express boredom and beyond. The pleasantries and small talk turn to sarcasm and heated debates . . . especially if politics or the president are mentioned. Beverages move from the sipping stage to the gulping stage creating less inhibition and the ability to be more mouthy escalates. The games being played go from the backyard to the places where two or three are gathered together . . . from the realm of physical games to psychological games. And, the same old stories are told over and over with editorial comments and corrections being added by other players involved in the story. Feeling get hurt. Moping begins. The mood shifts . . . but, everyone attempts to ignore it. Someone will suggest that a few fireworks be lit . . . nothing like a metaphorical image to express what everyone is feeling.
I am not quite sure, but it feels like it.
Even as an introvert . . . and, since this is actually a gathering of people I love and know well . . . I am looking forward to the gathering. I am looking forward to seeing my youngest son and his wife as they are two of my favorite people in the whole world . . . even their dog, our granddog, Zoey. I haven’t seen them for what seems like a long, long time since they live in the Mormon Mecca. I am looking forward to seeing the daughter and her family . . . I really like my son-in-law . . . and, I especially like my two granddaughters. It is good to have the other two sons at home for the celebration even though I see them all of the time. The son-in-law’s family are good people and I enjoy their company whenever we get together . . . after all, we all survived the wedding that we planned together and no one was killed or hurt . . . they are a lot of fun. And, the daughter-in-law’s friend . . . well, she is a ginger like the daughter-in-law and she is the daughter-in-law’s best friend . . . has a great sense of humor and a beautiful smile. She is a good person, and despite the fact that she lives in Wyoming we won’t hold that against her; after all, the daughter-in-law does too. I like and love the people who are gathering at the homestead to celebrate all of these wonderful occasions . . . yet, those storm clouds of chaos are building.
It is impossible not to gather that many people in one small house without air conditioning on what is supposed to be the hottest day of the summer without a few strands of the rope fraying somewhere. The dynamics of putting fifteen independent people in the same room and expecting them to get along peacefully for the whole time . . . well, it is a Spanish pipe dream. It just cannot happen as expectations bite the dust as the day grows longer. Chaos.
First of all, there is the attention factor . . . who gets the attention? Does the youngest son get the attention since it is his birthday we are throwing into the mix? Is it the youngest son and his wife since we have not seen them in so long and we are celebrating their anniversary of being married one year? Is it the daughter and her family with the newest (a little over a week) addition to the family? Is the youngest granddaughter going to be the center of attention . . . will she become the family Cracker Jack box that gets passed around to everyone for their five minutes of holding time? Is it going to be the nearly two-year-old granddaughter who is still attempting to figure out this little invader to her family . . . her sister . . . and all the attention she is taking away from her . . . dealing with all the uncles, aunts, and grandparents? Is it going to be the visitor from the Cowboy State? The wife with all of her hostess skills? Maybe even our nation as it grows another year older? What will be the attention factor . . . and, will everyone get enough attention to satisfy the lust for attention? Sounds like chaos to me.
Second, there is the noise factor that kind of goes with the attention factor. There will be a lot of noise. One of the things I have learned over the years is that whenever people gather—family, friends, or whatever—they like to be heard. To be heard you have to be loud. Thus, noise . . . lots of noise as people raise their voices to be heard over all the other voices. Then there are the heated debates as topics and issues are discussed . . . everything from politics to religion to one’s favorite sports teams. Add to that the sound of laughter . . . loud laughter . . . rambunctious laughter . . . fake laughter . . . belly aching laughter . . . and, you get noise. Not an introvert’s comfort zone.
And, lastly, throw in the heat. As I stated, the homestead is a small place without air conditioning. Most of the time it is not a problem as we control it through manipulating the shades and windows in the house, using the ceiling fans, and retreating to the coolness of the basement when it gets too hot . . . but, we are throwing in an extra eleven people into the mix, plus one extra dog. They all put off body heat. Add that heat to the heat of the day . . . and, you get more heat. Unbearable heat. Research shows that high temperatures in the weather change people . . . they get grumpy . . . they get irritable . . . they get impatient . . . their fuses get shorter. It does not make for a good time . . . we all may end up running through the sprinkler with the granddaughter later in the afternoon.
I am nearly overwhelmed and it is still t-minus fifteen hours until it is all set into motion . . . those clouds of chaos are looming on the horizon and the National Weather Service has not even put out a storm watch or warning yet. The chaos is coming!
Even though the chaos is coming . . . I am prepared. After fifty-some plus years, I am prepared. I have ordered up the beverages. I have set the lawn chairs in the shade where the breeze blows through in the yard. The wife has gotten a really cool sprinkler to run through. I have turned all the fans on. I even ordered up a Speedo swimsuit to wear all day . . . okay, I exaggerate, there are laws against indecent exposure, and me wearing a Speedo would definitely fall into that category. The thing is . . . I am prepared. I am ready for anything. Bring it on!
In the midst of the looming chaos is family . . . my family. There will be sons and daughters, grandchildren, and friends . . . all people I love. In the midst of that chaos will be a whole lot of tumult as everyone is making themselves presence and known to everyone else . . . it will be loud and rambunctious, but aren’t all family gatherings? In the midst of that chaos there will come a sense of being overwhelmed, but I am ready for that too . . . I will step back and observe. I will observe how such a diverse group of people can love one another despite all of the odds against such an arrangement . . . observe the kindness that overtakes the moments of hurt and forgetfulness . . . observe the family that is gathered. In the stillness of that respite a different sort of overwhelmness will probably flood my heart as I realize that this is as good as it gets, and it is great to be a part of such a crazy, loving family.
What are we celebrating in the midst of this chaos? Well, I am celebrating presence . . . love . . . grace . . . I am celebrating family. I am ready. Bring it on . . . it is only fifteen short hours away! I can’t wait. Out of chaos comes peace.