family affairs

The first big concert I ever attended was in 1971.  I was in high school, but my sister was going to college in the big city.  During a visit to see her, we went to see Sly and the Family Stone at the old Met Center in suburban Minneapolis.

I remember this much:  Sly came out forty-five minutes late, played seven songs, and left.  And I remember where we sat.  (Funny, but point-of-view is such a strong force that I can tell you where my seats were at most of the concerts, plays, and sporting events over the subsequent forty-plus years, even though I can’t describe very much of the action.  Go figure.)

In any case, my sister’s daughter got married a week ago, so I thought I’d celebrate that day by featuring Sly’s “Family Affair” in the run of musical interludes that I post on Twitter.  The song was bouncing around in my head throughout the afternoon and evening of the wedding.

The lyrics of that short and simple tune hint at the mixed emotions we face when dealing with family affairs.  After all, these are the people with whom we have lived the highs and lows of human existence.  Every family has its challenges and its heartaches; that comes with the territory.  But there are times of joy too, and the wedding and reception provided a great deal of that.

There were stories to tell that have been told and retold.  And new ones that hadn’t been heard before.  Amid the laughter, there were memories of those no longer with us.  How could there not be?  You could see their reflections in the faces of others and hear the echoes of their speech.

I could see strands going way back that led to the bride’s special day.  And the groom’s family was likely experiencing similar memories.  Now the couple will weave their stories together.

In the days since the wedding, another family affair was unfolding.  While I have high school classmates that have great grandchildren, we were awaiting the arrival of our first grandchild.

A number of times during the last few months, people have said to me, “Sue is going to be the best grandmother.”  While I appreciated their assessment of her care-giving skills, I would wait for them to offer some commentary about me.  Zip.  Nada.  Nothing.

I guess I have some work to do.

A few days ago, I read an article in the paper that was titled, “What Will My Grandchild Remember of Me?”  While it said that a child will retain very little of what they experience before the age of three, the specific experiences are not the most important thing:

When we think about legacy, what we leave behind as grandparents, probably values top the list:  We hope we will have transmitted lessons about kindness, justice, strength and confidence, the boundless nature of love.

Two days later I was at a meeting and one of the speakers said that some of the children being born today are likely to live a hundred and fifty years.  In that time, they will face many situations in which those values will make a difference.

Then yesterday, early in the morning on the day that the newborn girl would come into the world, I heard that Kate Douglas Wiggin had been born on the same day in 1856.  I didn’t know who that was (she wrote Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm), but I was buoyed by a quote from her:  “Every child born into the world is a new thought of God, an ever fresh and radiant possibility.”

It doesn’t get any better than that.



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