Tuesday, October 18, 2011

All Happy Families Are Alike

baby bjorn3
Say hi to Gabriel!
My sister Amy called me last night on the way to the airport. They were out in California, having already slipped back that far back west, about to get their flight to Sydney. By now they will be almost home. Gosh, I hate to see them go. Amy told me she thought it had been their best trip ever back to the states. I think so too. It was just filled with good things. All of us meeting Dave and Kate's new baby. The kids being the perfect age to play together, tirelessly and peacefully. Lots of great adult time, and having a beautiful place we could all gather in. For some reason I've held off blogging about it, maybe because it was totally wonderful and it seems unnarratable. Like, possibly of only local interest. (Yes, I hear you saying, "Well Beck, a lack of general interest never stopped you before."

We made our way to the mountain house, all my sibs and their families under one roof with mom and dad, and we had a blissful five days together. I love having unstructured time from morning 'til night. Drink some coffee, shoot the breeze, hold a baby, go out and get sweaty, come back and drink a beer while making some trenchant observations on the State of the World Today, read a magazine, holler at kids, eat some cheese, sass and be sassed, ride in the jeep, play some cards, stay up late chatting, let the dog out one last time, stand outside and shiver in the cool air, go to bed. That was the basic itinerary and if heaven is like that, it will be great and I'll totally already know how to do it.

The only bad thing that happened was that, one day, my dad came home from a trip to the dump and said, "I saw what looked like a pair of nightstands in the back of the Swap Hut." (You might remember my mentioning the Swap Hut. It's where I found my owl lamp. O Hut of wonders!)

I said, "A pair of what? A what? A pair? What did they look like?" He said that they'd been at the back of the hut, but he could see that they were "blond wood, kind of blocky, maybe you could describe them as mid century modern."

He had left them there. I vowed to remedy that.

An hour later, my brother-in-law Jason and I were heading down the mountain. I don't know where we were going, but we had some kids with us and we were going into town. I asked him to please detour by the recycle center so I could peer into the Swap Hut.

The nightstands were gone. There were no nightstands. There was nothing in the hut. Only emptiness, in the hut and in my heart. I got back in the car and fumed to Jason, who didn't seem that upset about not needing to get out of the car at the dump and load furniture. I said, "I can't believe he left them there! A pair. A pair! You take a pair of anything, I don't care if it's gilded turds!"

Jason pursed his lips, eyes on the road. "Gilded turds," he said, with an air of meditation. I think the subject of his meditation was how crude his sister-in-law is.

In my mind's eye, the Lost Nightstands have become someone's meticulously cared-for but discarded Heywood Wakefields. Oh well. I'll go on. But it still hurts!

Some of our adventures need their own posts, and Baby Gabriel, the cutest and smartest baby ever seen, definitely does. But here are a few pictures, and more are here.

amy and me at falls
See how I'm just smiling but Amy is really selling it?

papa and laura

3 dudes

handsome nate
Handsome Nate

Jason fussed at by ranger for riding on top of jeep backseat.

mom and dad 2

hunter trapper
He's a hunter-trapper.

Add caption

This family group picture, oh man. The night before, Amy and Mom and I were agreeing on the need for such a picture, and I said something like, "Okay everybody, you know these group picture situations are stressful and there will be people who don't want to be in the picture and we'll lose patience with each other and there may be some bitching, crying, and snapping involved. Let's just commit to the process and we'll get through."

The next morning, while a large contingent was still down at the Waffle House (Ava wanted to experience the WaHo), I scouted locations and checked lighting. Then they returned, and Jason and Dad moved a bench out in front of the house, with only a minimum of lip. I did, at one point, have to bark, "I just want you to stand there and reflect light!" Which caused them to snicker and make smartypants rejoinders. Lacking a proper tripod, I built one out of a kitchen stool, three game boxes, and an overturned plastic ice cream bucket. Then Hank was upset and not wanting to be in the picture, causing Amy and then me, independently and unknown to each other, to offer him bribes for cheerful compliance. Finally everyone drifted toward the photo spot and assembled themselves, where they got that look of impatient passivity that people have when they're waiting for the photographer to do something.

Y'all, I loved this moment so much. They were all standing there while I looked through the viewfinder one more time, and then pushed the button to start the timer. Then everyone suddenly has that sense of urgency, you know? Like, "Okay, come over here! Right here! Quick!" Even though you have ten leisurely seconds and you could saunter over to take your place before the shutter clicks.

But I did hurry to them. I pressed the button and ran around and up the slight hill to slide in behind Hank. We did this a few times. Afterwards I realized that I'd felt pure joy. Seeing the family arrayed there, expectant and still, with me in motion. The crunch of the gravel and the beeping of the camera. Matt holding out his hand to me, beckoning. Running to them, whirling around, and smiling. And watching them all wait for the time to smile. They couldn't see themselves like I could--that's the photographer's privilege, I guess--but then I could join them and be part of the scene too. There was just such pleasure in it.

I hope you found some pleasure in your week. I missed y'all, I'm back on duty now. xoxo


Maggie May said...

The group picture is truly lovely. And I love the trapper keeper photo! What a cutie!

Amy said...

This is a banner post! So much here. Maybe it's cause I just got back to Sydney, haven't slept yet, and am still in the clothes I've worn for 36 hours...but now I'm a little verklempt.

It really was a fantastic time together! We are far from perfect and we definitely have our hissy fits and moments, but I felt so lucky, so blessed to be there with everyone. I love getting together and feeling like I'd never been gone. It just felt golden, you know? Not golden like gilded turds, but still.

Speaking of, I'll remember the "pair" rule of the swap hut. Good one!

Bren said...

That third picture, I had an actual physical reaction to. Like, my heart tried to leap somewhere and I could actually feel it in my stomach. So sweet.

Judy said...

Becky, your fabulous family pic was nothing short of miraculous, given the presence of an infant and a toddler. I'm giving a shout out to your mad photography skills, but I think the sheer joy of the Odom-Woomer-Hubbart clan just cannot be contained. It made me smile and tear up at the same time. My highest compliment!

Casey said...

Gabriel is the cutest baby ever, you are right! Don't tell my kids I said that, they were cute at that age too.

I had never heard of the pairs rule but now my eye will be on the lookout. Glad you had such a great time with your family, you guys are a cute, happy bunch. As long as everyone stands still for you to assess the lighting.

Amy said...

I guess something might've been lost in liveblogging of the hootenanny after all!

I went from laughing out loud (pair of gilded turds) to snickering (Amy really selling it, she totally is) to a little choked up (last paragraph)... truly a post worth waiting for. Thanks for letting us peek at the joy of your week, Becks!

Hootie said...

Of course it's an Aldo Leopold bench.

Camp Papa said...

Well, you made this post worth waiting for. I am always mindful of the fleeting nature of these gatherings and that makes them all the sweeter. There is nothing better on earth than bringing together a group of people who love each other that much and giving them time. That is the kind of happiness that money really can't buy.

BTW, the end tables were more like something you'd see in a cheap motel than in Archetectural Digest. I will, though, keep an eye out for any abandoned aurofecal ...uhmm... doo-dads.

Monica said...

Great post! LOVE that balloon pic. You need to enter that in every photog contest you can find - its a sure fire winner!

Sjn said...

family time IS the best of times! I love the family pic... especially the little smile behind Hank's scowl, he can't hide it.

Veronica said...

Sounds like a great time! Thanks for sharing with us. Love that pic of your dad, Dave, and the baby.

Jenni said...

Wow, looks like you guys had an amazing time. I love all the photos. Baby Gabe is a heart breaker. The photo him him, your dad, and Dave got me all misty eyed.

Michele said...

What a perfectly lovely post about a perfectly lovely weekend. Baby Gab is adorable. How could he not know the 'pair' rule? This rule has been bludgeoned into JR's head along with 'you must stop at used bookstores' rule.

delaine said...

It was a wonderful week with all fourteen at the mountain house! The kids were incredibly precious, funny, and loving. I think they had a blast playing with cousins they seldom see. The adults probably had more fun though. I assume you'll blog more about that later. After everyone was gone except Camp Papa and me, I picked up stray Legos, cleaned up cake icing from the chair seats and backs, and thought of how much joy can be crammed into a few days. Your pictures are great! I appreciate your photographic skills especially corralling all of us for the group shot. I'm ready for another get-together.

kathy said...

I've been waiting for this blog! It's priceless just like the family picture. I know you were blessed being with your siblings, parents, nieces and nephews. What a special time and memories that will last a lifetime.

Patrick said...

Best blogpost ending ever :)
and with a great photo-finish!
Those perfect moments of joy are fleeting and hard to catch. But, it's awesome when you get the chance to recognize the greatness of a moment even while you're still experiencing it. Beautiful, just beautiful!

Meghan said...

I really loved reading this post. Also, I have immense affection for your family. And now that I know how to get to that NC mtn house, I may start stalking you all and pretending you're mine. I am with Amy in getting a little verklempt reading your description of your joy at the family photo. Beautiful stuff.

Elizabeth - FlourishinProgress said...

You have a BEAUTIFUL family.

Kate said...

Beautifully written, Bec! You really catured our time together.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved being there and getting to introduce Gabriel to everyone. Sharing my child with our big, wonderful, family brought a whole new layer of pleasure for me. It was a golden time, for sure.

Elle said...

I loved reading this, Becky!

What did Hank get out of you gals?

Becky said...

Lord, that little stinker racked up! Amy offered him a new Beyblade, which is some new toy that spins and fights other spinning toys. Like a macho dreidel. And I told him very specifically that I would take him to Target and let him pick out "a medium Lego box." And he did.

Thanks for all the kind words, guys! And thanks for scrolling through all the pics.

I forgot to add, when Jason was getting fussed at by the ranger for riding on the back of the jeep seat (we were only going from the picnic area to the trail, but she didn't like that), she told him, "Not only are you breaking the rules, you are setting a bad example for these children!" I respected her so much at that moment! Like, she had real passion for her job. It was notable. He was all, "Yes ma'am." And of course she wound up loving him.

Aimee said...

That family photo brought TEARS to my eyes, Becky. Actual tears. It's lovely. And your description of the set-up put me right there. I was running to join the group and smile, too. Love it so much.

Rebekah said...

We love your whole family, just love them all. Meeting them would just confirm what we already know - excellent bunch. I'm glad you had a great week with them!

Lisa Lilienthal said...

definitely a banner post .. I loved "and I totally already know how to do it!" And you do, you totally know how to do it -- how to share the minutaie in such a way that elevates it in to something that is not just entertaining, but is poignant. Thanks so much for that!

Lisa Lilienthal said...

and yes I am too lazy to spellcheck minutaie.

Kate said...

you're a lucky girl!!!

Elizabeth said...

That last paragraph is gold.

gretchen said...

Okay, an actual tear is dripping down my left cheek. I just love that family shot so much (and of course your writing is so rich and beautiful). Probably because I don't really have any family, and y'all are just so very MUCH a family. Just love it. And by the way, "having unstructured time from morning 'til night" is something I dream of. Sigh. Just love you and your whole family.

Sara said...

Gah, I love your family <3

I needed this post today (a year after you wrote it!)

Sara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
delaine said...

After all these months have passed, I re-read this wonderful post. Again it gave me goose bumps, teary eyes, and a lump in the throat. Beautiful, expressive writing about a golden time. Thanks, Becky !