Monday, June 28, 2010

Quickie: The Social Music of Extended Family

I love the lyrical pattern of a large group. The best music is made by people who know each other well, over the course of many days, preferably vacationing in a beautiful place together. We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of my husband’s parent’s marriage by convening the families at a large and lovely home on the beach. My in-laws have three sons, my husband is the middle, each son has a wife, each couple has two children ranging in ages from almost 17 to about 8-years-old.

Though we are all different in many ways, the natural interweavings of genetics and chance connect each of us to the others. These moments of connection are where the music plays. The pulsating rhythm of meals shared together choreograph a dance that starts off as a pas de deux.

“We should eat soon.”


Moving toward the kitchen, other people weave in and out as as the meal is prepared until finally all the dancers push together in a modern dance-styled cacophony whose chorus sings, “Please pass the…”

Throughout the day, there are amebaotic, symbiotic outshoots of connections. While the whole group lazes around the room, alone but together behind their books, an auntie takes refuge with a cup of coffee on the porch. Lured by the quiet solitude, the youngest nephew feels pulled toward her. Separated by miles, he hardly knows his auntie, but he is drawn to the idea of her, not to mention her elfin mischievous giggle.

Two adult brothers pull away from the group to show off their mad martial arts skillz. Playfighting, they are connected by a mountain of memories of childhood brawls and pummeling. They are pretending to be grown up.

“Want to go for a swim?” one cousin asks another, putting down the book and standing up.

“Sure,” she replies. They are the only two girls of the half-dozen cousins, close in age and inseparable this week. They’ve pushed their beds together, to stay close even in sleep.

One by one, people peel away from the group. The music dissipates and quiets.

Until finally, at just the right time, the melody builds again.

“We should eat soon.”


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