Friday, June 25, 2010

Family: Old and New

Can we all agree that Florida is the weirdest state?

I know - West Virginia is shaped like a bunny rabbit and California has that whole $19 billion budget gap and Louisiana has the weird French form of government and can't seem to escape disasters headed towards it from the Gulf.  But Florida - hanging-chad recounting, orange-growing, DisneyWorld family vacationing, weird Republican-turned-Independent-and possibly-closted-gay Governor Florida pretty much takes the prize.

(One plus for Florida: Coconut Patties.  Sweet, chocolatey, airport-gift-in-a-yellow box Coconut Patties.)

So, it's appropriate that I had a weird week in Florida.

I should have expected it when my flight landed on time, only to pull within 20 feet of the gate and stop.  Apparently, if there are thunderstorms, they can't tow you in or extend the jetway.  So you get an extra hour of recycled air on a plane that was so old I think I saw Amelia Earhart in the cockpit.

But I'm not here to slam Florida, with humidity so intense I was sweating simply sitting still.  Or the models sunbathing nude at our hotel (take that, Marriott Courtyard.)  Or the number of Indian casinos popping up along I-95.

I'm here to tell you about going to dinner with someone who was my best friend in college.  Someone I haven't seen in almost 16 years.

After I graduated, I moved far away to go to Law School, after which I moved again.  I also didn't come out of the closet until after college.  As a result, I lost touch with a lot of my high school and college friends, and sort of felt awkward re-connecting with them; your like changes a lot after coming out.

But Facebook has put me right back in touch with a lot of people from a time in my life that was pretty much lost to me.  It's not that I don't remember that time in my life, but I have very few people I can reminisce with. So Facebook has been a total gift from that perspective- and, while many of the re-connections have been superficial, a handful have been really meaningful. This was one of those.

Chad and I spent most of my junior and senior year hanging out.  In addition, I spent two consecutive summers in his hometown - Miami - and countless days with his family.  Dinners, barbecues, afternoons at the pool - I can't even fathom how much time I spent with them; it was a surrogate family.

It was weird to walk in to a restaurant and come face to face with my past.  Other than his sister - who obviously looks different at 24 than she did at 8 years old - I would have thought it was 1994 again. And they welcomed me as if no time had passed at all - which initially made me feel ungrateful and uncomfortable; guilty for letting relationships lapse.

That was quickly replaced by feeling totally at ease; that's the thing about family --- time may pass chronologically, but not emotionally.  I was reminded, again, how kindness is such an incredibly important and largely undervalued attribute.  I was really moved.

Meanwhile ... did you know that I am related to Batman?

Also, Spider-Man, Supergirl, and a Disney princess - all of them alter egos of my neice who turns four on Saturday.  She managed to cycle through each of these personas in less than hour last Sunday afternoon, experiencing a fluency with multiple personalities that only a true psychopath could appreciate.

Can I just say?  My sister - who is no stranger to self-martyrdom, really does deserve more appreciation.  Pretty much every family holiday falls to her.  Neither of her sisters-in-law have kids; Neil and I live in Manhattan, which everyone on Long Island finds inconvenient (I don't know why - the trains come here dozens of times a day, we live near 8 different parking garages, and we're in a nice neighborhood.  I know the argument is that, since everyone lives on Long Island, it's less of a schlep, but -it's not like we haven't offered.)

Anyway - between Mother's Day (which her mother in law covered this year), Father's Day (which she pretty much always gets) and Christmas (written in stone - my brother-in-law invites more people every year, to my sister's growing chagrin (she sort of loves it.))

Still, it can't be easy when it's always your house, your expense, your mess. 

We try to help out however we can - entertaining the kids (which we love doing anyway), cleaning up after ourselves; bringing loads of gifts.  But it's really all a gift to us.  I know everyone thinks their kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews are the cutest/smartest/whateverest - but we feel a pretty special pride in being uncles.  I love seeing how smart and articulate the eldest is becoming.  She's so sharp and intuitive, you almost can't wait for her to get older because she's going to do really special things.  And her sister is so brazen - brave and funny and demanding of attention - there's a stage in that kids future.  And the baby (told you - he'll be "the baby" til he's 40) - can a 2 year old be possessed of charm?  Meanwhile, he's so attached to his sister he just randomly says her name if she ventures more than 5 feet away from him.

Wow - sentimental post.  I need to go to a diner and send some soup back...I'm losing my edge.

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