Part of my very wonderful family drove all the way from Texas to see us last week. They stopped in Gettysburg and Intercourse on the way here, and they saw Niagara on the way home. In between, we had them here.
What with the temperatures already on the downward climb toward fall and the storms that settle in in late July, we did not manage to swim but twice. We decided not to do much driving while they were here since they drove over 4000 miles round trip. That left: chicken fence.
My aunt, who probably hung the moon between mopping the floor and catching fish when I was little, went right out the door with me every time I did chores after 6:00 am. And what we did most was move chickens around. Laugh if you will, but we were at a chicken crisis point during the visit, what with moving the new layers in with the older ones and getting the meat birds settled in their new digs.
My uncle kept Jason company, taught me the right way to use a riding lawn mower, kept the kids in line, and taught us how to replace a mower blade.
My cousin was just there. I don't mean like a lump; I mean like, every time I was wondering what to do, she seemed to be there doing the right thing. She seemed unflappable, even after spending hour after hour in a cramped car with her two children and her parents.
We also picked blueberries, 64 pounds of blueberries. Then, my aunt, my cousin, Jason, and I put up all the berries the children had not eaten. Surprisingly, even with five kids working at it, we had a lot of berries to put in the freezer and into canning jars.
There was also the water problem while they were here. How would you like to tell the extra five people staying with you that it might be best if they peed outside and flushed with a bucket when necessary? You might think the guests would blanch, but no! They just rolled with it.
And that's where we come to the part about choices. Jason and I choose to live this far away from family. We have a pretty clear sense of all that we lose by doing it. Yet- when I am with my family, I really try to imagine living right with them. Maybe they would feel suffocated by my desire to be right with people; maybe we would all hate each other after a month or two. I don't really know. I just know I feel an incredible longing for intergenerational housing and living when I'm with these awesome people. Still, I choose Vermont and land and cleaner air and more rain and fresh water and a kookie house and canoeing and skiing and local food and a coop and lots of other quirky people that make me feel less weird.
I just feel the weight of those choices more keenly in fresh absence of my family.