The nice thing about the empty nest is that when the birds who flew it marry, you gain not only a child-in-law, but a whole new extended family. And if you are lucky, a little bit of crazy, too. We were blessed to be included in my daughter-in-law’s family Thanksgiving and it was just the sort of loud, slightly angst-ridden, messy but loving holiday this only-child’s heart embraces.
If you have a Hallmark movie family who never raise their voices and who can have family game night without threat of a restraining order, that’s wonderful. While it’s probably very healthy it’s a bit bland for my taste. Maybe it’s my southern upbringing—crazy relatives are not just tolerated, they are expected. Maybe it’s being a mom of three boys—nothing is peaceful in a house that’s 4:1 male. But I embrace the crazy, the ones who laugh at inopportune moments, the ones who drink a bit and the ones who love so hard that sometimes it comes out all wrong.
If you don’t have a brother-in-law who hits the White Claw a little too hard or a hard-of-hearing granny who shares tales of gastrointestinal distress at an embarrassingly high decibel level, you might have a more calm holiday, but I think you are missing out. So your cousin can’t stop throwing the dog’s toy and it riles up the pooch so much he spills the wine. Right in your lap. So your overly-enthusiastic-evangelical great-aunt keeps trying to sell Jesus like that used-car guy on late-night public access TV. To me, a little chaos and angst is the spice in the family dinner. (And it makes for much better stories later!)
Give me a family that comes together with a lot of “I love you” but a little “I love you but you drive me crazy” thrown in. It’s easy to love when everything is perfect and calm, but it’s real when you love your people despite their foibles, despite their failings, despite their crazy. And when all else fails, distract Granny with a hug and ask your brother-in-law to pass the White Claw.