Sunday, October 7, 2007

An athiest, a Mormon, an agnostic, and a Catholic walk into a restaurant...

No, that's not the beginning of a joke, that's a description of our trip to Oregon. For the first time in more than three years all of my brothers and sisters got together, and for the first time that I can remember we were all dressed up. So even if Misha's new husband was not as cool as he actually is (and we're so glad he is), the wedding would have been worth it to get everyone together. Jason traveled with two kids from Utah, Josh drove from Las Vegas by way of every friend he knows in California, Sherri drove from Seattle and stuck the entire weekend out with a migraine, Kristi opened her home to five of us (making it a grand total of 11 people in her home for much of the weekend), and we flew from Ohio, traveling all day to get there. Tom lives in Portland, so at least he didn't have to travel a ton. Far from a complaint though, this description is reason for celebration--we all love each other enough to actually do what we did to get together for one weekend to celebrate a wedding, and we survived it without killing each other (which in our family is saying something). Incidentally, both Josh and Sherri were involved in car accidents on the way home from the wedding. Josh hit a garbage can in the middle of the freeway at 1:30 in the morning somewhere in California and Sherri was rear-ended on the way back to Seattle.

Misha's wedding was the first time our bunch has gotten together as full-blown adults (The last time we all got together Tom was only 17, maybe just barely 18, but all of us who where 18 once know that 18 still isn't quite adulthood--I'm not sure 26 is either for that matter).

I don't know what that must be like for my parents to sit in a room full (literally) of their grown children, and their children's children (They have 11 grand kids under the age of 18.) I look at my own children, my two boys--one just learning to coordinate his right and left feet into the stumblings of a first few steps, and the other who I picture sitting on the toilet, swinging his feet, shouting to me "I'm ready to be wiped," conscious of this final vestige of toddlerhood--and I am as excited for their eventual maturity as I am scared of it. I wonder if I will like the adult versions of my boys. I wonder if I'll be able to deal with the decisions they make on their own, without my permission, without my input. Will they grow up wanting to hunt deer or ride dirt bikes, and if so, what will I ever have to talk with them about? Will they run from academia like I am running towards it? Join the military? Go to law School? Grow their hair long and get tattoos? Will they love the Church that I love, or will they balk and religion? Will they want to come home for the holidays? Will they resent my presence? Roll their eyes? Grudgingly tolerate me? Will they call me up for advice, ask me for help changing out break pads, invite me on their camping trips? We've got nothing but possibilities and probabilities at this point, and maybe we're better off for not knowing, but I still can't help but wonder when I look at the diversity in my own family and think of how we all started out as little diapered dervishes spinning around the legs of our parents--all of us, the same parents, and all of us so very different.

At the rehearsal dinner, which was actually a picnic, I found myself standing in the parking lot, staring at the automobiles of my adult siblings. Five of us had cars there, and short of any epiphany, I felt like I was on to something. Not to anything profound or prophetic (as Jason worried aloud to me over the phone--that the kind of cars we drive might say something larger about the kinds of people we are) but to something interesting, descriptive if not prescriptive about the way my maturing family circle is evolving.

Krysti is the oldest. She has six kids under the age of 18, five still at home, and one in a booster seat. They bought this car in a small town in either Idaho or Utah several years ago during a family road trip in which their old car, also a suburban, gave up the ghost somewhere between Oregon and Yosemite. As you can imagine, the leather seats, flip down DVD player, and million cup holders was quite an upgrade.

Next is Sherri. She drives a Hyundai Sonata and taught us all a thing or two about purchasing a new vehicle when she purchased this car (or one like it, I don't remember) several years ago. She read a book about how to work the system when you want to buy a new car and she worked it good, paying thousands under dealer invoice for exactly what she wanted. Since moving to the Northwest 14 or so years ago, she has regularly driven down from Seattle to Portland for holidays, graduations, musical performances, athletic events and any number of family get-togethers. three years ago Sherri helped Melissa and I pull off one of the better surprises we've pulled on Mom. Without telling anyone, Mel and I flew to Sherri's place in Seattle and spent a few days before Thanksgiving playing around Seattle with her. Then we drove down to Portland for Thanksgiving and surprised everyone by showing up with Sherri when they thought we were still in Utah.

Jason drives a mustang. He could drive nothing but a mustang, because well, he is one. Okay, that's not entirely true, but he is the kind of guy who has scaled barbed wire fences in order to climb 200 foot tall radio towers. He's also the kind of guy who has called me from his cell phone to tell me he's in a rental car in a hotel parking garage in Atlanta and he wants me to know that he's finally perfected his powerslide. He also happens to be one of the best Dads I know. He puts hundreds of miles a month on this car driving between Logan and Salt Lake so he can spend time with his children, and he loves them and leads them with a kind-hearted fatherliness that could save nations if it were applied liberally.

When Misha bought this car in 2001, it was her baby. Candy apple red, manual transmission, get-out-of-my-way. We once drove it to Cannon Beach to participate in a sandcastle competition where we took third place. I'd never done anything like that before but she let me come anyway. I carried buckets of water, piled sand, and even sculpted the sand log in the above linked picture. Misha was once so serious about sandcastles that she and her team traveled to Mazatlan Mexico to build exhibition sculptures at a contest there. She's done Sand in the City several times (a sand sculpting competition that involves tons and tons of sand being dumped in the middle Square in Downtown Portland).

Josh is an industrial techno DJ (He would probably give a clearer, more nuanced definition of his music). Razorslave is his casual moniker. The full title is "The Rev. DJ Razorlsave," and he is actually a Reverend, or at least he was at one point (he performed a wedding for some friends a few years back). These days he DJ's at a club in downtown Las Vegas and occasionally at weddings and he drives a blue Saturn VUE--not the most industrial of vehicles but it gets great gas mileage and has plenty of space for his DJ equipment and his huge stereo system. He often got a kick out of catching me--his straight laced Mormon brother--dancing in the kitchen as his music streamed down the hall in our old house in Beaverton.

This is Tom's new toy, I think its a Nissan Pathfinder, and he loves it. Like him, its kind of big, but unassuming, fun, but practical. He described to me with great satisfaction the work that he's done on it to get it running, and I believe him, and I'm impressed. Tom stayed behind in Portland when my parents moved to Las Vegas a few years ago and almost under all our noses he has become quite an adult.

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