D. Louise Brown

Louise Brown

The best part of a family reunion is spending time with your kids’ kids. We just finished a week-long reunion with all of our families — some local, some out of state. It’s what families do in August when they see back-to-school looming ahead.

Seeing our families congregated like that, I realized I like having my kids visit because they bring their kids. When my grandkids aren’t here, I miss them. When they arrive, I can’t get enough of them. When they leave, I wrestle with conflicting feelings of sadness and relief. The longer the time span between the arrival and the departure, the deeper the conflict.

Being together for a week was just right. My husband and I hosted the chaotic crowd, making sure they had a place to sleep (which involved some creative tucking of kids into corners here and there), and three meals a day. Not much was needed from us beyond that except an occasional bandage and nonstop drinks of water.

This year our pack of grandkids entered a fun stage. No babies, so no diapers, formula, nap schedules, etc. They’re now this loosely organized, generally noisy herd that ebbs and flows throughout the day, mostly together, sometimes in clusters. Best of all, they like to play games. Lots of games.

The challenge is, these kids don’t quite understand most grown-up games yet (except the two oldest, who got to stay up late and play with the adults after the youngers were asleep). But that didn’t keep them from wanting to try. So we modified games like Pit and Yahtzee and checkers so they could play. Competition is surprisingly strong in these young ones. They wanted to win just like grown-ups do, and sometimes they’d cheat if they could get away with it (just like grown-ups do). It’s hilarious when kids cheat innocently, like when they look at a card and, not wanting it, lay it back down and start reaching for another one.

“No, buddy, you can’t do that.”

“Why not? I don’t want that card.”

“Because in this game you have to take turns, and looking at that card was your turn.”

“But I don’t want that card. If I have to wait, then someone else will get that card.”

“Um, well, yeah. That’s the point of this game.”

“This is a dumb game.”

It may be a dumb game, but even if he stomps off mad, he’ll be back in less than five minutes because nothing pulls kids together like the sight or sound of other kids having fun. Board games around the kitchen table, croquet on the back lawn (another game that requires significant modification to let everyone play), badminton, memory games, card games—it was a rare moment when some game wasn’t going on in some corner of the house or yard.

These kids’ parents were glad to see Grandpa playing checkers or board games with some of the kids, while Grandma rolled dice with others, or taught them how to shuffle cards. They were glad we kept the kids engaged. We were grateful for the chance to melt away the age barrier and feel young again. Playing Go Fish with 5-year-olds is deeply satisfying therapy.

As these kids grow up, they’ll remember fun times at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. They’ll believe we organized this time to be with them and did all these fun things for them. What they won’t know (at least until they’re in our shoes) is what they do for us.

They are part of us, these living, breathing evidences of our immortality. Long after we’re gone, they’ll still be here, proving we were here. Our common names, their memories of us, their inherited mannerisms, even a stubborn cowlick, prove they are ours and we are theirs.

Families inherently long for that connectivity. We reach for it, go to great lengths to create opportunities for it, and we preserve it. We want it that much.

Why else would we travel long distances, crowd ourselves into one house for a week and devote mornings, noons and evenings to just be together?

We’re already planning next August.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard-Examiner.

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