One of the things I share with my family is a love of food. We love appetizers. We love desserts. We love snacks. And we definitely love cheese.
When we’re together, it is not rare for us to talk about what to have for lunch while we were eating breakfast.
Seriously. The Radcliffes love food.
I think I was ten when I learned how to make salad dressing from scratch. My mother and I can have thirty minute conversations about what we both had for dinner the day before and how we prepared it. My father built a computer program to plan cooking on Thanksgiving day – all he had to do was enter the weight of the turkey and out came the schedule. My brother and his wife host the best dinner parties in Pennsylvania and they do it like most people do laundry – weekly.
The Radcliffes also love cooking.
This past weekend, I spent some time visiting with relatives I hadn’t seen in years. I admit, I was nervous about seeing the clan. Even though I have come to love being single, these kinds of gatherings can still bring out the self-conscious divorced girl in me.
I had forgotten, however, that the Radcliffes (ok, well actually the Bradstocks) really love picnics.
As soon as I rounded the corner of Great Aunt Nellie’s yard, memories of summer picnics with this extended family came flooding back. The food was always simple and delicious. There was never much to do but sit around and talk but we didn’t care. This weekend was no different. It didn’t take long before the nerves went away and we were telling old stories and making new memories.
Of course my favorite bonding moment of the entire trip was when my cousin (once removed!) and her husband and I waxed poetic about our love of cheese. My mother had explained my August resolution. Laurie started listing all of the cheeses she and her husband adore and looking wistfully into the distance. Last year, they gave and received cheese-of-the month from iGourmet (please, PLEASE someone, buy this for me). Ah yes, I thought. We are kindred spirits.
Family is important to me, but I’ve always believed you make your family more than you inherit it. That’s what I’ve done with my life – gathering friends around me. Still, these people are my family tree – my family cheese wheel if you will – and I can’t deny a special connection. I don’t think it has anything to do with biology – I think it’s history.
At the end of the weekend, I went with my parents to see my grandparents’ graves. I had forgotten that this spot was where many of my relatives are buried, some who died before I was born. Why were those graves more meaningful to me than others? Why were any of them meaningful to me at all? I don’t think it was the graves, to be honest. I think, instead, it was the connection I was witnessing – my father to his parents, to his cousin lost far too young, to his uncles and aunts – and my mother (the in-law) to this family she has known and loved for most of her life.
Oddly I know that if I needed help, many of this clan would offer it, even though they see me rarely and we live far apart. I hope they know I would offer it too. We are connected. I know that not everyone has this and I’m grateful for it, and for the opportunity to feel it so strongly again after too many years.