thinking about family

Yesterday my sister Judy sent me an email with the subject line headed, “how long does it take to say I love you?” She and her husband are cleaning up their house to put it on the market and Judy was emptying cupboards.

“I have a small pot that you made once upon a time as a utensil holder by my sink/stove for pert-near ever. The pot now has some chips, and when I looked on the bottom it has a date of ’72.” She wondered if it would be okay to toss it.

My sister has a pot I made in 1972! I don’t even have anything I made that far back. It took me awhile to even remember where I was in 1972 until I finally put it together with the last year I lived in Texas and worked with Forrest Gist. In one of my earlier posts, I’ve written about those years making pottery.

Judy attributes her still having the pot as hording; I attribute it to love. She’s been a supporter of mine for as long as I’ve been on the road trying to figure out who I was – which goes back a good many years. But that’s also true of my other siblings and of me; for example, my younger sister Julia is a painter and some of her first work, a six-inch tall toile-painted bird house, sits on my kitchen window sill.

I’ve wondered about that this morning: how some crises force families apart and others draw families together. What’s the root of that? We’ve certainly had our fights and times of anger, but none of it has driven us apart from each other in a permanent way.

One could say the anchor was our parents, and to some extent that’s true, although our growing up had its difficulties and harsh times. For example, I married at seventeen just to get away. We all did our best to get away as fast as we could. But we’ve all come back.

One could also say that it’s our religious background: remember that old saying “a family that prays together stays together”?  We prayed at home and we went to church every Sunday. We all made our escape from that childhood church as fast as we made our escape from the family, and yet, we all have a deep and abiding spiritual life although some have no formal religious life.

So what keeps a family together? I suppose it has to do with what Judy wrote in her email’s subject line: how long does it take to say I love you? We have, all of us, somehow, through the years and the crises, remembered to love one another.

Our parents knew how to love even when they didn’t know how to parent. We siblings have done the same, I guess, even when we didn’t always know how to behave. And because we have known how to love, we have, time after time, been brought back to forgive each other.

Families are where we learn the Christ message: love one another; forgive one another. It’s never too late to begin.