Family matters (really it does)

Mr. Sun's Haiku in Thanksgiving's Aftermath:

it is very odd
my whole family is weird
yet i am perfect

is the perfect haiku.

Before I traveled to Florida this Thanksgiving, I heard everyone from CNN anchors to meteorologists expressing, on-air, a verbal eye-roll at the obligatory holiday togetherness. It seemed to be the in thing.

My family's Thanksgiving had its funny moments.Some of my favorites include when my Mom said we should go to "Johnny Rambo's" for dinner, and my Dad translated that she meant "Tony Roma's"; when my nephew got a startingly loud case of the hiccups in church, moments before his baptism was to begin; when my two red-headed nephews ran past CarrotTop outside the Cheesecake Factory, making him do a double take and tell his entourage, "That's what I looked like when I was a respectable little kid."

Yes, CarrotTop lives in my hometown, along with some of the wealthiest NBA players and golf pros in the world. Google it and you'll find breast implant, tummy tuck, and Botox specialists. You may remember Winter Park from this, a 1981 sinkhole that made national news and took out a Lambourghini dealership. I'll be revisiting what it was like to grow up there in later posts.

But my Thanksgiving experience of family was nothing I would snigger at. I guess I'm fortunate. My brother, Dad and I mended fences (literally) that were taken out by Hurricane Charley. My sister-in-law and I braved our first pedicures together (it was my Mom's idea!). My Dad and brother strung "Police Line - Do Not Cross" tape across my doorway while I slept. My Mom and I drank a lot of coffee, ate a lot of fattening food, talked over world issues, and decorated the Christmas tree. My Dad and I went grocery shopping, and he bought me an Archie comic book. My brother and I commiserated humorously about working for The Man. My sister-in-law and I giggled over hearing my brother's voice in the ladies' restroom (long story). I visited my 92-year-old aunt, who had great stories about visiting Toronto as a young woman, and made jokes about residents racing their walkers and wheelchairs up and down her hallway. I held my 6-month old nephew, and he smiled at me a lot. The older kids asked me to sit next to them at meals, and showed me their rooms. They put on a magic show for the whole family and told us jokes, and our hands hurt from clapping so much.

Sure we had our moments. I grew tired of my brother beating me 53-7 in GameCube football. Everyone grew tired of group decision-making. Everyone got tired, period. We felt fat and put-upon and grumpy at times.

But on Sunday, we filled the front two pews at church to watch my brother the minister baptize my other brother's son, the 6-month old. The baby was a perfect angel -- no crying, no fussing, no tugging on the robes. His parents were radiant, grinning ear to ear. My brother took my nephew in his arms and walked down the center aisle. He introduced the congregation to the newest member of my family -- reminding them of the hope and love that a child represents, and instructing them to take seriously the role they would play in his life.

And we, my family, all two pews of us, cried with joy. I cried with pride. I've never been more proud to be a member of my family than I was at that moment. I felt the beaming smiles of approval from church members who have known us for years. I sat in awe of both of my brothers, who are men of the highest integrity and compassion. I sat between my parents, who remain the two most generous people I have met in this world.

Sure we're clumped together by DNA and don't have any choice in the matter. Sure the holidays are anxious and stressful, and maybe we'd rather be home in our own beds. But on that day, and on most days that I spend with them, I would choose my family again if I had the chance. They're all wonderful human beings. I learn so much from them - from the youngest to the oldest.

Is that weird?

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