A shaving cream war at its heightYears go I had a dear friend, a generation older than myself, whose son had divorced. She remained fond of his ex-wife and her family, so she called them her outlaw family. This weekend my kids and I had a joyous reunion with my outlaw family--the New York Alters, with their indomitable (?) patriach, Uncle Mark. In the 30 years since Joel Alter and I divorced, I have seen Mark and Amy twice--in 1997 at Jamie and Mel's wedding and again in 2004 when Jordan and Christian married. We have emailed sporadically, though always warmly and with fond feelings--still there was a distance. My children have seen more of them--a few at their children's weddings, Jamie on business trips to New York, all of them on a couple of visits to Joel in the years before he died. But this was a full-blown family reunion--with their oldest daughter, Jordana, her husband Don and 15-mos. daughter Ayla, and their youngest daughter, Emily. (We were missing their son Jeremy and his wife, but hey! they have three-month-old twins and a three-year-old--would you bring that crew from Baltimore to Houston?) We gathered in Houston for two days that went by way too quickly. And there was not for one minute that awkward, "How are you?" "Well, fine, how are you?" It was instant warmth and hugs.
I've always noticed that when my children are together, the grandkids almost don't have individual parents--it's sort of like a commune, where everyone takes equal care of all the children, from handing out treats to soothing skinned knees (several, including one child run over by a bike who said he now understand why his parents tell him to be careful of cars), blackened eyes (we had one), and hurt feelings (lots of those inevitable). But Mark remarked that Ayla was immediately adopted by the children especially Maddie and Eden, both old enough to care for her. My family just absorbed these new people and went on with their usual rowdiness. And they can be overwhelming at times.
Saturday night there was a kickball game in the cul de sac, enlivened by the fact that we spectators were sitting near the strangest sewer I've ever seen--it was in someone's yard, with a concrete base and the usual sewer top. The trouble was that cockroaches (Mark called them cockaroaches--you can always tell a New Yorker!) kept crawling out of them. All the girls went hysterical and were alarmed that I, sitting nearest the sewer in a folding chair, didn't seem alarmed until one crawled up my dress and Megan nearly hit me with my walking stick in her zeal to get it off. Worst of all, these were flying cockroaches, all headed for one tree which we decided was the mating tree. They buzzed right at the girls who screamed and laughed by turns.The children of course made sport of squashing them (I wasn't sure about the bloodlust here) but the street was soon littered with dead cockroaches. Brandon went in the garage, got some insecticide and sprayed it into the sewer, so then we had double reason to warn the children away.
When Mark has been to Fort Worth for those weddings, he wanted, almost demanded, Angelo's BBQ, so Sunday lunch we went to Tin Roof in Kingwood, the closest we could come. They told us they'll be on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" this week. We had an entire section to ourselves and all ate too much. The owner obligingly took a group picture, but I don't have it yet. The highlight of the day, however, was the shaving cream war. Colin spread black plastic on the grass, Lisa provided cans of shaving cream, and the kids--plus Uncle Mark--went at it. He was the only adult game enough, and I intend to warn him that Brandon put a video on YouTube and people are bound to ask "Why is that old guy in there with all those kids?" It was wild good times at their best, and we spectators--at a safe distance--thoroughly enjoyed. Afterwards, of course, there was the hosing off.
Way too soon it was late Sunday night and time for goodbye, which took forever. Don, Jordana's husband, got himself a beer, sat on the couch, and said philosophically, "I figure this will take a while." It did, and it was bittersweet but there are plans for an Alter family cruise (I hate cruises!) and more get-togethers. I hope they come true.
This was Memorial Day, and in my thoughts I honored those who have given their lives for our country. But for Mark, Amy, me and my children, it was a different kind of memorial day, a time to rehash memories, good and bad, to patch up the years that circumstances had kept us too far apart, to reaffirm our love for each other and our families. For me, personally, it was eye-opening, a bit disturbing in some things I learned, but a good experience in sharing with someone who understood some things that I had kept to myself. I feel a bit like I've been to an alternate world and it's hard to get back to my daily routine. This is me and Mark, my new-found outlaw brother-in-law who kept referring to me as his sister-in-law and gave me wonderful compliment that I'm keeping to myself.