We took a trip to Dallas in March, because my brother Nate was coming from England. I had yet to meet his twin baby boys, so I told my husband how strongly I felt about our family spending time with Nate's family, my sister Annie's family and my parents. I wanted Matthew to get to know Natie better, and I wanted my children to finally meet some of their cousins and to get to know cousins whom they had not seen in years.
Any time we travel to see family, I come home and mean to write about it, but then I don't. I feel incapable of writing down these memories well, and so the weeks go by.
Well, that was more than a month ago, and I want to capture a portion of what our reunion meant to me, so I'm letting go of the pressure to be perfect and elegant while reminiscing.
Though we spent practically the whole time in my parents' small apartment - our whole big family packed in, drinking and eating together - very special moments happened.
* I heard Mom telling my sister-in-law Natalie about her childhood, sharing stories of time on her grandmother's farm peeling potatoes and feeding chickens, and Natalie was sitting by my mother's chair, wine glass in hand, listening intently.
* I got to change poopy diapers, rock babies to sleep, and feed them cereal for the first time in years. My brother Nate's twin boys Daniel and Antony were magnetic, sources of pretty much constant joy, entertainment, and challenges. Daniel seemed like the calmer one, but my kids swear that he stole toys and flayed his limbs just to rile his brother. Antony was a passionate and energetic little fellar who made us feel important when he begged for exercise, entertainment or consolation. My children volunteered eagerly to hold their cousins, passing them around with pride, kissing and smelling their heads (fountains of youth, Berto said). My mom soothed her grandbabies to sleep several times with a magic touch.
* My sister Annie spoiled everyone with bagels each morning like a bagel Santa Claus in scrubs, dropping boxes of exotic flavors off before beginning her busy days as an in-home-care nurse. Then most evenings ended with Annie, her husband Keith, Matthew and me sitting on her patio, laughing and sharing stories and exchanging advice.
* My brother Nate played soccer with my husband and kids on the apartment complex's tennis court. Needless to say, there were bloody injuries, and I wasn't allowed to play in my heels though I wanted to, but it was a joy to watch my husband and kids playing a competitive game with my big brother, laughing and talking smack. (Did I mention Nate lives in England? I don't get to see these games just any old year. It was like the World Cup)
* My nephew Andy and my daughter Gabriella hung out for the first time since they were babies, playing video games and eating regular meals on the patio.
* My nephew James, who has autism, sat down with and hugged my son Berto.
* My little golden-haired niece Nina played for the very first time with my own children: giggling, running and crawling on their backs, especially Berto's, and speaking with her absolutely charming British accent that my children tried in vain to imitate. Even simple phrases were special when Nina pronounced them with posh delivery!
* The grownups took turns making big family meals: delectable roast chicken, spicy, satisfying gumbo, spaghetti with meat sauce. My brother Natie was the chef more than anyone, including providing the last breakfast together before my family had to catch our flight. The prawns he sauteed one afternoon are something I won't soon forget.
* My son Berto went golfing with his dad and Uncle Nate. The pride on his face while listening to Matthew and Nate tell of how well he did as a first-time golfer, and his excitement while telling his own stories of the green, warmed my mother's heart. I saw him stow away the scorecard for a souvenir.
* Dad, aka Paca, cheered on his grandchildren as they played polar bear bowling on his computer. I'm not a fan of video games, but I was a fan of the time, guidance and regular encouragement my dad gave to his grandkids as he watched them play, showering accolades on them for guiding a chubby polar bear on an inner tube into pins. It was awesome.
* Dad gave me a few chapters of his new fantasy book to read ( send me more, please!) and discussed ideas for my own book. He also invited me with him to the store, and on the way there we had a conversation about some challenges I've been facing recently. It was a good conversation, and I have a sneaking suspicion Dad invited me to come with him just so we could have it.
* On our last day Dad played tennis with Daniel and Gabriella even though he wasn't feeling well, and the cousins blew bubbles on the court - even Berto - while Annie, Natalie and I talked one last time.
At the Dallas airport waiting for our flight later that afternoon, my oldest daughter Ana and I were bereft. I missed my brother and sisters, Mom, Dad, niece and all my nephews, but I really, really wanted more time with the babies. When we get to see my brother's twin boys again, they will probably be far from babyhood.
So Ana and I wandered around arm in arm, talking about "da Babies" as we called them. Ana said she missed her "fussy Antony". I had no favorites; I just wanted to hold each of them again!
Men can easily get over the absence of babies' company, apparently. Even though Matthew and especially Berto had held them a lot, they seemed to be alright after being torn from their presence. But our hearts were broken.
A couple of women heard Ana and I talking about the twins and caught Ana saying, "Mama, it's time to ask Papa to adopt a baby."
"Get a puppy," one of the women, dressed nicely in business attire, said to us.
"We have one!" I replied, laughing.
Much later my littlest, Daniel, told me he was praying for me to have another baby. He also had been delighted by the company of his baby cousins.
But another little one in our family? "It would be a miracle," I told him.