Motley Crew on a Mountain Top

Disclaimer:  The title is misleading.  We weren't on a mountain top; it was a mountain side.

Warning:  Any relatives offended by being called a motley crew should stop reading now.

A motley crew of forty people ranging in age from a few months to eighty years came together on the side of a glorious Alberta mountain to celebrate life.  Without the ties of three strong women linking the crew together, the paths of those who attended would probably never cross.  The sisters were celebrating milestone birthdays worthy of a pilgrimage up a rough dusty forestry road, around blind corners, to a spectacular spot called Nipika Mountain Resort.

Individually, the sisters are forces; collectively they are something to behold.  As someone who never had the opportunity to participate in family reunions as a child, I find the gatherings fascinating.  Nearly everyone shows up, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, siblings, in-laws, relatives from Holland - you could devise an elaborate genealogy of the relationships.  Someone already did, and documented several hundred years of Vriend family history in a gigantic hard cover book.  But it isn't the map of relationships I am intrigued by, it is the dynamics of the relationships.

Throw three strong individuals into any situation and you might get a few sparks.  Add in 70-80 years of sibling history with each other and I suspect sparks are a given.  Mix in multi-generational complexity, realities of disease and aging, a hole left by the recent passing of a brother, and you have the real stuff that families that choose to show up for each other are made of.  It's real life.  It is messy, awkward, and uncomfortable but underneath the less than perfect is a safety net of love.

Isn't that the kind of love we all want?  Don't we all long for a place where we can be ourselves, mess it all up, be forgiven, and drawn in again to a place of safety and comfort?  It can be challenging enough to pull that off within our immediate families, it is ten times more challenging to foster that in an extended family.  Time, distance, inequities, and the complexity of life work against that end.  There is nothing homogenous about us as an extended family, except the bloodline.  We have disparate levels of income, spiritual perspectives, interests, educations, political views, and...  You have the idea.  Any one of those things might in another extended family be the "blow out" factor.  What's amusing to me is sparks didn't fly over any of the biggies!  Sparks flew over food.

It was a family reunion, of course we had sparks.  Just a few, no big deal.  The normal stuff sisters can get into with each other.  There we were a motley crew on the side of a mountain learning once again how to be together and how to love patiently.  For this rootless, reunion-less lass, I loved being given the privilege of being there, looking in, watching how it's done.  Thank you to the three amazing sisters for being who you are and continuing to live your lives in ways that exemplify love, generosity, and commitment to your families.

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