Early this cool morning, I am sitting and watching a myriad of children playing with each other with giggles, vivid stories, and extreme silliness. While the weather is shifting, the mad rush to the beach is on hold during this family vacation. The cooler air and wafting fog affords a couple of hours of parental amusement, as seven children, ranging in age from sixteen to five, unleash their imaginations – yes, they are shooting each other as zombies (both boys and girls), they are sharing funny videos from their handheld devices (so cute watching heads crowd around a small screen), and they are making memories to last them an entire lifetime.
Within a five mile radius, there are more cousins – the sleepyheads who will bound upon the seven already here. There are in-laws and aunts/uncles within the same quaint little town. Familiar faces that can all be given the same label as they share a similar strain of the gene pool: family.
My grand entrance to this family started twenty-two years ago. It was 1991 and I was at a high school house party. The kind of party that your parents tell you not to go to and somehow, you end up socializing and drinking beer with a large assortment of other young teens.
To be honest, I do not remember who’s house we were at; it was an older (*ack* college student) kid’s house. I was there with a few of my good friends and I remember walking around aimlessly taking in all the sort of unknown faces. It was at this party that an older college boy took an interest in me and I was instantly curious…..”Ooooh, a college boy!” I had recently graduated from high school, but I was a mere 17 years old.
Long story later, I dated this boy for a little while. He was kind and like me, he was going to return to his college campus later that summer. With my new adventure of embarking off to college, getting into a relationship was the last thing I would envision in the lazy days of the summer of ’91.
It all happened at an eventful July 4th party that the sweet boy invited me to. I asked to bring my two best friends because I would not know anyone (again, a much older group). During the party, I noticed the very handsome older brother of this sweet boy I had been meeting up with over the summer. This older brother was very funny and intriguingly gross. A few beers later, this cute man was asking me out. My mind swirled because I was at the party with the sweet, younger brother of this cutie. The sweet, younger brother and my best friend were becoming taken with each other; they were nowhere to be found but people say they were out on the paddle boat for hours (*disclaimer – they will both recount a slightly different version of events at this part of our story). The cutie that had asked me out was also with someone else that he had brought with him to the party from his work. Whoa. This is NOT a soap opera, but real life.
Doug and I agreed to go running together and see how it went from there. I was still reluctant to get into a relationship a mere few weeks before college; but dang, this guy was hot. We went running together multiple times a week and we hit it off. We would easily bang out a three mile run and follow that up with a strawberry shake from McDonald’s.
Jeff and Cheryl also hit it off and began dating, despite different colleges, jobs and more.
Twenty-two years later, all four of us have been married seventeen years: Doug and I tying the knot in May of 1996 and Jeff and Cheryl in August. There are seven children amongst us. There were the nay-sayers who shook their head when I got married at the immature age of twenty-two. However, something in my deepest core told me even back then, that this course of action was my destiny and my fate.
As I continue to sip on my coffee and type, the noises continue: Pop-Tart wrappers being torn and thrown by giant teenaged boy bodies; various mutant sound effects coming from imaginary play with bows & arrows and stick on mustaches; and the best sound of all – the laughter, the giggles, all emitting from the gaggle of kids that started with a young, summer romance.
Family. At its best.