my people

and the next generation begets a new generation. james’ tiny hand holding lyla’s tinier hand is everything

stalling while i’m trying to decide how honest to be. but this is my space so let’s just see where it takes us.

yesterday was, like most of life, complicated. it was good and beautiful, but it wasn’t perfect. i’m not talking about the food. (the food–even with the gravy fails–which story i will tell later–was good, but it’s not about the food. it’s about the people.) yesterday was full of good and full of sweetness, but to keep it real, there were also moments of carelessness, sharpness, and ingratitude from people who know well enough to choose better, that worry and that sting, even amidst so much goodness, kindness, helpfulness, and gratitude. i’ll leave it at that. because the truth is, this mortal world and its mortal people are not without briars. what is left to us is to choose to acknowledge the reality of their presence but spend more effort appreciating the roses growing from them.

my people.

my siblings’ whereabouts could be traced, as per usual, across three neighboring states. my only sister and her husband brought her boys down to utah this year to open her oldest’s mission call and gather with her in-laws. my oldest brother’s wife just welcomed her parents home from a mission back east and had their first holiday together in over a year. two of my brothers gathered in idaho with friends over a 25-pound home-grown turkey one of them provided. my remaining brother’s family gathered in friends who have been down on their luck and celebrated the day at their home in oregon. even though we were not together, and don’t traditionally get together for holidays, our thoughts were drawn toward each other during the day. there has been an increase of that since we lost my mom, and i’m grateful that each one of them makes an effort to keep us connected, even in small and simple ways, such as the occasional text message.

it took some effort, but most of my immediate people gathered together with shane’s dad and many of his siblings and some of their offspring in duchesne for our first holiday without shane’s mom. as I sat for a minute in the hogan–its first time empty on that day since i can remember–before walking across the rough path now worn between the hogan and shane’s youngest brother and his wife’s home next door–i considered the role of matriarch and the truth of the matter that if you feed them, they will come. i remembered the years working with barbara in the kitchen as the men and kids went for their traditional drive up in the mountains and how barbara wore herself out on that day (and many others, to be sure) preparing food as an invitation–that could not be refused–for the family to gather. i thought of my paternal grandmother, who for years–well after the family grew so large in number for it to be prohibitive–insisted the extended family gather for either a thanksgiving or christmas meal together. and we did. while that tradition eventually ceased, i’m sure the annual gathering in the summer for the rex reunion was also at her hands.

and now the torch was passed. instead of spending the morning alone with barbara in her kitchen, i spent time with toni both at her kitchen and back at barbara’s (it will always be barbara’s kitchen). toni’s daughter madison made rolls–impressive anyway at her age, but especially in the quantity the day required–while i made sour cream lemon pie and simmered the giblets for the traditional (my mom’s recipe, passed down from the red and white plaid of better homes & gardens) turkey stuffing. then back over to barbara’s for the chopping of onion and celery, as toni’s two ovens would be kept full with turkey and rolls (while the smoker outside handled more turkey). the other sisters–teresa and gini–both busy in their own kitchens.

like hens to their chickens and ducks to their ducklings, mothers are gatherers. i know this. we all know this. but yesterday i felt it keenly and was determined to continue to keep feeding people when and how I can. being together in this way build memories and strengthens bonds that extend through generations.

because our day for the people pictured above is actually thanksgiving 2.0, i don’t worry over us not being all together for thursday thanksgiving proper. but that doesn’t mean i don’t think about all my children, wherever they are.

relationships are worth it, but complicated. perhaps rough edges and bumps are more keenly felt with one’s own children because one somehow feels responsible (did i not teach them better)? perhaps we are more willing to make allowances for others’ agency–even our own hard-fought–but struggle with this more, somehow fearing lesser choices may be a reflection of our own imperfections?

in any case, i’m grateful for and hold to reminders of a lesson learned a long time ago: step back and look at the person. i know their hearts. they are good people, even when they sometimes forget to be good to each other or to their parents. remembering this softens the occasional sting. eventually.

perhaps it is good to remember my people are god’s people. they are loved infinitely and beyond. as am i. i have made my imperfect offering as a mother and they remain, as they always have been, in god’s hands. my job is to love. and to keep trying. and to work every day to overcome weaknesses and build strengths. to take the goodness i was given and raised with and become better. something i can only do with god’s love.

i didn’t see it until this morning, but this simple text from my husband means the world:

“i’m thankful for a good wife.”

i am thankful for a husband who is a good man.

perhaps a significant part of this mortal life while we are here with our people on this earth striving toward godliness is simply about learning to be content with and even grateful for goodness. to let ourselves and those we love be good enough even while we continue to learn and grow together.

[Day 198 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]