family fusion

Family fusion II: One degree of separation

July 29, 2021

Photo credit: Pete Deutschman 

family ties
The moment they discover they both know Scott 

   One thing was clear from the beginning. There’d be no kids sitting in the back seat of cars eating cold hot dogs, while the parents up front argued who’d started the fight. Even my obliviousness to facilitating the introductions was taken for granted, and everyone knew everyone else before I realized I shouldn’t have found the lounge chair in the corner and had gone straight for it. (I’m exaggerating here, of course. It was an Adirondack not a lounge chair. I’ve never been so oblivious as to claim a lounge chair immediately upon arrival at a party.)

The Democratic Republic of the Bounce House

   By the time it occurred to me I hadn’t introduced any of my family to the Madigans, they were already on their second beer and discussing their favorite movies, while the grandkids had merged sufficiently to declare the Bounce House an independent republic.

   I knew that my two kids had developed gregariousness almost out of spite, and that the welcoming gene on the part of the Madigan clan was so dominant that when they had applied it to me three years earlier, I’d felt so at home I had the feeling I’d already known all of them for years. Still, it came as no small surprise that when my daughter and Carol’s oldest began comparing notes on their New York days twenty years earlier, it turned out they had a mutual friend. One degree of separation. That close to this party being a 20-year reunion for Nicole and April.

   I’ve always believed that Carol and I had leaped over a universe of space and time to find each other at this stage of our lives. But maybe it wasn’t light years. Maybe all that had separated us was so infinitesimally small that any random occurrence would have brought us together. One degree of separation.

By the time it occurred to me I hadn’t introduced any of my family to the Madigans, they were already on their second beer and discussing their favorite movies, while the grandkids had merged sufficiently to declare the Bounce House an independent republic.

family tidepool expedition
A tidepool expedition worthy of Steinbeck and Rickett

   The knots of conversations this day ebbed and flowed, broke apart and reformed like the little colonies in tidepools buffeted by the ocean tides. Observing those tide pools along the ocean beaches at Laguna and Crystal Cove were high points of my grandchildren’s first encounter with the Pacific Ocean. My son’s nearly 40 photos along Hollywood’s Walk of Fame were a highlight of his and his wife’s visit here. They all made a family visit into a family vacation, and that has meant as much to me and more than if they had just come for the party.

   We’re a destination now.

What a father can pass on to a son

   Which gets me off the hook for having to worry whether my behavior is commensurate with my roles as host, father and grandfather. (My role as husband is, as always, subject to a seven day rolling average.)

   So instead of my usual anxiety over whether I held up my end of the visit, I can, instead, tell myself So what? They had tidepools, whale watching, Newport Beach, the Santa Monica Pier, Universal Studios and the Hollywood sign. What could they want from me?

family cornhole tournament
A moment before the faceplant

   Back at the party, I went 1-1 in the corn hole competition, after being the only contestant to do a faceplant trying to throw a bean bag.


More about the Family Vacation here!

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