It's been 15 years since the five kids were all together. Had I not been nine months pregnant in 1996, it would have been 11 years; alas, I did not go to my mom's wedding then.
We are far-flung as far as Americans go. My sister and I are in California; my mother and two brothers are in Florida; my oldest brother is in Alabama. But the distance that separates us can't be measured in miles.
It is measured in lives. My life revolves around raising three kids. The lives of my Florida brothers revolve around hotels and restaurants. My Alabama brother's life revolves around work, his church and his cocooned family. My sister's life revolves around her husband and her job. We all revolve in different worlds, and the gravitational pull of my mother has not been strong enough to get us together emotionally or physically.
Until now. For a period of 19 hours, we were all in the same place at the same time. And all of us were sans significant others, except the significant other who is my mother.
We have the photographic proof that we were a family for less than a day. We agreed that talk of religion was tabled for the period of time. We did not agree to table discussions of childhoods.
And so we came to understand that, although tethered together in youth, our lives were markedly different. We were all in Virginia together for five years and in Hawaii together for four. But we were apparently living different lives, and the differences cannot be attributed merely to age.
How we recall our lives in such different terms, how we define ourselves in such different terms, boggles my mind. How can one recall an idyllic time while another recalls only horrors? And neither can see that the other's memories are valid. We're talking same genetics, same environment until the youngest was 13. We were living different lives. And we continue to live different lives.
I am grateful that my oldest brother joined us. It means a lot to me. It means a lot to my mom. I think it means a lot to him. I hope it does.
Now it's back to our different lives, with a hope -- God willing, not a false one -- that we can find it within ourselves to reach out, to strengthen the gravitational pull that is, after all, family.