On the sofa in Mom and Dad’s living room, lappy keeping my knees warm and hot spiced wine on the side table. The Folks and Tim & Carol are shouting at the football players on television as the hometown team slides around on an icy field. As I’m less than interested in montana college football, i’m enjoying a moment of “iPod solitude”, a phrase i’m coining right now (take note of that, you scouts from Webster’s) to describe the effective isolation possible even in noisy, crowded places with a pair of white headphones (or any other color, really). I’m also attempting to caption and publish all those photos from Manhattan last month. I’ve concluded that i need some easy, portable way of taking notes about pictures as i take them, so i don’t need to spend so much time remembering and researching in order to properly label them days/weeks/months later, as that really is the primary hold-up in my process.

It’s been a great thanksgiving weekend, visiting with all the extended family that i don’t see nearly enough. We set up chairs for 33 people yesterday – and several more who are too young to need their own chair – and feasted on two turkeys, a ham, and a mountain of side dishes until everyone was nearly (but not quite) too full for dessert. Mom was in a thousand different places at once all afternoon, and despite her claims that it was all a bit stressful she projected an organized calm and everything was hot and delicious and ready on time. The joy and laughter echoed in the high ceiling’s peaks into the evening, until everyone but us 6 houseguests made their way home, and i was repeatedly struck with how supportive, compassionate and welcoming this family is. From the first sister-in-law to marry into the family to the latest young cousin’s groom, from the great-grandmother of the entire group to the newest second cousin, everyone is loved, enjoyed and appreciated by all. Grudges are not held, loyalties – though tested – are never discarded, and through everything that befalls them the family sticks together. I know that all families share a bond of life and love that keeps them close, but my Dad’s 10 brothers and sisters and their individual clans make up the type of extended family that sometimes seems to only exist in mafia movies or feel-good holiday stories. They support each others’ businesses and hobbies: half a dozen women purchased jewelry from Mom last night, insisting on paying more than her family-discount price. They pass possessions around between each other freely: all the dirt bikes i drove as a kid were lent from an older cousin, and passed to a younger one after me; the heater in Dad’s garage that kept us warm all evening came from his brother Dan’s shop; Uncle Dick saw the disassembled ’67 Triumph TR6 in the garage and offered to bring his extra parts to help with Dad’s retirement project. They jump to each other’s aid: when Kevin called with transmission problems every mind present starting working at a solution, and keys were in hands ready to drive 40 miles to do whatever was necessary.

Anytime i feel a little jaded about the world, about people caring about one other, about marriages staying together and families living in peace, a weekend with my extended family is remedy for that and then some, and i will head back to Seattle tomorrow morning feeling rested and well-fed and knowing that no amount of distance could outreach the safety net that i’m so lucky to have, ready to catch me  if  when i tumble from life’s trapeze.