Like many people in the post-World War II era, my parents enjoyed the prosperity and modern conveniences that allowed them to move around the country, far from their parents and siblings.
We had no relatives nearby, so when we became “best friends" with a family that lived near us in both Boston and Chicago, we forged our own family unit, celebrating every holiday – from Christmas down through Labor Day – and every major event together for decades.
Our mothers commemorated their “fifty years of friendship” a few years ago and the kids – some separated by thousands of miles -- still enjoy an extraordinary, cousin-like closeness.
To me, that defined “family.”
My parents made it clear we could attend college and establish careers wherever we wanted. As such, older siblings found work in far-flung locales including Hawaii, Silicon Valley and Minneapolis. I attended grad school in New York City and stayed in the Big Apple for nearly a decade, until my husband convinced me to drive across the country to Seattle.
We still live in the Seattle area, on the island where my in-laws moved from Minnesota in the late 1970s. It is a close-knit family full of kind, interesting and successful adults and kind, interesting and motivated kids. Now numbering 30 people locally, the family gathers several times a month to celebrate holidays, birthdays, baptisms, graduations and every other major achievement.
My husband’s parents are young and active, and are actively involved in their kids’ and grandkids’ lives. Grandpa retired early and Grandma now works as a consultant, so they have the time and resources to fully participate in family life. Their biggest contribution is a trip they organize once a year.
The “Eight and Up Trip”—for grandkids between the ages of eight and 18 – is now in its 16th year. At its peak it included 16 grandchildren; this week, 10 teens drove off with their grandparents. The location is always kept secret until the last minute. About 10 days before the trip, Grandpa starts sending out clues, such as “We will go west, then north, then east, then north, then east, then south,” or this year’s code: “These numbers tell the whole story: 4, 216, 3 56, 70, 1350, 5399.”
To find out where the group traveled this year, read the entire blog post at http://permissionslips.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/bridging-the-generation-gap/
My friend and colleague and I take turns updating our blog each