Have you ever had a family that you adopted and claimed to be yours? They’re no relation to you, but something inside them gives you the feeling of kindred spirits. You know, they’re so special like the Walton Family from television, you wish you could be a part of them? I was with such a family this Thanksgiving holiday.
We were reunited in Branson, Mo. It was only fitting that our reunion would happen there. Billboards of family singers and entertainers lined the streets and hills of this entertainment Mecca. All the advertising seemed to point to the importance of family.
Some members of this family I had not seen in 25 years, yet it seemed as though I couldn’t stop smiling the moment I arrived. Like a favorite comedienne whose stories mesmerize and draw you in, the time flew by and left me breathlessly wanting more.
We gathered around the living room of their little rented lodge that sat overlooking Table Rock Lake, and gave a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. One of the family members was celebrating their 50th birthday. As the strains of the familiar song wafted across the room like the scent of a fresh baked apple pie, the family offered shades of the Osmonds. Their close harmonies and beautiful voices was worthy of any show Branson could offer.
The clan had grown with children and grandchildren, new faces abounded. Yet I knew I was privileged to be a part of something special. I sat on the fireplace hearth, looked around the room, and sighed; I was content.
When I was a child, I was part of a large Italian family. On Christmas eve, my parents, grandmother and grandfather Tony, and his brothers and sisters would circle the living room as my siblings and I would open our gifts. I can close my eyes and still look around the room and imagine that night from 1966. My Uncles Clarence, Irving, Arturo, Guiseppe, and Aunts Lillian, Viola, and Demetria are all laughing and talking.
Tonight as I spent time with our dear friends and family, I recreated the magic of that night forty six years ago. I was a kid among a family that made me feel special.
I envision heaven being a lot like that: good food, good friends, great conversation. But unlike heaven, I hope three hours is not all that I am allotted. It was probably just the right amount of time however. For this one night, I was transported to my own little Lake Wobegone from Prairie Home Companion. The Men were strong, the women beautiful, and all the children were indeed, well above average.
Tonight compared to 30 years ago, when this family first entered my life; my hair is now gray, I look older than my age, but I don’t care. I was home. If only for three hours.