We had almost everything we needed for the first annual Lyons Family Christmas Turling Tournament: the slip & slide, a frozen turkey, a broom of sorts. The competitors were in full gear and ready to roar. Two family members and their partners were missing, and the shadows of their choice stood in quiet contrast to the bright light joy of the day.
This event was organized by my youngest brother's daughter, who clearly has too much time on her hands. Trash talk had been traded via e-mail for days as we practiced getting into character. Characters assigned to us by my twenty-something architect NYC-living niece: Mad Mabel (mine), Walt R. Brawn-kite, Geoff Goldbroom, Mark The Grim Sweeper, the Lynncinerator, and Steezy Nicks.
As we laughed, flung the turkey, and tried not to hurt fifty-year-old bodies being driven by wild children, I marveled at how far we've come as siblings. And I grieved for the one choosing not to join us for this celebration.
I am an oldest child. The only sister to three brothers (actually six brothers, but that's another story for another day). As is the case for many adult siblings, especially, I think, in families where healthy love was not demonstrated let alone taught, ours is a complicated relationship.
Often over the years our differences have separated us - water in crevasses frozen and shattering seemingly indestructible stone. We remembered the one thing we had in common, our childhood, with such wild diversity a stranger hearing our stories would not believe we were related. At times it seemed to me that we would never be able to find a way to express our love for each other in a way that could be received as love.
That we love each other has never been in doubt. Regardless of the fact that in the past that love was often expressed as judgement, criticism and anger. I've been the guiltiest. As big sister I took my role seriously and believed it both my right and duty to share my wisdom and truth, whether my baby brothers wanted it or not.
Growing up, one of us was always a favorite and one always the pariah, with the other two somewhere on the continuum between. Depending on our mom's mood, and our behavior, the roles shifted - much like tectonic plates. So it should be no surprise that in adulthood, almost always one of us stands outside the group.
Even when the group stands with arms open and welcoming.
Right now it's our oldest brother, the charming brilliant family hero, who is unable to reach beyond righteous calcified anger aimed at our youngest brother, to take the hands holding an opening in the circle for him. He actually spent Christmas in Palm Springs alone with his wife, a last minute trip chosen against the invitation to this gathering. This brother who loves the holidays and family and traditions at least as much as the rest of us chose the most un-Christmas possible so he could cling to a ghostly victimhood.
He neither called nor answered his phone, so great was the distance. Yet his need to still be a part of things exerted itself in money and a magnum of champagne sent with our middle brother.
So he was missed, but his absence did nothing to dampen the joy and fun that flowed (or turled) through our time together. Arms remain extended, the circle open, the love of healing adults wanting relationship more than revenge or righteous indignation waiting patiently to be received. Our faith strong enough to hold the belief that this family pattern can and will be broken.
From left to right: Nicky (the organizer), Geoff (baby brother), his wife Lynn, Mark (middle brother), Mad Mabel holding Festus, my husband Walt