I come from a tribe.
A boisterious, opinionated, over-the-top, joke-telling, loud, over-sharing kind of tribe.
I have two brothers and two sisters and four children and eleven nieces and nephews.
And that’s just on my side of the family.
We get together every Christmas and in the summer on Cape Cod and a few random holidays and events in between. And when we are all together, there are family jokes and kids spilling out every where and giant waffle bars and Oreos in the couch and basketball games in the winter and tea parties and laughter.
Lots and lots of laughter.
This past Christmas, I asked my kids if this year they wanted to change it up a bit.
I told them a family Christmas can be a little overwhelming sometimes.
I asked if they wanted to stay at our house and have a leisurely holiday without all the stress and sleeping on the floor and having stickers all over their arms and eating at a table full of Cheerios and benches.
They looked at me as if I had lost my mind.
Seriously, they said?
They informed me that was the best part of the holidays and what was I thinking and they were packing their bags right now and could they make monogrammed clipboards for everyone so they could participate in the handmade gift exchange.
They were right.
I’m so glad we made the trip.
December 25 we found ourselves eating waffles and wearing stickers and watching football and sharing stories about our lives and exchanging handmade presents and laughing.
And days later when it was time to leave and drive back to Kentucky, we packed up the car with heavy hearts.
They all lined up at the door to see us off, that wonderful tribe of mine.
An entire family of stair steps standing in stocking feet, spilling out of the entry way one over the other, shouting and laughing and waving frantically to tell us goodbye.
We plastered our faces against the car windows and waved back as we pulled out of the driveway.
And then we saw him.
One of the cousins was following us down the block on the sidewalk, running like the wind with his blonde curls swirling around his head.
He ran and waved and ran and waved and ran after us until he couldn’t run any more. And then he stopped, exhausted and then he bent over out of breath. Slowly he raised his head and then simply stood and waved at our car in the distance. We waved back and grinned and smiled at our curly headed runner until we drove out of sight.
He never stopped waving.
He had given his goodbye all he had.
He was so right.
And the poignant lesson he taught me at that moment will be imprinted on my heart forever.
We need to hold our family close and forget the imperfections and treasure the laughter.
And run like the wind after each goodbye.