We adults met in college. 6 of us married from within, the others added spouses from other learning institutions around the nation. We went on to graduate school, jobs and establishing roots in our respective communities in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Atlanta and Texas.
Early on we bonded through weekend gatherings or long phone calls on telephones tethered to a wall. A decade later there was reconnecting via Facebook, sending emails and attempts at texts (once our kids taught us how). There seemed to be a wedding, a reunion or a bris every few years to gather bits and pieces of us together.
We congregated this past weekend in New York for one of the offspring Bar Mitzvahs. After many years and several states separating us, within seconds of the first hug it was like we were back in the dorm, teasing, laughing and enjoying our college family that has multiplied in size and deepened in closeness over time.
The 21 kids range in ages from 17 to 2 years old (yes, some of us started later than others) including a set of triplets from Texas and a pair of twins living in New York. Most of the parents are lawyers (birds of a feather?), but we mix it up with some doctors, a nurse, a financial planner and of course, yours truly, therapist extraordinaire. Some of the kids know each other better than others due to either vacationing together or because they live in closer proximity to one another, but none of the families reside in the same community. The New York contingency has a traditional Friday of Thanksgiving outing where whoever is in town gets together for a day in the city. We Virginia folk often host our Brooklyn compadres during winter break.
What typically happens at these big parties, like this weekend’s Bar Mitzvah, is we pile the kids in a room together with chips and a Playstation after the celebratory event at the host’s home. They play and talk and resort to the same ridiculous banter that their fathers did 20 years ago. We adults reminisce, enjoy our traditional New York delicacies of pizza and cannoli and continue to catch up and harass the kids.
The relationships between the adults and kids are unique; we are family, all comfortable and familiar. All of the parents are referred to by their first names and the kids become one big collective unit. I often find myself barking orders at any random minor to clean up his or her mess as readily as I lay into my own dear cherubs.
On the subway Sunday morning, I eavesdropped upon a conversation between my husband and the Texan triplets. They were asking about their dad’s prior girlfriends before “mom” during our college days. My husband enthusiastically embarrassed their dad, his buddy, with antics and stories about daddy dearest’s younger days. "Y'all are all so weirdly alike" says the Texan teenager to my husband referring to her dad and the rest of the odd menfolk in our midst. Meanwhile my kids are chatting up some of the other adults, making sure to highlight their favorite mother’s grandest parenting moments be it embarrassing them at sporting events or failing to pack the perfect school lunch.
The weekend was warm and genuine. The kids and adults were removed from the stress of work and school. They truly were among family, in some ways easier than being with blood family because we could embrace the closeness and the camaraderie without some of the baggage inherent in a true family reunion (not to say we haven’t had our share of drama over these 25 years, but somehow it seems different than when Great Aunt Dora is nagging Grandpa Bob over the China dishes willed to them by their ancestors from the old country). I heard some people talking about their upcoming Thanksgiving Friday and others suggesting a trip sometime in the spring. I know there are a few more Bar/Bat Mitzvahs on the horizon where different permutations of our extended group will gather once again. Whatever the occasion, it is nice to see that we are creating this safe and fun loving group for ourselves and for our kids.