I often criticize myself for being a way better friend than I am a family member. These feelings of guilt are usually expressed in my therapist’s office. But out side of it, after years of conditioning, I find it hard to be better.
The guilt mainly stems from my father’s side of the family. The Jewish side, naturally. My aunts and uncles all live within 15 minutes of one another in Connecticut. My cousins grew up going to school together. A handful of them now work together, running the business that my grandfather started 50 years ago. And their kids get together for sleepovers and play dates.
The fact that I am only sporadically involved in these tight knit activities is partially a product of circumstance. I am the only child of the baby of the family. When most of my cousins were drinking their first beer, I was still mainlining milk. By the time I was doing keg stands in college, their kids were taking their first steps. You get it. But still, I could spend more quality time with my family, and I hold myself responsible for failing to get on the train and get involved.
My mom’s side of the family is another story entirely. And for them, I am only one piece of the collective blame. The last holiday we shared with my mom’s siblings, my uncle out-ed my cousin in a poem, and my grandmother, deep into her dementia, bit the only non-relative at the table and drew blood. Not every gathering has been this colorful. But when there aren’t that many gatherings to begin with, these events do leave quite an impression.
But let me get to the point. I’ve been swinging from branch to branch of the family tree in order to get to my cousin Leslie. Growing up, I always felt an amazing connection to her. We weren’t the closest in age, and she lived on the West Coast, so our time together was only during the summer and only lasted a week or two. But I’ve always felt we shared a similar energy. My friend Rachel once said that the best judge of whether a friend or partner is the right fit is if they share your specific brand of weird. Even if we’re all cut from the same wacky cloth, I think this definitely applies to family as well.
For the past five years or so, I’ve seen very little of Leslie, who’s been living in Boulder and bopping around the world playing music. She just came out with a kids album that’s delightful, and definitely highlights some of that weird I was talking about. She also recently became dairy and gluten-free.
As I’ve found with many of my evolving adult relationships, Leslie and I recently reconnected in a more intimate way around food. You may have seen some of her comments about gluten-free baking on the blog. They are part of an ongoing dialogue we’ve been having about crunchy granola Boulder-y things like Teff and almond butter.
Last week, Leslie finally came to town to play some gigs and I got to have her over to discuss these things in person over a light vegetarian meal of ramp and mushroom omelets. I left the cheese out of Leslie’s, because as she put it, there’s nothing worse than being farty at your own concert…except for being farty in a yoga class. (I get it.)
It was great to catch up as adults and let some of my old weird shine through. There’s no better way to make up for years of un-taken trains and quality time lost. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Hopefully I’ll be spreading more of it throughout the branches of my family tree, even if I have to take a train to do so. Continue reading