David Roberts @drvox Seattleite transplanted from Tennessee; now blogging for vox.com/ about energy politics. Climate hawk, deficit dove. Not a doctor. Jul. 23, 2019 4 min read

1. Hi, it's me, back from my 10-day vacation. Before I get sucked back into the rage vortex, I want to put some of my residual positive vibes down in writing, with a little meditation on the value of family traditions.

2. So, every other year, my mom's side of the family gathers for a reunion in a state park in TN. It's a relatively dumpy, nondescript park, just a bunch of cabins, a few playgrounds, a pool, and a lake to boat on. They started doing this in *1974*, when I was 2 years old.

3. At first they did it every year, then it shifted to every other year. It started with my grandparents, their 4 kids (inc. my mom), & grandkids. Now my grandparents & one of the original siblings have passed, but the grandkids (my gen) has kids of their own. (Oldest is 21!)

4. The upshot is, every two years (for 44 years now!) I spend a week with this clan. There were times (esp. when my gen was in college & shortly after) when the whole thing teetered & was in danger of being abandoned. It's a hassle getting a week off, the parks is dumpy, etc.

5. But there were always at least a few who clung to it & pushed it forward.

Now, these are people I'd be unlikely to befriend (or even meet) in my normal Seattle liberal bubble life. They are southerners, mostly political conservative, w/ interests & habits v. unlike mine.

6. But when we get together, despite the 2-year gap, there is an instant bond & rapport that is deeper than any of that, and instant. I love all of them so much. Several times over the week I cried, not from sadness, but from my heart being full. (You know that kind of crying?)

7. To see the kids of these cousins I've known for so long, with all their individual kid personalities, playing with my kids, forming that same kind of bond I formed as a child...I can't describe it. It just feels like connecting with something deep & steady & grounding.

8. The last night, all 35 or so of us were all crammed in to one of the cabins & "Country Road" by John Denver came on. All of us ended up singing along, even the tiny kids, & I swear to god, I'm not sure I've ever had a happier moment in my life. I cry just thinking about it.

9. Anyway, if there's a point to this sappy story, it's this: human beings are built to be part of clans, to have a group in which they belong, in which they are accepted & valued, in which they are rooted. Humans NEED that. But peripatetic modern life has all but destroyed it.

10. I know lots of people, maybe most, don't have that -- their families don't get along, or they're scattered, or they just don't have any. And even functional families find it incredibly difficult these days to assemble regularly. So many folks are rootless & lonely these days.

11. Modern life puts all the weight on the nuclear family, but we should admit: it's not enough. We need deeper roots. We need clans, traditions, ties to the past & to others. People used to have all that by default, but today it must be consciously crafted, with effort.

12. So I guess this is just a reminder to put in the work. Make the effort to establish & maintain traditions. If you don't have extended family, try to patch together a makeshift family of friends. Even if regular events are a hassle to plan, even if they're awkward sometimes...

13. ... the regularity itself has value, more than you know, especially for young people. This reunion is probably the best thing I'll give my kids, even if they don't know it yet. It is one of the best things in my life. And it's a miracle it came (and stayed) together.

14. (The only downside: my aunt has kept photo albums the whole time, so every other year, my kids & all their cousins get to flip through them and mock the terrible hair & clothing of their youthful parents. I'm never going to live that pony tail down.)

15. I suppose I have to end this thread, as much as I want to cling to all the love & positivity I've felt over the last week. Now it's time to resume my day job, ie, wallowing in ugliness & rage, contemplating the grim future we're leaving for all those cousins. Sigh. </fin>


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