For the second year in a row now, dare I say it’s tradition, two of my chiblings* have come to stay with Brian and me the weekend following Thanksgiving. For years before this new “tradition” has been in place, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been bookmarked as the Thanksgiving celebration for my dad’s clan. My dad’s children, children’s spouses, and children’s children all convene in my grandmother’s 1970s ranch for our day of family chaos and wonderment. Sometimes there’s hula-hooping, or charades, or wrestling, or a game. Every year finds the youngest generation playing in the basement, football on TV, laughter, conversation, and Grandma’s roast beef and Texas sheet cake, to name a few of the staples.
(*Chiblings is a term I coined to fill a gap in the English language. It is a gender neutral word for the children of one’s siblings and is much more succinct than always having to write “niece(s) and nephew(s).” You’re welcome, English speakers.)
Last year my brother and his wife had plans after the family gathering, so Brian and I arranged to take their two youngest, Brady and Paige, home with us to Pittsburgh to spend the night. This year, without impetus we did the same, extending their stay until Sunday.
After a lazy Saturday morning and easy afternoon with Penn State football, video games, and the game Tri-Spy, Brian, Brady (9), Paige (6) and I set off to a nearby playground. Closed for construction. Bummer. Thinking on the fly, we went to the bowling alley. An hour-and-a-half wait. Strike two. As we loaded the car and headed to the movie theater for Tangled in 3D, I twisted around in the front seat and told Brady and Paige, who were still upbeat and cheery, that if we didn’t get to do anything fun this weekend, they could at least tell people that we had fun ideas.
Fortunately things turned in our favor and we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the movie and the amazing Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort. The chiblings didn’t have a camera with them, but each took 70-100 photos of the light displays using their Nintendo DS systems. One of Paige’s favorite displays — that I happened to capture, albeit crappily, on my cell phone — was the carousel with moving horses. Throughout the entire evening, even after we left the resort, she continued to exclaim, “How did they get the horses to move like that?!”
On Sunday, we scored again with an afternoon at Carnegie Science Center’s SportsWorks. We were fortunate to pick a day with a small crowd, giving us pretty much free reign and nearly unlimited access to whatever “exhibit” we wanted. Brady (who is flipping on a trampoline in November’s masthead) loved the virtual roller coaster best. Paige’s favorite was the 25-foot (that is, about 7 Paiges) rock climbing wall. The weekend was officially a success.
Brian and I pulled our car into the garage Sunday night, children returned to their parents and our cats in charge of the house again. The house is quiet, which is nice on one hand, but missing a joy and presence that only those amazing little people can fill. A couple times I have caught myself sitting on the couch or at my desk staring off into nowhere, reflecting on the fun weekend and the kids’ antics, smiling as I remember Paige beam as she told the SportWorks attendant that she had pushed the button at the top of the rock climbing wall not one, not two, but three times. I too was in awe of her boundless energy. She had climbed that wall 6-7 times at least, ringing the proverbial victory bell with a push of the button on the last several attempts, and then she would rappel down as though she had been doing it professionally for years.
But that beaming. There was no prize for the number of button pushes; she was just so delighted in her own accomplishment. We are impressive creatures, aren’t we? Almost always capable of achieving so much more than we ever credit ourselves able to do. Anyway, it’s these little moments with our chiblings that inspire us to rustle up our home for a weekend with their imprint and to create new traditions.