August 12, 2009

The Gift of Family

We’ve just returned from a family reunion in Elberton to celebrate Daddy Hardy’s 95th birthday. Reaching the age of 95 is a pretty remarkable feat in the first place, but what took place in the pasture in front of Bob and Karen’s house when family traveled a collective 10,000 miles to be together was even more incredible.

I love my family. Unfortunately, my grandparents all died when I was fairly young and while our immediate family is close and enjoys traveling together and sharing holidays and other occasions with each other, our extended family has never really been close. Marrying into the Hardy family has been full of many blessings, but one of the greatest things that Robert has given me by inviting me into this family is the gift of grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles like I have never known.

This is a gathering of four generations. During the day on Saturday there are people going off in small groups for jogs or perfecting cannon-balls off the diving board at Daddy Hardy’s Swimming Hole. Some folks chose to swim in the lake while others hit J.C. Pool Co to acquire a new fall wardrobe. There are board games being played inside, bocce and frisbee in the yard, stray dogs wandering up to the house, children laughing and running and other children hot, tired, cranky and crying. Everyone chips in and helps out – no matter if it’s your kid or not. It is chaos and cacophony and pure bliss.

And there’s always food. Oh, is there food. Stuart and Marie bring pounds and pounds and pounds of fresh shrimp from the Coast. We feast on Mema and Papa’s fresh garden tomatoes, butter beans, okra and more. There’s tomato pie (who’s even heard of tomato pie?), and BBQ and slaw and salads and fresh corn on the cob. The hutch is the kitchen is covered with dozens of fresh Georgia peaches. And for dessert there’s blueberry cobbler, peach crisp and of course Karen’s homemade pound cake for Daddy Hardy’s birthday cake. This is a pretty amazing picture already. Thirty relatives getting together and really, truly, genuinely loving each other’s company. One cousin said during the weekend, “I would choose to spend time with these folks whether I was related to them or not.” Most families just don’t feel that way. But the most beautiful part of the evening was after we’d gorged ourselves on fresh produce and birthday cake and an informal toasting began.

Aunt Peen had spent a week earlier in the summer cleaning out Daddy Hardy’s attic and come across piles of old letters sent to Grandmother and Daddy Hardy over the years. The letters had been sorted and each of the three sons was given a bag of his family’s old news. People took turns reading the letters that had been written over the last fifty some years. With each word, a memory was dug up and appreciation, love and admiration was offered to Daddy Hardy. A few folks read some scripture – both some of Daddy Hardy’s favorite verses and some that just reminded us of the man he is and the remarkable job he did raising this family. We were celebrating Daddy Hardy and his life. We were recognizing how devoted he has always been to his faith, his community and especially to his family. We were acknowledging his legacy, but with it we were carrying on these memories and these values. It’s his story, but it’s a story that belongs to the whole family as we strive to follow in his example.

I watched some of the oldest children in the youngest generation and wondered if they had any idea of the significance of what they were participating in. I was soaking it up and delighting in it and not wanting any of it to end. It was one of those precious moments that you want to find some tangible way of capturing and holding on to. It’s one of those things you never want to forget. When Robert suggested that we all sing Happy Birthday one more time before turning in for the night, I started choking up. No one else seemed to be crying, why was I having such a hard time letting it end? These kinds of gatherings and reunions are normal to them – they’ve never known anything else. I hope they never have to.

Daddy Hardy always says, "If you give your life to the Lord at an early age, study his word, and follow his commandments, he will bless you with a loving family.".” He then says he “wouldn’t trade it for all of Solomon’s gold, wives and concubines.” Me neither, Daddy Hardy. Me neither.

The man of the hour. His expression? Pure delight, as he's watching his family and soaking it in.

lots of family, swimming in the pool...

I can't resist mentioning that for this reunion, Bob and Karen borrowed a friend's RV, parked it in the driveway and used it to sleep all the relatives. How fabulous is that??

Working on handmade birthday cards for Daddy Hardy...

Did I mention the food?

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday, Daddy Hardy! Happy Birthday to you!

Here's the family, after dinner, sharing toasts, letters, scripture, memories and more...

Bob reads the birthday letter he wrote to Daddy Hardy 20 years ago for his 75th Birthday.

And Karen reads a letter even older than that, when Bob wrote asking for money for their honeymoon.

I am so proud to be a part of this family:

March 11, 2009

The Suspension of Disbelief

Yikes... it's been a long long time since I posted anything. I was afraid I might be dreadfully bad at this whole blogging thing. Oh well, this is just practice for the kids later on, right?

We've just gotten back from a fabulous ten day vacation to Hawaii. We saw and experienced some amazing things while we were there, and I look forward to another blog update soon with photos and details about that trip. Right now, I'm still processing the photos we took. Robert gave me a fantastic new camera for Christmas and I've had a whole lot of fun with it. I'm enjoying learning about photography and figuring out how to do some things. But I also took almost 4,000 photos on the trip and the processing is taking awhile.

So until then, another post about teaching.

Today was one of those days that I was really struck with why I love kinders so much. I tell people all the time that it's a really great age and I can't really imagine teaching anywhere else. Sure, the beginning of the year is difficult when they can't wipe their noses or butts and aren't really sure how to line up, push their chairs in, or go through the cafeteria line. But I do love to see the change and progression from the beginning until the end of kindergarten. They learn so much, not only academically, but about who they are and how to relate to others. It's just a really neat process to watch.

But the other reason I love kinders is because of their suspension of disbelief. When I was in college and doing a lot of theatre we talked about that concept a lot and how important it was as directors and actors to create a situation where the audience was willing to suspend their disbelief of the stage and believe fully in the action happening there. But kindergartners are so ready to suspend their disbelief and they will do it with such great abandon that it delights me.

We began our St. Patrick's Day unit today. I always start this unit by talking a little bit about leprechauns and what they do and what they're like. But then, when the kids go to PE or a special, leprechauns will come and visit our classroom. They play in centers, read books, leave little green footprints on the floor, and make a general disaster of our room. They also leave a note for the kids. When we all get back to the room the children are outraged ("What?! WE have to clean up THEIR mess?!") and enthused and curious and just so alive!! So we clean up the room, talk about what clues they left behind and then as a whole class write the leprechauns back. Thus begins the week-long pen pal relationship.

I just love how thoroughly the kids buy in to it all. Suddenly, what was once a messy desk is the work of Paddy. What used to be a missing pencil is all blamed on Looie. And on the way to playground I heard them all discussing the tiny boot footprints they could clearly see in the mud. Everything they view is suddenly through this new lens and go all out with it. What if we all trusted so completely in a suggestion?

Some may say it's just innocence or naivite. But I'm inclined to think that this suspension of disbelief is more than that. I think it's a gift, and a fleeting one at that.
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