Wright family events are not small gatherings. Mr. Wright is the fourth of five children, and he and his siblings, along with their respective spouses, have produced for his parents 22 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren—so far. Throw in the far-flung cousins and their kids, and any congregation site qualifies for its own congressional district.
When we all flood into my in-laws’ condo for a week during the summer, we may or may not be pushing the limits of the fire code, but I trust that the half dozen or so firefighters in the family would alert us to any imminent danger.
I married into a really good family.
In any event, it’s a lot of bodies. A whole lot of bodies, representing nearly every age group from birth to seventy-something. The crowding is so great, it’s impossible not to rub elbows, hips and other assorted body parts with family members as everyone moves about. In fact, it’s pretty much like being in a mosh pit—
FOR A WEEK.
Meals are a free-for-all, and sleeping arrangements involve near-stacking of bodies. Everyone brings groceries, board games, blankets and sunscreen, and—for a few short days—we all live in commune-like coordinated chaos.
Bedrooms are allocated by hierarchy: Grandma and Grandpa first, followed closely by Nobel Peace Prize winners, Heisman trophy recipients and anyone who can produce an authenticated doctor’s note before bedtime. With an EMT and four or five nurses in the family, claiming an injury or illness will result in immediate medical treatment—with or without the patient’s consent, so a physician’s recommendation is not a guarantee of private sleeping quarters. Next in line are couples with newborns, which clearly explains why we keep adopting children.
Beds (if you can call a hide-a-bed an actual “bed”) are spoken for in order of age and gender—ladies first, if you please—and then the squabbling starts for overstuffed chairs and chaise lounges on the patio (which are perfectly fine in the summer heat, until the sprinklers come on at midnight). Remaining floor space is divided by a complicated algorithm which weighs out safety over convenience. Sleeping under the dining room table or hide-a-bed means a person is less likely to get stepped upon, but also less likely to have a successful nocturnal freezer raid for the last bit of praline ice cream in the carton.
When my in-laws purchased the condo, the family wasn’t quite so crazy-big—I mean, blessed. As our numbers grew, some of the kids pooled resources and purchased the unit next door, adding 600 square feet to our territory. At the rate we’re going, we’ll soon be scouting sales for the rest of the units in the building. It’s a good thing we have four real estate brokers in the family.
Sure, it might sound like third-world conditions, but what started as cramped quarters out of financial necessity has become a burden of emotional necessity. As family members become more spread out and live farther from one another, we look forward to making the journey and sleeping on the floor with siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews. We’re emotionally compelled to share and create lifetime memories, drawing physically close to one another for a week each summer.
Really, really, really close.