Tribe of Ross is spread all up and down the west coast of the "Lower 48." I have cousins in Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Arizona, and California. My immediate family is scattered all over Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. Two of my siblings, Calee and Chae, live in the Portland Metro area, like me.
My family makes a real effort to stay close, to stay in touch. But, there are often significant stretches of time when even those who are in relatively close physical proximity don't see each other much. Life is that way: you fall into your daily routine, and the next thing you know, a month has passed.
Some sociologists point out that there has been a trend over the decades since the Great Depression, toward smaller family units. Typically, grandparents or cousins or siblings do not live in a single household. They are dispersed in multiple households, in different cities, even different regions of the country.
I think this is an unintentional by-product of the unprecedented wealth generated by this country in the years following WWII. In that time, the factories and industrial centers of Europe and Japan were in ruins and the entire world looked to the United States for goods and services. That put American labor and capital at a premium, which, in turn produced spectacular wealth to the point that every household could have its own residence, its own car, its own refrigerator, its own color television. Thus, came the explosion of the traditional household to smaller units, resulting in today's god-awful suburbia.
(Well, if certain futurists are correct, if the global demands on energy and clean water and even food continue as they are going, our society might be compelled to change its ways.)
But now I've gone far afield...
I write all this as preamble to announcing a pretty simple, but in my mind important, enterprise: Maty and I are starting a new tradition at my house. First Sunday of every month, we host dinner for our family in the area. A "family dinner" in the old sense, with everyone sitting around a table and eating.
Last night was our first such occasion. Our attendees were brother Calee, his wife Sarah, our lifelong family friend Kris, my sister Chae, and our friend from Togo, Nadiya. We had chicken, salad, green beans, rice, and strawberries. For dessert, sister-in-law Sarah brought over some cupcakes from Bliss Bake shop. Maty, as usual, cooked like a madwoman, and everything was seasoned to perfection.
Calee came over early to "help" me install some new flooring in the spare bedroom. (By "help," I mean he did all the work and I stood around with my finger up my a** trying not to get in the way.) We got the floor installed, it looks great, and we had a wonderful repast with friends and family.
After dinner, I drove Chae back to her dormitory (she's attending college in the area). I dropped her off and headed back to Portland. I rolled down the window and hung my elbow out to catch the wind as I drove. The evening was cool and clear, and although the darkness came down quickly, it seemed benevolent.
I had just spent an entire day improving my house, and I had enjoyed a great meal with wife and family. "This is the life," says I.