Mama Madison: A time for family

The inevitable chaos is worth it

I apologize in advance if this post is a little less than well thought through. I'm exhausted from this past weekend, when, for the first time in almost three years, my entire extended family descended on the near west side of Madison -- in order to celebrate my younger son's Bar Mitzvah.

It was a wonderfully chaotic weekend. With a strong emphasis on the chaotic.

My mother, daughter and dog slept on the pull out couch in the living room, my sister-in-law in my daughter's room. My sister's house, just a mile away from mine, was overrun with more variations on a blow up mattress than are showcased in the latest issue of the Sky Mall catalogue. And I'm pretty sure a different constellation of nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles slept on a different one of those mattresses each and every night.

My dad and his wife, who value their privacy and the desire not to have to maneuver around a Lego obstacle course first thing in the morning, wisely rented a hotel room within walking distance from both my sister's and my home, While no one besides them slept in their little suite, it offered ample opportunity for daytime entertainment in the form of a full line-up of cable TV channels and a Keurig coffee maker. I am both thankful, and a little amazed, at how long both Nickelodeon reruns and the ability to make pod after pod of hot chocolate (in less than two minutes, no less) can keep two pre-kindergarteners, my nephews, entertained.

Some of my relatives drove to town. The parade of gray minivans parked out front of the house last Saturday afternoon closely resembled the used car lot at a Honda dealership. Other family members flew in; I have driven back and forth to the Dane County airport no less than 10 times in the past four days. I have sliced over six-dozen bagels and brewed at least 15 pots of coffee.

We played round after round of Quiddler, Uno and Go Fish. And acted out, three times, at the insistence of my five-year-old nephew, what felt like the entire plotline of some Star Wars movie I've never seen. I was always cast as General Grievous (a "very bad guy" my nephew tells me) and had to master some serious, and physically demanding, light-saber moves.

Next time I'm going to insist I'm Princess Leia.

My family laughed a lot, as we always do, and cried even more. Emotions can run dangerously high when you get all my "people" together. My brother, the only male sibling, is usually given a pass, but it just wouldn't be a Ratner family event without at least one major, as my husband likes to call it, "sister storm."

But the storm always blows over, and the next sets of tears are the very happiest kind -- the ones reserved for the people who matter most in the world.

Yes, this past weekend was a wonderfully chaotic. But come to think of it, no matter how exhausted I am, the heavy emphasis should definitely be on the wonderfully.

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