A night under the stars

On my most recent trip home to Houston, my parents and I went to Clear Lake for an evening sail on our boat. The weather was good, the waters calm. After a busy day, we were looking forward to the relaxing rhythm of the waves and the fresh, salty air.

Unfortunately, when we got to the marina, we found several inches of water inside the cabin. Somehow our sailboat had partially flooded! So instead of a leisurely night enjoying the surf and the breeze, we spent two hours with a plastic bucket and a leaky pump, bailing out the stale and murky water.

By the time we finished, we had mosquito bites on our ankles, our clothes were spattered with dirt, and our skin was covered in a fine layer of seawater and sweat. Anyone in their right mind would have been miserable. And yet, my parents and I smiled and joked as we headed to the bathrooms to clean up.

Upon reflection, I realized that in a weird way, I actually enjoyed that night of gross, sweaty work. Because my parents and I were spending time together. Because I was helpful to them.

As an only child, I’ve always had a close relationship with my parents. But now that I live so far away, I see just how much we did as a family, and how hard it is to do that kind of stuff now. Thanks to technology, my parents are never more than a phone call or an email away, but it’s not the same as hopping in the car for ice cream at Dairy Queen, or going to see a movie on a whim, or just hanging out at home with the TV on, all of us sitting in our “reserved seats” on the couch. Things that I used to take for granted. Things that aren’t so easy anymore.

Whenever I visit home, my mom asks if I want to do anything, and my dad asks if I want to go anywhere. Favorite restaurants, new museum exhibits, the beach at Galveston, even Austin or San Antonio. I know they just want me to have fun, but I always tell them not to go to any trouble. They can’t understand why.

That night, after our decidedly not-relaxing evening on the boat, we put our swimsuits on, rinsed off, and then hopped into the community pool at the marina. Beneath a dark sky filled with stars, we floated on our backs and kicked our legs. We sat on the deck chairs and ate cherries. We talked and laughed and talked some more.

I guess that’s the real reason that night didn’t feel miserable to me. That’s why we don’t need to go anywhere or do anything special. Because we’re together, spending time as a family again. And that’s enough.

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13 Comments

  1. Aww, I love this. I’ve never lived that far from my parents or sister, but I imagine the distance must be tough. It’s easy to see how very special that makes the times when you are together, though. It’s wonderful to have a family that’s so close-knit like yours :)

  2. Aw :)

    What dates do you plan to be there for Thanksgiving? I may buy my ticket soon.

  3. Ingrid

    Beautiful post, Kristan. It brought tears to my eyes. I can certainly relate to all that you wrote, living 18 hours now from all my family and most of my friends. Sometimes the unplanned or unexpected moments are the most memorable.

  4. Thanks for this, Kristan. It made me think about how much fun we have doing small family things when my son comes home to visit. I always feel like there’s so little time and so much to cram into the visit, but the most fun we have is sitting around playing Apples to Apples or going to soccer practice. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was until I read your post. It’s because all of a sudden he’s just part of our daily family life again, not home visiting.

  5. Trisha

    Sounds like fun. Reminds me of when the basement used to flood when we lived on Euclid Avenue in New Castle.

  6. Thanks, everyone! I’m glad this spoke to people.

    Aisha-
    Tues night to Sat night. Let me know if you’re going to be around! Andy will be coming with me. (There’s a chance we will be going to Dallas for a few days to see my aunt, but we won’t know until, like, a day before. Of course.)

    Trisha-
    Lol maybe Dad has a flooding curse?

  7. Jon

    Love the post. So true, it’s the little things we do with family that count. I have many memories of Mickey D’s, grocery shopping, and the like–put together, I almost appreciate that more than anything else we’ve done together.

  8. Joelle Wilson

    Wonderful post.

  9. Good post. This sort of thing has been on my mind because I’m in the very early stages of thinking about a novel which would be a family’s first trip together (the daughter was adopted when she was twelve, so they’re just building their family-ness now) and, apart from the plot, there will be scenes like this, just being a family together.

  10. Meiling Ahyi

    I went over there with my sis & bro-in-law in late August and went through the similar experience. ;-)
    It was really sweet, bitter & fun just like you described.
    I’ll always remember it.

    Can I copy & paste your article to my 2 sons?
    Boys are different, but hope they also can feel something.

    love,
    Meiling Ahyi

  11. Ahyi-
    Of course you can send this to them! Haha, it’s kind of funny seeing my dad referred to as a “bro-in-law.”

  12. Meiling Ahyi

    I also sent to my 2 cousins – you call them aunts also.
    one is in LA; another one is in Phoenix; we talk through e-mails and phones. They all love to hear from you. They are great readers so I’ll tell them about your book.
    I enjoy reading yours!
    Keep inspiring to all of us!:-)

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