Susan Vollenweider - A far-flung family can still forge fun

11/05/2013 12:00 AM

11/03/2013 4:14 PM

“Mom, is there a hyphen in ‘butt crack’?” Noah asked.

“No, I think it’s two words,” I answered calmly. After the previous three “how do you spell” questions, this one was tame.

I know: not the most responsible parenting move for a mom of an 8-year-old. But as the third kid, he benefits from a very high Shock Mom threshold. I also had context.

I knew that he was texting his uncle.

My brother.

My twin brother. The guy who I’ve known since, well, the beginning. The guy whose nose I’ve seen both milk


spaghetti fly out of. They guy who taught me that sometimes boys act kind of crude, but that doesn’t mean they are gross to the core.

(I taught him the same thing about girls.)

That guy was having a playful text-chat with Noah. “Butt crack” was the least of the barbs that were flying back and forth between the Yankee loving Noah and his Red Sox Nation citizen favorite uncle.

My family is far flung. This brother is in Connecticut near our parents, another brother is in Las Vegas. Noah’s Uncle DJ is married with two children of his own in college, mine are the youngest of the extended family.

When I reached the age when I accepted that I would have kids (which, shockingly, was not five minutes before the first one emerged), I always imagined that I would raise them where I grew up. I assumed that spending time with my parents and brothers would be a part of their lives. I thought that my kids and their cousins would have vacations and holiday memories like I had.

But life didn’t work out like I imagined.

I’m a time zone, two and a half days in a car or a half-day of air travel away from that life.

But the far-away family is cool! They are easy-going people who love me. I want my kids to know them, share lives with them!

Like a lot of families in our situation, we cobbled together a routine. Instead of stopping by on our way home from school, we called on the phone. Instead of sharing the moment an award was won or a play made, we sent pictures and video. We traveled to them, they traveled us. Sometimes we would travel together.

But life got in the way of that plan, too. When Noah was born it would be seven years before my brother and he would meet face-to-face.

When it did we were all on vacation together. I hadn’t realized until that week how much alike Noah and my brother are — similar in temperament, intellect, interests. They immediately hit it off.

This year Uncle DJ was the person who received Noah’s contribution to a class project about geography — a cardboard Flat Noah. The first thing Uncle DJ did was hide the Yankee shirt Flat Noah was wearing by styling him in a paper Red Sox jersey. Then Flat Noah got a tour of Boston.

DJ texted a picture from in front of Fenway Park. Real Noah rolled his eyes and asked for my phone. He


to text Uncle DJ back.

“It doesn’t matter what he wears, Flat Noah is a Yankee fan at heart.”

Their communication sessions are usually very short, which suits both of their social temperaments. What they talk about is isn’t important. That they find a way to connect although age, geography and life activities keep them apart is important.

So is the heart-melt I have each time Noah says, “I have to tell Uncle DJ something.”


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