“No one looks back and remembers the nights they had plenty of sleep” ~anonymous
“Saturday, 6 pm, our house” is usually how the conversation begins. I grew up with a home full of people gathering in my parents’ house. The kitchen was always full, and by southern standards that was a good thing. Here in ‘twang’ country, the kitchen is “a gathering place for friends and family, a place where memories are homemade and seasoned with love.” Yep, that about sums it up nicely if I do declare myself. So it should come as no real surprise I enjoy opening our home to our friends and family as often as possible. It can be anything from the holidays, birthdays, planned game nights and dinners or simply unplanned, random, impromptu, and spontaneous evenings with friends around our table. The one thing I have always wanted for my children was the same gift my parents gave me and that is extended family. When I look back on my life as a whole I am thankfully aware of the many various, diverse, distinct and even unconventional folks I’ve had the privilege of knowing and loving. I’d like to think my children have had the same opportunities.
When friends and family gather at our home, it’s not about who’s wearing what, or has the bigger house, better job, whose taking the grandest vacation, driving the most recent model car or even who’s making the most money. No when friends gather, it’s exactly about that, friends and family. All those material things and egos are left at the door. Of course we do talk about those things together, but all in perspective. Mostly, we are there to share each other’s company, to laugh and yes to share one other’s burdens together. As friends, as family and as friends who are family, we share in one other’s happiness, talents, defeats, failures and achievements. As a parent I pray these very friends and family influence my children. I love the fact many of those close to us are not looked on as anything but family by our children. My heart skips a beat, feeling the depth of the closeness we share with our extended family. When I hear our now grown boys refer to many we know as Aunt and Uncles, I’m reminded, “It’s not what we have in life but who we have in our life that matters.”
We really do love to open our home up. October has always been the month traditionally kicking off gatherings in the Olachia home. This past Saturday night was no exception. Our family jumped started the season by opening our doors for a costume party. It was planned, then unplanned and then decided upon again. Getting the word out proved a little harder than usual this year because of our back and forth method but in the scheme of things everything came together perfectly. For days we worked hard getting the house together, setting the scene and making many of our own decorations. No surprise here, it was a Disney inspired theme… you didn’t see that coming now did ya? The Haunted Mansion with a Nightmare Before Christmas mash up was up to bat. Ok so by now you have to know I’m not your average southern bell. Sure I’m outspoken, a tad bit crazy at times (after all here in the south we don’t hide our crazy, we parade it out on the front porch.) and yes I’m a sassy mess most of the time. I’m not proud, I’ll admit to all of it. But that put aside in my heart I’m a clearly defined, very awkward and without shame self-proclaimed nerd. And it’s never more obvious than when I’m throwing a party. I go a little overboard, it’s true. I love to plan (probably my OCD), create menus and a theme, and of course make decorations till the cows come home. It’s me, who I am. It’s not about the ooh and ah or the better than yours kind of thing. No, it’s simply about being me, my whole nerdy self and all. I love welcoming those I love into my crazy little world. And even better yet I am blessed to be accepted, loved and embraced completely as I am by those same folks.
So how was our Saturday night? It was amazing, interesting, random, impromptu and hilarious. And I hope Life Lesson #87 ~ when friends gather, memories are made, reflects this. Life is not meant to be tidy, predictable or even presented perfectly. Life, alongside those we love is meant to be lived fully, messy and spontaneous. It’s about being you, different, the silly parts and all. Looking at our friends and family who gathered at our home this past weekend, I am blown away by the diversity of who we are as a collective. Old and new friends alike, ex-military, teachers, business owners, administrators, salesmen, coaches, higher educated, younger, older, in college, Disney enthusiasts, nerds, geeks, techies, gamers, jocks, beauty queens, sportsmen and women, athletes, crossfitters, church goers and non-church goers, drinkers, non-drinkers, recently engaged, couples married decades and everything else in between. And you know what? That’s exactly how it should be. Our diversity is what draws us together but it is our respect for those differences that keeps us together.
What I know is this: our home will always be a place for friends and family to gather where laughter, tears and diversity are welcome. Our differences, they may be big for sure, but if love is part of the equation, they can never separate us. See when friends who are family gather, they grow stronger, closer together. My parents have been the greatest example when it comes to this. I learned early on a full kitchen is a place of extraordinary learning where moments together are fondly remembered. Because of this life lesson, my children have a remarkable and unique tribe to call their own. Ecclesiastes 4: 9 is never clearer about this than now, “Though one person may be overpowered by another, two people can resist one opponent. A triple-braided rope is not easily broken.” Growing up the way I did, in the home I had and in knowing the kind of unconditional love I’ve experienced has been immensely noteworthy. Truly I am not only content in my differences but our home is always open to those who differ from us.
True we may not get a whole lot of sleep when we gather with our friends but I can tell you we sure do remember those nights. Because of our friends, those we call family, our hearts are untroubled, our kitchen is full, and if our walls could talk, boy the stories they could tell! So my wish for you is something Mary Anne Radeacher-Hershey says better than I ever could, “May your walls know joy; may each room hold laugher, and may every window open to great possibility,”