At home with my "family-of-origin" for the winter holidays… Aurora and I took the train to Cincinnati, an 11 hour trip.  She was the star of the traincar, and the youngest on the train by many months (a 14 month old was the next youngest, at least in the coach class seats).  I’m delighted by how well she travels when she’s not in a car seat!  It’s being restrained that she resists… go figure.

We arrived in Cincinnati at 3am on Christmas morning, and Mom heroically picked us up at the downtown train station.  Since then, we’ve been eating chocolate and drinking wine almost nonstop, with some eggs and soup and turkey and chinese takeout in between.  My family does well together — no major battles or unresolved issues, even between my parents who have been divorced for over 20 years.  Mom’s boyfriend is a recent addition to family gatherings (over the last few years), and I think we’re all still getting used to him being a part of things.  But other things have changed, too — like celebrating holidays together instead of bouncing back and forth between Mom and Dad’s houses.  I’m pretty amazed that we get our parents in the same house for hours at a time now, interacting amicably and even joking with each other.  Like my chinese takeout fortune cookie said: "Time is the wisest counselor"… not sure if that directly applies to this situation, but anyway, time has done amazing things for my parents’ relationship.

Tonight we continued a practice that we started this past Thanksgiving, when the whole clan came out to our place in Virginia (and all slept in the same house!).  Mom had arrived with a request of us: that we take some time to help her brainstorm about a new project she had taken on.  This summer she returned to Sierra Leone, where she had served in the Peace Corps 33 years ago.  She visited the school where she taught, and learned that they were in desperate need of funds for renovation. She decided to take on the task of raising $30,000 once she returned to the US.  At Thanksgiving we sat down and talked through possible sources of support, from the practical to the creative.  We asked her questions to help her think through possibilities and concerns, and tried to come up with a name for her endeavor.  We spent about an hour focused on the project, and I think we all enjoyed being able to help.

When we were talking about what to do during this visit to Cincinnati, I threw out the idea that we continue the practice of supporting each other’s projects — and I had one to work on!  Tonight, over more wine and goat cheese, we examined the idea of a children’s book I’ve envisioned.  We talked copywright laws and and child development, and they asked questions to help me hone in on my specific vision and goals. 

I’m struck by how easy it is to give the gift of attention.  It takes no money, just time… maybe a little wine.  And what a gift it is!  At the end of our 45 minute session tonight, I felt encouraged, supported, and confident moving forward with a relatively enormous project.  The fire of my vision and passion was fed by my family — no warm socks or iPod can match that gift.