When I was in high school choir and we couldn't remember the words to a song, we'd sing "watermelon, rutabaga." And when we wanted to express our feelings but didn't want to say "I love you," we'd say "Olive Juice." In both instances, you were present in the moment without the commitment; you just kinda skirted by.
I love olives and cooking with olive oil. But every time I flip the meat or veggies in the pan, the oil splatters all over my clothes. I have dots on most of my outfits, and I can't figure out how to remove them.
I think love is like that sometimes. It can stain your heart, but it also adds flavor and is a permanent part of the fabric of your life (copyright Cotton).
I am thinking about that kind of love today after a week with my in-laws. Every two years, my mother-in-law pays for her three children and their families to go on vacation together. These reunions are important to me and my husband because it's the only time we see his brother's family, and it was the first time we met his youngest child, who is already 1. It was also the first time we met his sister's youngest child, who was born in March - but the good news is that this newest baby and his family are moving down the street from us this summer, so all the cousins (my two and their two) will now grow up together.
Each day during our vacation, my husband and I took 5 of the 7 kids out on adventures - alligators, lighthouses, surfing, etc., while the babies stayed home and did baby things, like nap and poop. Each little one - our own kids and our niece and nephews - is so unique and precious. It was lovely to spend the time with them, and sad to see them go, especially the ones we know we won't see for another 2 years.
We love those kids - they leave their mark on us. We would do anything for them. I hope their parents know that. I don't know if they see that while they were on private excursions or handling an unexpected cross-state move, that we had the distinct honor of making memories with their children. And while we don't need a reward to spend time with our nieces and nephews, I don't know if their parents realize how much those sweet babies mean to us and how much love we pour into them.
I grew up with 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th cousins, and we took it for granted that we would see each other every year at my great-grandma's birthday party in Branford, Florida. She died when she was 100 1/2, and with her died those annual gatherings, and as it follows, those relationships. I still love all of those people - but it's Olive Juice now - just a memory of when we mattered to each other because we were splattered together in the family pan.
I don't want my nieces and nephews to have a distant memory of me, to have vague recollections of the time we found a crab shell on the beach or the moment we overcame our fear of heights in the lighthouse together. I want them to always know how much their uncle and I love and cherish them. And we will keep letting them know, and letting their parents know, that family matters and that they are loved.
Until next time, keep crowin' and tell someone today how special they are.