Friday, August 10, 2012

Cheap treats and family lore

Not everything about travel is pricey.  Here are some of our family's favorite cheap activities on this vacation.

- Finding a 55¢ copy of Presumed Innocent at a local used book store.

- Swapping books we brought to read, so we have something new to read on the way home.

- Finding lizards.  This has been a major past-time of the four youngest kids; they've created little lizard zoos inside of cardboard boxes where Lady Gaga and Sir George and other friends have eaten (or not) the tomatoes and frolicked (or not) in the lettuce.

- Telling our stories.  And retelling them.  This, perhaps, is the best part of family vacation.

That stories thing?   I've belonged to lots of groups (my church, the college I work at, the girl scouts, etc) that talk about being a community, and not all of those groups really lived up to the talk.  What I've realized is that a "community" requires having something in "common" -- after all, that's where the word comes from.  You need a common history, a common set of traditions, and a common space and time to share those.  Telling family stories together does all that.

It's not that we set down a specific hour of the day for this; the stories just bubble up while were spending time together.  When we get together as a family and retell the story about the dog eating my sister's birthday cake and my other sister's lasagna, we're explaining who we are.  (This is one part of why, although I love dogs, my sisters shun them and refuse to have one near their homes).  We retell the story about mom fixing garlic bread and peaches for breakfast.  The story about the time we got caught in a snowstorm and Marvin Schwartz rescued us.  The story about my sisters dressing baby N-son up in girl's clothes to get my husband's goat.  We tell stories about table manners, about chores, about other family trips.

And of course, even while we're spending lots of money here together, we talk about our frugal ways.  My youngest sister lives in a desert.  Her home is solar powered, and she's a bit of a maniac about saving water (yes, she puts a bucket at the base of her kid's slide to catch run-off).  My middle sister lives in a remote place on the edge of a lake, where trash removal means hiking up a long hill to the road; she's obsessed with recycling and reusing.  A mutual friend was talking to my two sisters about their penny-pinching ways and asked what I was like.  "Her?" responded my frugal sisters, "Oh, she's cheap cheap cheap."   That story has become part of the new family lore.

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