Travels with Reilly
Reilly and I just returned from a family reunion weekend in the Midwest. We almost never travel alone, just the two of us without any other members of our immediate family. It went surprisingly well. And gave me even more reason to cherish my extended family.
My family reunion is an annual event that we all look forward to all year. My husband and children have come to love it as much as I do. It's a good sized family—I’m one of 17 first cousins, and among us we have 24 children. So there's someone for everyone. But this year's turnout was unusually low, for several reasons. My husband and two oldest children weren't able to go. So Reilly and I set off on Thursday alone.
We flew to Chicago, and took the train from O'Hare into the city, proud of ourselves for having navigated an unfamiliar big-city transit system. Reilly was patient and helpful, a mode he stayed in for most of the rest of the trip. I can be a cranky traveler, as my entire family will attest. But Reilly and I had as smooth and stress-free a trip as any I can remember. Well, I did lose my credit card somewhere in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and we had a little trouble with navigational devices en route from Chicago to Ft. Wayne, but for the most part we both remained calm and collected.
Reilly is a guy who loves connecting with cousins, old and young. He figures he has only missed two family reunions his entire life. Last summer, he insisted on taking a break during the summer program at the New York Institute of Technology to fly to Portland, Ore., for the reunion. One of the reasons he wanted to stay home for the summer this year was so he could be sure he wouldn't miss it. He checked in with various family members on Facebook in the weeks leading up to the reunion to find out who was coming. He told one and all that he couldn't wait to see them. He filled me in on who wasn't coming and why.
And this is where I brag about the family I was born into. They are unfailingly kind and accepting of Reilly, as happy to see him as he is to see them. The reunion is a time when I can completely relax and not worry about judgment or criticism. In fact, I usually don't see much of Reilly during the weekend—he's always going off someplace with cousins he hasn't seen in a year. And I know he's in good company. They have my back. They listen patiently to his often long stories, ignoring vocal tics that can make the telling grueling. They all seem genuinely interested in what he has to say, and then they tell me how great they think he's doing, how much he's progressed since they saw him last year. He feels completely at ease among them.
Reilly and I shared a hotel room relatively peacefully. He got up in the morning without much prodding and showered without much complaining. He was flexible and game for whatever came next. We spent an extra day in Chicago before flying back home, sightseeing amicably, keeping our composure even when we were lost and hot. A cool taxi ride refreshed us and we went to the Navy Pier to ride the giant Ferris wheel, enjoying the skyline views.
On the train ride back to O'Hare, Reilly was already reminiscing. When we got home, he connected with cousins again on Facebook, telling them he hopes to see them again next summer, and nagging the ones who weren't able to make it this year.
While I was giving him a ride to work the next day, he said he looks forward to the time when he and his brother and sister can bring their children to the reunion. To which I can only say, Amen.