When my youngest sister left our hometown, college-bound KC we all swore she’d return. After all, she was a Kastner. And there’s only a few things we Kastner women refuse to do- walk slowly in any circumstance, confront conflict directly, and move away. We have five generations of family with like 30 first cousins living within an 8 mile radius, and quite simply, no one leaves. My middle sister lives two miles from me, and my mother’s backyard literally connects to hers, with a wooded path the grandkids machete through. We believe our town is actually the best town in all new England Ski Mountain, amusement park, town pool, apple orchards, mountain trails, and we’re truly as close as any family could possibly be. So surely, our baby sis would return to us like a serendipitous boomerang once she got this “traveling” out of her system.
And then she met Ian. And then she stayed.
We fought the thought of Joc becoming a “Missourian” even after she married our now Uncle Ian, at 20 years old and became a Royals Fan. But alas, it’s been 15 years since our 18 year old ball of fire sped off with her books and her dreams, and she now says things like” y’all good?” and chats with strangers in public.. I swear one woman at our Starbucks thought she was on ecstasy she was so friendly.
So with our dreams of raising babies together instead of Facetiming on holidays officially dashed, we’ve been reduced to Joc and her growing family’s annual pilgrimage to CT, which now occurs in the summer after her entire family caught a strange Christmas stomach bug.
So, this past visit, like every other occurring with the summer solstice, life stops completely as we prepare for one week of family fun and togetherness that officially starts 24 hours before arrival, with lots of #CTBound! Selfies while traversing through 7 states with three small children including a one-year old. The selfies usually laisse from excited to third world terror after hour 12, however, with the last one being my nice smashing banana into her tablet and Jocelyn looking deathlier than meth addict. My mom said she actually kissed the driveway upon arrival, and she still will not tell us what went down between hours 18-21.
But despite the condition of the travelers, from the moment those Honda Odyssey wheels touch Southington soil, it’s on. Let the family togetherness begin.
Basically life as we know it comes to a halt when the Barkers arrive. We take off of work, cancel all planned activities like sports practice and Bible studies and all 19 of us are literally connected by the hip for the next seven days.
Every morn we eagerly arrive with pastries and coffee, waiting to review the agenda for the next 12 hours of togetherness, down to whose house we’d be eating for lunch and dinner, what we’d be doing at night (cards, home movie-viewing, game night?) and days full of mini golf, beach trips, pool outings, a perpetual flow of ice cream and group hikes that usually begin with a searching for a lost cousin, but always end with a stellar group nature pic. So. Much. Togetherness. We actually insisted on coming along to a CVS trip because heck that was 20 minutes of good sister time
At one point when poor pregnant Joc was too ‘tired’ for a nature walk, I might’ve offered to carry her. What?! Go home and rest- not on this watch, that’s three hours of family magic we’ll never get back! Pretty sure she faked a migraine one afternoon to re-charge her introverted soul, and I’m even more certain I saw Uncle Ian pulla U up the stairs after noticing we had arrived already arrived for the day.
My sister and I have long laughed over the fact that our entire lives come to a halt we’re so obsessed with being with our beloved, I’m fairly certain my youngest did not bathe, the entire time (that’s what chlorine’s for). We don’t pay our bills, clean our houses, answer emails, respond to texts and I actually think my water was shut off after Barker 2014 visit because I didn’t take my mail for a week. It’s all about getting one year’s worth of together time stolen from us by the state of Missouri, and darn it, we’re going to make it count.
And when they leave? Forget it. It’s like the end of the world, with all our hopes and dreams coming to a crash. There has been loud crying betwixt the younger cousins, and always poorly-masked tear wipes and silent sniffles between mom and sisters as we wage falsehoods that maybe we’ll fly out in a few months if flights go down.
It was during this post-Barker depression when my sister and I were commiserating on how Joc can continue to live apart from us, when it dawned on us.
“Wait. Do you think Ian thinks it would be like this ALL the time if they lived here?”
“Surely not. But hmmm oh my gosh do you think JOC thinks we’d be like this all the time?”
Silent pondering. Suddenly the visions of all 11 of us, my sister and her 6 kids, me and my three, and my mom, following the Barkers around like xxx around the Kardashians and demanding constant check-ins and ETA’s came flooding through our minds.
So although this new revelation brought remorse that maybe this whole time our aggressive bonding was scarring the Barkers off, it also gave us a newfound hope. Maybe if we reassure them we do not always let our children pounce sleeping uncles awake, and we do not travel as one cumulative appendage, they’ll seriously consider coming home where they belong??
So this is our sincerest plea and pledge to you, our sweet aunty Joc, and Uncle Ian: Please come home, for good. We promise to honor all boundaries, ensure alone time, and no unannounced drop ins or spontaneous visits. Maybe a once a week Sunday dinner and cousin play date at best! And endless free babysitting (date nights, people!) and a constant source of firewood and electoral help, from Uncle Mike and have we mentioned Southington has.. c Please. Come home. And if not, just remember…. Only 352 days until Barker visit 2019. And yes, day one includes pony rides.