I know there are moments when my students believe that I take personal pleasure in making their lives miserable because I mark up and cross out large portions of their writing assignments, and write “re-do” at the top of their papers. As a teacher, I struggle to find the right balance of guiding and instructing my students to become better writers without pushing them to the point of giving up. So it is in a spirit of humility and a strong belief that writing is a process that I freely acknowledge my last post (“Nashville”) stunk. I succumbed to the pressure (self-imposed, of course) that I needed to post something soon, and ended up not saying what I really wanted to say.
So here’s my second attempt at articulating my thoughts about my trip to Nashville.
This past weekend I flew to Nashville to see my brother, Nate, and my sister-in-law, Paige. Unfortunately, we do not see each other nearly enough. I saw my brother for a several hours this past fall, but I hadn’t seen Paige in over a year. One of the challenges I face, and I know others do as well, is trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with family members. We each lead busy lives and trying to find times to spend together can be difficult. When the opportunity to visit Nate and Paige for a long weekend opened, I booked a flight and saved the date. One of my favorite magazines, Real Simple, published an article this past year about maintaining good sibling relationships. The writer listed several ways to stay involved with loved ones who may not necessarily live right down the street. One of the suggestions was “being there” for your siblings. The purpose of my trip wasn’t because there was a special event to attend, but because I wanted my brother and sister-in-law to know that I care about them.
This past July my sister-in-law opened her own salon, the Paige Simmons Salon. During the weeks leading up to the opening of the salon, I listened to my brother talk about the work they were doing to rehab an old house and make it into a beautiful space. I looked at pictures taken during the transformation process. Now, finally, I was able to see the salon firsthand, and let me tell you, it is lovely. The salon showcases all of my sister-in-law’s and brother’s talents—good design and craftsmanship, and artfully displayed pieces. If I wasn’t a twelve hour drive away, I would get my haircut there. This salon is a big deal in Paige’s life (sometimes probably more than she wants), and it was important that I got to see it and celebrate all the hard work that went into making it what it is. I think this is part of what it means to “be there” for your siblings.
Another highlight of the weekend was enjoying my brother’s cooking. He is quite the chef! Something happens when we gather around the table and enjoy a meal that was carefully prepared. I believe this something is sacramental (“grace-giving”) in nature. Watching Nate in the kitchen is a pleasure. He hums while he cooks, and it is obvious that he is enjoying what he is doing. He fixed an Italian Beef Stew the first night I arrived. Smoky, meaty flavors danced in my mouth. As a side, he fixed William Sonoma’s cornbread—very good! A simple meal in many respects, but served alongside wine and conversation it was a real treat. For breakfast the next day, he prepared Espresso Cream French Toast. Again, another delight to the palate! Challah bread is key to this dish’s success in my opinion. The cream sauce with hints of espresso takes this dish from ordinary French toast to really good French toast. He also cooked Friday night and made a lazy-man’s lasagna which was also very tasty. Obviously, my brother gets food. He showed care and love in choosing the dishes he did. And I enjoyed, along with my parents, eating every bite.
Sibling relationships, like any relationship, can be challenging. I know that, for some people, they are filled with deep pains and regrets; I’m fortunate that things between my brother and I are not that way. Our relationship isn’t perfect, but I know my brother loves me and he knows I love him. I enjoyed my visit and I hope it communicated love and care to Nate and Paige. As the queen of high expectations, I am sometimes disappointed when trips or visits turn in unexpected ways. Nobody likes drama of that sort. No drama on this trip—just a pleasant time together! I’m glad I went, and I look forward to seeing them again—hopefully soon.