The Simple Practice That Keeps My Cross-Country Family Connected
I come from a very tight-knit nuclear family of four. There are no pretenses in my family and little to no modesty. We’ve been through the shit together, and as result, our bonds are strong like bull.
Unlike in many families, there’s a duality to the dependence: for as much as my sister and I need our parents, they need our support more so.
Good thing, then, that the four of us are scattered so liberally across this country: Elle in New York, me way the hell over here in Seattle, land of green living things and impressively terrible drivers, and my parents in the not-middle-middle, a.k.a. Detroit.
My sister and I are great about coordinating our visits home, which affords us four-ish times together a year, but given the circumstances, that just doesn’t cut it in terms of connectedness.
And while we’re all apt to talk amongst ourselves, there’s a special sauce that’s missing–the dynamic that is the four of us, all together.
The last time I was home, we were painting doors when it hit me; “Why don’t we,” I said, “start doing a weekly family phone call?”
It was so dumb. So obvious. How had such a Simple concept never occurred to us before? We wondered.
Never before had one of my ideas for incorporating structure and planning into the time-organization-black-hole that is my family been so well received. (The paper box system I’d conceived around age nine which designated a [theme-collaged] box for each family member’s respective papers, was just one of many in a string of colossal fails.)
Every week since then we’ve had a family phone call.
It happens at the same time on the same day every week (let us say a collective ugh for any additional scheduling and rescheduling).
During the call, we share updates with each other, or we just talk about nothing in particular.
It lasts for an hour, and at the end we don’t get all sad (some of us have major separation anxiety, but we won’t say who, only it isn’t me), we just say I love you, knowing we’ll all talk again next week.
It isn’t the same as being together in person, but it legitimately helps to bridge the gap.
For the record, the practice also massively aids the dissemination of information that’s otherwise inevitably convoluted (i.e. “Yeah, you already told me that three times.” Or, “Excuse me, what? What in the world are you talking about?” And then, “Oh, I thought I told you, must have been your sister.”)
Sometimes City makes a brief cameo, but really it’s just a moment for the core four to stretch our arms out wide across the vastness of space and feel the familiar hug of the three other voices it knows best reaching back with open palms.
So, yes, the key advise contained in this blog post is: use your phone to call your people and talk to them regularly.
But far be it from me to undersell the significance of such a suggestion. I’m not even sure kids nowadays realize phone calls are a thing their phones are capable of performing.
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Annie Traurig was born with the ability to see order through clutter. As a child, she spent playdates organizing friends’ closets and packing their duffle bags for summer camp.
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