Every summer Greg and I load the kids into the van and head five hours north to Erie, PA where we spend a sacred week in the house where Greg grew up. Family pours in from all over -- Philly, California, across town -- as we all soak up as much time as we can together.
Greg's parents live in a beautiful place, where the distance to the lake is measured in footsteps. Their backyard overlooks a cliff which overlooks the lake. There's a stand of trees where my father-in-law hangs his hammock. Many nights he heads down to the hammock with one of his 10 grandkids, swinging and watching the sun sink behind the horizon.
Up until last summer my in-laws had a pool in the backyard where we would spend hours swimming. Every summer my kids would end up bringing home a case of swimmer's ear, but the memories of learning how to swim were worth it. The pool is gone now, but as the kids get older, we're finding new ways to make memories.
At least one of the nights is filled with a bonfire by the cliff, the s'mores piled high as the fire dances across our faces. We catch fireflies and listen to the waves crash against the rocks. Greg's godmother Janet and her 20-something daughter Angela travel from LA to be with us too. It is a marvel to watch Angela enjoy a midwestern summer night as she marvels at lightning bugs and green grass everywhere. We always order pizza and wings from Gary's Superette, the convenience store my father-in-law started, now owned by my brother-in-law Joel. It's the only time all year I eat chicken wings.
Sleepovers with cousins is a highlight of this week. Joel's family lives in the same town and so the kids love to swap families and sleep over with their cousins and Aunt Anita. My sister-in-law's family travels from out of town, so every night at Nana and Papa's is a sleepover.
After the little kids go to bed, my teenage nephews and I make The Best Nachos In The World (the secret is in the layering). We play Balderdash, or Apples to Apples, my sister-in-law Carrie usually succumbing to contagious laughter, tears rolling down her face.
My mother-in-law Judi always has a stash of her chocolate chip cookies ready for us to plow through. She hides them in the laundry room and soon "putting clothes in the dryer" becomes code for stuffing our faces with cookies. My brother-in-law Vince, the most vigilant about what he eats, probably does the most laundry all week.
The moments we spend in Erie are some of the happiest memories of our whole year. I feel so lucky to actually look forward to spend time with my in-laws. I know not everyone feels that way. Our family makes us who we are, even if we don't get to see them every day.
One of my favorite moments actually happens when it's time to leave. We all pile into our van and as we pull out of the driveway, my nephews chase our car down the driveway and onto the lane shouting, "We miss you already." As they get smaller in the rearview mirror, we wave furiously. I turn around in my seat, already looking forward to when we'll get to see them again, missing them already.
|The Faulhaber Five by Lake Erie most summers since 2008.|