I grew up in a family where on holidays there were defined food preparation rituals. Skewering the marinated lamb and vegetables for a BBQ for warm weather holidays or picnics at the Macedonian Park up in Calistoga where our church held massive celebrations each year, wrapping grape leaves around a filling of meat and rice, brushing the butter on leaves of filo for baklava or tiropitas. Each child was given a role as soon as they were able.

As our own personal diaspora occurred, spreading us across wider and wider areas until each subsequent generation began their own traditions in place with the friends and family that were able to be near them, some of the rituals remained.

Diluting that initial, primary ethnicity as mates were chosen from other trees, some of these traditions seem a long time lost. For my own life, marrying into an ready-created family and learning how to be a blended member, I also took on unplanned roles. What I learned from the family I am part of now is that altho we may not be organized as every other one, what all extended members share is that we are connected to and cherish the same people. That is sometimes what we most have in common and that is a passionate bond we may never have comprehended. Berry stained faces who brought only glee to us.

As a stepparent to fully formed young adults, my place did not seem particularly parental. But as the family grew, the unknown joy in sharing a part of each young member’s arrival was startling. That defined my own understanding that I was part of a family. Another family.

We share that bond in joy. We share it in heartbreak.

On a holiday now, in a life where holidays have been unbearably poignant signposts of the shared loss of our eleven year-old grandson nearly 21 months ago, the idea of celebration has been impossible to consider.

As his young cousins grow older, they too sense the enormity of the loss, although his imprint on each of them is unmistakable. Their innocence, reshaped by viewing a world thru an altered lens. Their ability to speak truth to the unspoken feelings of the adults who nurture them.

We each, in differing and often silent ways, do what we can to embrace his parents; such kind, amazing and inspired parents who help us find our own will to stand up each morning. Finding a way to communicate is not something that, when done, is really done. We share a language we never wished to have known. A loss that we simply are not wired for. But we also have had to find our own way. To embrace each other and experience Pippin’s world as he is with us and not with us at the same time.

On this holiday weekend, when we might have shared goofiness and growing up, instead we will try to find a new understanding. Coping, and grieving.

This weekend, Pippin’s parents joined thousands walking together with The Compassionate Friends in Washington DC. They share a shorthand of common experience that no-one chooses, as we learn how to pass thru these portals of remembrance and keep our heads and hearts.

We have become immigrants in a new wilderness and must create our own rituals.