Don Williams State Park

Maquoketa Caves State Park

Image by Phil Roeder (lots of comments to catch up on) via Flickr

I love my sister’s in-laws. They are a large, friendly bunch who lay waste to every bad in-law joke you may have ever heard. BIL and his twin were actually high school classmates of mine, and I actually knew him before he and my sister even met.

 

BIL has six brothers. All but the youngest is married. All but two have children. When even a couple of them gather in one place with their families, you know they are there. The last time I saw them all together in one place was nearly 7 years ago when DNOS and BIL married. I remember at my parents house the next day while the grown-ups were outside watching the newlyweds unwrap gifts I walked into the kitchen to find a half-dozen or so of BIL’s nieces and nephews pretending to mix drinks using various concoctions of soda pop.

 

My sister is actually the “oldest” of the sister-in-law’s even though she was the last one of them to marry into the family. DNOS and BIL dated for about fifteen years. They got engaged The Christmas after Will and I got married. In fact, the first time we visited after our engagement BIL’s comment to Will was “Thanks a lot.” Even with the occasionally clash of personalities, I have always thought my sister to be extremely blessed as far as in-laws are concerned. Because Will was an only child and not really comfortable with either side of his family, I knew I wouldn’t have what DNOS did but I had high hopes for pleasant holidays and other such gatherings. I didn’t get that. As we circled the park today trailing after P’s wife K as she scouted about for a picnic site in what is essentially a campground, I had brief flashes of the Mathes family celebrations. A room ringed with people on folding chairs, eating off paper plated balanced precariously on their knees while engaged in the awkward small talk that periodically broke the silence. My sister has not always taken her in-laws in stride, but her observations of mine have made her more grateful for them than she already was.

 

My daughter loves to visit with her cousin’s cousins. She is just beginning to understand that she is not related to Uncle BIL’s family, but she stubbornly maintains that his youngest nephew is in fact just as much her cousin as N2, BIL and DNOS’s son, is. They are quite the trio. No is the oldest at six and a half, followed by N2 who is just six and then my Dee at not quite five. They ran themselves silly, played on the swings and argued over the camping chairs. No tried to convince the other two to play “runway model” on top of one of the picnic tables. N2 was game but Dee hung back and merely watched. I don’t think she knows what a model is and the look on her face indicated that she wasn’t quite certain that this was an activity for boys. My daughter is a bit archaic in her ideas about gender. As I watched I remarked to my sister that her husband would not have permitted a game like that to played for long. He is very archaic in his ideas about gender, but as the two boys sashayed up and down the table top, wiggling their bums like girls in a hip-hop video, everyone but Dee and I pretended not to notice.

 

After a dinner of grilled animal and assorted junk food of which Dee partook and I demurred politely, we said our good-byes. Real good-byes I realized when Dee pointed out to No that it was very unlikely he would ever see my Dee again. It’s interesting the people who are connected to your life, but who you have such a little bit of contact with over the course of it. I wonder if a person is richer or poorer for it?

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