Again...so far behind in posting. I wrote this a few weeks ago while we were in the Poconos but never hit the published button. This past weekend we celebrated Aunt Mary Ellen's 25th year of being a nun, so many stories and so much fun! Pictures to follow tomorrow, hopefully.
It is nearly midnight and I have spent the evening listening to all the Nealon family adventures from when they were kids. Chris is the youngest of six kids, five boys and one sister. Chris' dad was a college professor and had the summer off so every year they would pack up the station wagon with six kids, the dog, swing by Springfield, Illinois, because that's just around the corner from Long Island and tour the country. Every year his dad would research and plan out that year's summer trip. He kept everything in a log book with all of their plans of where they would be going and what they would be seeing.
Being a part of the Nealon family for 20+ years now, I have heard the Nealon stories a hundred times. Every Christmas and every Poconos trip, the Nealon brothers retell these stories. The next generation now knows these stories by heart and can tell them as if they are their own memories. Tonight, I kept hearing my kids, and my nieces and nephews ask, "Tell the story when..." And the story would get told and we would laugh, big hearty laughs. These stories have become a bit exaggerated over the years and have turned into tall tales. The alligators that almost ate their dog has gotten bigger, the number of times Chris almost died has gotten greater, the man that held Chris upside down by his feet at the top of a water tower has gotten crazier...well, that still is crazy no matter how exaggerated that one gets.
But tonight I sat and listened to these families stories once again and I just watched the next generation soak in all these stories. I have told Chris that someday he should write them all down, that there is the possibility of a pretty good book. What was funny tonight was that many of the retelling of these stories ended with, "And that's reason 423 why Aunt Mary Ellen became a nun." You see, Chris's one sister is a nun. She grew up in a fun and crazy house with five brothers. Many of these childhood stories involved their poor sister. There was the time they were driving across country and somehow her suitcase that was on the roof of the car was not zipped all the way and her clothes started to fly out one by one onto the road, a t-shirt, underwear, a pair of shorts, but her brothers who noticed this didn't say a word because earlier in the day they had gotten in trouble for fighting and weren't allowed to say one more word for the rest of the trip, so they didn't...and that's why Aunt Mary Ellen became a nun. There was the time Chris broke all of her fingers because she was in the garage doing chin-ups on the garage door track and Chris came along and opened the garage door right over all her fingers...and that's why Aunt Mary Ellen became a nun. There was the time they were staying in a hotel that didn't allow dogs. Mary Ellen was holding their nippy, vicious, poodle Pierre. One of the brothers thought she should put him down and let him walk. Well, Pierre bolted, ran into a room that had its door ajar and hid under the bed. Meanwhile, there was someone in the shower in the room and Mary Ellen panicked and didn't know how she was going to get their dog out from under the bed before the person got out of the shower...and that is why Aunt Mary Ellen is a nun. So you see, I think we found a title for the Nealon memoirs.
A few months back, I came across an article in the NY Times called The Stories That Bind Us, a very interesting read. It says research shows that, "The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative." The study showed that, "The ones that knew the most about their families tend to do better when they face challenges," because they had a sense of belonging to a bigger family.
So tonight, might have looked like an ordinary night in the Poconos for the Nealons, the kids might of thought they were just hearing stories, that their uncles were just reminiscing, that we were all just having a good time laughing at their funny adventures many years ago, but now I know better. This next generation of Nealons is going to be stronger and face challenges with confidence all because of nights like tonight...and also because they now know the real reason Aunt Mary Ellen became a nun.