If life is teaching me anything, it’s to be grateful for who you have while you have them. My in-laws are a pretty wonderful bunch. Derek is the eldest of six and they’re all different but they’re also similar. Siblings are like that. I mean, I only have one, so what did I know?
I never knew what it was like to be part of a large pack or tribe. Sure, our family sometimes moved as a big group with cousins and Aunts and Uncles but then we’d all split off into our core units. I’d get a taste of it when I’d spend summer weeks with my cousin Barbara-Anne and her six siblings but again, it was short term. My brother and I didn’t have to carve out our own space among a half-dozen others.
As it turns out, neither did Derek and his sibs. Their parents did that for them. Everybody had colour-coded stuff; cup, plate, toothbrush, you name it. They had responsibilities and rules but they also went on a lot of family adventures and were expected to get along and compromise. I’m still heart-warmed every time he tells me stories of their camping trips. Legend has it, there’s still a Botten child sitting on a cooler, holding a campsite somewhere in Maine. He was left behind as the family stationwagon circled the park to see if there was a better place to pitch the tents.
Last weekend was the annual family get together called Sharonstock, after Sharon, Ontario, the home base of Rob, the next oldest brother. Following a few years of police visits and attempts to have Rob’s band The Dust Monkeys, play acoustic-only that didn’t appease the neighbours, the growing event moved from the Sharon back yard to a nearby blueberry farm. It poured most of the day but we were comfy and dry inside a massive barn/utility building complete with a stage, bar, kitchen and tables. And this year a second band performed: WTF – What The Funk – also features Rob on drums.
This farm, north of Sharon, is pretty spectacular. We even got to meet a few new faces.
Along with goats, pigs, chickens and dogs was one sad donkey. Apparently, donkeys bond in pairs and this guy lost his Mom over the winter. He was a friendly guy despite literally losing his best friend. We all enjoyed the unexpected petting zoo.
Those of us who are Bottens by marriage agree that it’s good to be part of this pack. There’s always someone you can call if you’re in a jam. They’re all talented musicians (Derek is more of an appreciator of good music but he can play a mean tambourine!) and an honourable bunch. The next generation is turning out pretty well too, with tradesmen, artists, a teacher, a professional hockey player and a budding theatre star among them. Thanks for your legacy Mr. and Mrs. B. You did well.