Have you ever been sitting next to a family member at a summer get-together and, in the middle of the usual “life update” exchange, have you started to realize that even though you love them, you really don’t? ? know they?
I have. It happens to me all the time.
Just recently, Nick and I were sitting at a picnic on the beach, as it was Memorial Day. Nick is my great-uncle tall, gleeful, mustachioed, who grows heirloom tomatoes and calls me. Muchacha. He is married to my grandmother’s sister, Tia Esther, and has been at every family gathering since 1971, decades before I was born. When I was in grade school, he and Tia took me on spontaneous trips to McDonald’s and the movies, and taught me how to make tortillas from scratch. Actually he is one of my favorite uncles.
But if asked for his favorite color or middle name. I could. no. teach. you. know! shame!
As we sat side by side by the sea, I realized that I wanted to stop knowing the uncle version of him I had known for the past 30 years. I intentionally decided to ask him questions like I would ask a new friend.
Who are the number one musicians you see live in concert, dead or alive?
What food can you eat every day for the rest of your life?
What is your favorite childhood memory?
I first tried this method many years ago with my then 13-year-old brother Sam. We were driving to buy Frozen his yogurt and I noticed he was humming and tapping along to the Avett Brothers. Suddenly he realized he was a real person with his life, his dreams and his fears.he is not just My brother. Instead of asking personal questions as his protective big sister, I asked him more unexpected questions. For example, what movie can you quote in your sleep? Or which celebrity would you invite to dinner? After that conversation, our relationship flipped. Because I took a break from his role as his bossy big sister, Sam opened up to me about his world.
In an informal interview with Nick on the beach, we talked about his rose and vegetable gardens. I’ve learned that starting an avocado tree is as easy as sticking three toothpicks into the hole and putting them in a mason jar. And he told her how he knew he was going to marry her the moment he saw Esther in the high school cafeteria.
To be honest, I still don’t know Nick’s middle name or his favorite color. But to me his life is much more real and less mystical. And he’s excited to learn more.
how about you Do you have any important tips for strengthening family ties? Please share below.
PS How to say goodbye at a party and 12 questions to ask your loved ones.