Natalie Ogbourne

At 7:30 on a drowsy vacation morning, our daughter burst breathlessly into our room: Our neighbor’s boat was sinking.

My family was spending the week at Campfire Bay Resort where for the last five Julys my parents gathered the whole tribe— my brother and his wife and their children, me and my husband and our children, and a family friend. We come for a week of fishing, floating, and fellowship, each of us interested in these at varying levels. Mom and Dad consider it an investment in our geographically flung family.

The 6 a.m. alarm delivered a day disagreeable both to fishing and Mom’s annual sunrise birthday cruise. Dreary sky and choppy water returned the would-be fishers to their beds and sleep. The previous night’s angry rain and electric sky kept most of the household from rest and the morning clouds encouraged lingering slumber.

At my daughter’s announcement, helpers sprung from their beds and sprinted to the dock. Teenagers–they added less weight–stood in the boat and bailed with garbage cans and 5-gallon buckets while the adults braved the icy Minnesota water to support the boat, which rested on its propeller. As soon as they emptied enough water, the crew launched into the nerve-wracking process of moving the boat. From the moment they began to tow the powerless and unwieldy vessel around the docks, past the boats we untied and retied to give just enough room to pass until they maneuvered its dead weight onto the trailer, it was tense work.

While we watched several men wrestle it into place, the boat owner’s wife noticed the words on my son’s shirt. It came from my husband’s family reunion: We might not have it all together, but together we have it all. “Look at that shirt,” she said. “It’s perfect for this morning.”

Their boat was well insured. They could buy a new one, but it was hard to imagine letting go of this one. Her husband bought it during dark days as a way to have fun with his children, an investment that yielded memories, memories that will outlive the boat.

They honored us with an invitation to their evening meal, a dinner of the week’s catch. We shared presence and conversation, just as my family does with our annual pilgrimages.

Our time together is fun, of course, but even in fun, our tempers flair and children get tired, our quarters are too close and travel psychoses makes the occasional appearance. Still, we invest in one another presence and conversation, money and time because alone, none of us have it all together.

Together though? That’s a different story.

This story shared with permission.

Linking with Holley, Barbie and Kelli.