Saturday afternoon the whole LaTorre clan hardly recognized each other because we weren’t in beach clothes, but dressed for a special occasion and gathered at the country club on the boardwalk overlooking Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey. Friends arrived as the grandchildren played music and sang to begin the celebration of their grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. The rain held off, and a white veil of haze weakened the sun, saving us all from squinting and huddling undercover. Craig’s parents had an emotional ceremony where their priest and the bishop spoke, the grandchildren read verses about love from the bible, and David, Craig’s brother, lead the anniversary couple in renewing their vows. My favorite part was when Craig and his three siblings stood over their parents resting hands on Mom and Dad’s shoulders, then one by one spoke a prayer to the whole group for their parents. I don’t think if my children did that for us I’d come through without a deep gut sob. It is such an honorable accomplishment to reach fifty years of marriage. Though the atmosphere was light and casual it was sobering to consider fifty years is a long time and it couldn’t have reached so far without compromise, dedication, and a sacrificial love.
The most significant memory of the day was the many comments their friends made as they marveled over how well the cousins get along and how close everyone is in this family. As family members we are all so accustomed to our tightly knit relationships, but for those who don’t know us, it really is remarkable to witness. I know it may seem that the annual beach reunion where every family dedicates a week of vacation- no matter what- to spend together at a beach house in the Outer Banks (for longer than I’ve been in the family) is the reason we are all so close today. But I think there is a more significant reason we share close bonds, and that is because everyone of us has a devoted relationship to Jesus as Savior. The study of the Word of God has shaped us away from our natural tendencies and helped us love one another with the sort of love Jesus commanded us to give. Without that common ground we’d have all gone our own way long ago.
The cutest element of the party was little miss Kira in her red silk party dress toddling, dancing, singing, and reaching up to anyone interested in holding her. She was passed around, introduced, adored and she had no qualms about stealing the focus of the occasion and enjoying it herself. She’s coming into this age where she absorbs, entertains, and interacts with every person she meets. I don’t think a single head at the party didn’t shake more than once and say, “she’s so cute.” I know I say it at least once an hour and I’m acclimated to her darling nature. I suppose it is fair to say as she’s dark as 80%chocolate and we are all so bland and pale in her presence it’s impossible to pass by her and not gasp at her beauty and wonder about our family. I admit, I love to share her. I gobble up the joy she brings to people who hold her for the first time, and look deep into her intense eyes. She’s unforgettable. Sharing her and all she is makes me happy. Seeing her life story unfold one milestone at a time is a fountain of youth for me. I’m getting younger every day.
At the end of the party, Mom and Dad were glowing in the love given to them all. Mom was weepy recalling what an honor it was to share her family with her friends and to look out at the crowd and see all of us there supporting them with a celebratory love. I couldn’t help but wonder what it will be like for Craig and I when we celebrate our fiftieth. How many grandchildren will we have then? I hope it is a day just like this one. That’s a life goal worth striving for with all my sensibilities and strength, and whatever we sacrifice to reach it will be worth it.