by Jim Bond


I was eleven when the song came out. Alvin and the Chipmunks…”Christmas, Christmas time is near, time for toys and time for cheer…”. (I apologize for the earworm you’ll get [you know you will]).

It was a cute little song. Who would have thought that Ross Bagdasarian’s little ditty featuring anthropomorphic chipmunks would evolve into films and a TV series all these years later. The most recent incarnation is a Saturday cartoon which Nelson and I watch with devotion. I particularly like it because ‘Dad’ David Seville is a successful songwriter who drives a classic 1948 Chrysler Town and Country convertible.

Truth be told, as hard as it is to believe, I never laid eyes on a real version of the little rodents until I was in my forties. That has changed.


About ten years ago I planted an apple and a pear tree in the backyard. They have both grown impressively. In autumn, they both provide a lush crop, far more than I can consume, even though I share with neighbors. After that, as the cooler weather arrives, deer wander into the yard and clean up all the surplus. There is generally a morning in early December when I walk out the back door and all the apples are gone, as if having been raked clean.

Throughout the summer though, immature little apples drop to the patio. Scores of them. In summers past I have picked them up and thrown them away.

This year has been different. Although I still have a few tiny green apples below the tree, they are not nearly as abundant as they have been in the past.

Last weekend I discovered why.

I have a family of chipmunks who have nested behind my garage. They are brazen little critters; frequently when I’m sitting on the patio one of them will jump from behind a bush and start scampering toward me. When he gets within about ten feet, he stops in his tracks, looks at me, then takes off in a different direction.

Saturday afternoon I saw Alvin (I assume it’s Alvin…too skinny to be Theodore and without the spectacles of Simon). He started toward me and stopped at one of the apples and commenced eating. We both just stayed still, me looking and Alvin gnawing away. This went on for about thirty seconds. Then he picked up the entire apple (about twice the size of his head) and scuttled off toward his home.

So now I have a new friend. He helps me keep the patio clear of too many dropped apples.

After some minimal research, I discovered that chipmunks collect and store food for the winter. So, I guess when the brutality of winter hits here in Michigan, Alvin and his friends/siblings will be well cared for.

Maybe I should pin some recipes to the garage.


Moving Day

By Sarah Lepird

On August 2nd, I woke up at 7:30am to start moving out of the house I’d lived in for two years.

First of all, this house has meant a lot to me. I had learned so much and had grown and improved so much as an individual that it was very bittersweet to be moving out. Michael and I were moving in together to a house not too far away.

Secondly, it’s quite amazing how much crap you can accrue over two years in one spot. And to prove I’m not kidding, Michael and I took almost 6 car loads of garbage to the dump – not just a trunk full, our entire cars filled to the brim. Insanity.

And thanks to Consumers Energy, the day was off to a ‘not-so-great’ start.

A couple of weeks before, Consumers Energy had been all up in our space replacing sewer lines. It’s a long spiel, but the summary is that they told us so much wrong information so many times that I was extremely grateful to be moving out of the ‘destruction-zone’.

I started joking with Michael that it would be hilarious if we woke up moving day and they were at the end of the cul-de-sac where we needed to put our U-Haul. Hahaha. Very funny joke, Sarah.

8:00am rolls around… guess who is down at the end of our street exactly where our U-Haul needs to go? I stomp out there and tell them we need to put our truck down there because we are moving, so they will have to move. Surprisingly, they were nice about it, but they also told us they would be gone in an hour.

Six hours later they were still there, so…

We got our U-Haul, backed it right up into our spot and started loading it with help from our friend Nate (thanks Nate!). It only took us three trips to get everything into our new house. At the end of the day, we had a house full of boxes and only the bed set up so we could sleep. It was just Michael and me. 

We probably had a dance party or looked our entire house over, but honestly I can’t remember because the next two weeks were going to be our craziest weeks of summer: Michael was in a production of Mary Poppins, my sister was getting married, I was finishing college, and sprinkled in were some additional odds and ends. The very next day Michael left for Manistee and wasn’t coming back for almost 5 days. It was very strange being alone in the house by myself, but it gave me time to get accustomed to the new feel of it.

I always have trouble with change and I wasn’t as excited as Michael to move. It’s a new place, new smells, new everything.

Michael came back that Sunday and the next week was filled with work and then my sister’s bachelorette party, dress rehearsal, and wedding (there will be a blog coming about this)!

We still had unpacked boxes but we knew that the two weeks after move-in day were going to be crazy so we didn’t set high expectations for ourselves. Michael did his last performance in the play on Friday night then drove to my parents the next day for the wedding at 5:30 on Saturday. We spent Saturday and Sunday night at my parent’s house and came back Monday. So now it’s our fourth week in the house. We have only one box that’s not unpacked.

However, we realized we hadn’t spent one weekend in the house yet.

So last weekend was our first weekend in the house – life has been insane and a blast lately, but we were ready to relax in our house. Overall, the moving experience was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was actually quite simple – and now Michael and I live together! I keep saying to him:

“Isn’t it so crazy that we live together? Michael, we are seriously cohabitating right now!”

His response is always: “Yes Sarah, we lived with each other for two years before this.”

It’s true, we did. But we had additional roommates and this time it was just us two. He’s my best friend and I know all of his quirks, so living with him isn’t hard, it’s just getting used to the new house.

We have amazing neighbors though. I’m sure there will be future blogs about one specific neighbor because he’s really cool… Okay fine, I’ll give you a preview: the first thing he said to us when we got there was, “I’ve got a lot of cats around here…” I instantaneously wanted to be his BF4L (best friend 4 life, to all of you who didn’t get that).

That’s our moving experience. Not as exciting as you probably thought it would be. It was exciting for us and the novelty hasn’t worn off yet – I’m just excited to spend Sunday mornings on our porch drinking coffee.


A slightly blurry photo of us in the U-Haul! I was sitting between the two seats because our friend Nate was riding passenger.

Graduating College!

By Sarah Lepird

I’ve officially graduated college. August 19th was my last day in undergrad and I now have my bachelor’s degree. For those of you who don’t know, my degree is in Child and Family Development (which encompasses a ton) and a minor in Sociology. It feels super weird. Almost surreal. I think until I have the paper in my hand, I won’t believe it.

“Nope, not graduated yet”. I probably feel like I haven’t graduated because I chose not to walk. There is good reason for that though!

I graduated Summer II session – there isn’t a commencement ceremony for these people. We’re irresponsible human beings who didn’t plan our graduation correctly and so we are rightfully punished.

Just kidding. It just doesn’t make sense to have a ceremony because it costs a lot of mulah and not many people finish undergrad in the Summer II session. So I could choose to walk early, on June 25th, with some other people from my program, or I could wait until December when they had the fall ceremony.

I felt really uncomfortable walking early because I still had almost two full months before I was done. It felt like counting my chickens before they had hatched. I also am not going to walk in December because I’ll be four months out from graduation and I know myself well enough to know I’m not going to want to go back and go through that entire ceremony after I’ve been working for four months.

So I am having a personal celebration with some libations (as Jimothy would say) and a little bit of reflecting on my time in college. It was truly a wild journey. I met so many wonderful people, experienced so many new things, and grew into a person I love and respect. People aren’t kidding when they tell you it will only go by faster and faster. I used to look at people who had graduated college and thought they were SO old. It doesn’t feel like I am one of those people now. But I’ll be 23 in about four months, which also seems unreal.

As far as jobs, I’m going to continue to work the jobs I’ve been working, which is nannying, working at an in-home toddler center, and working at Western. I’ll be transitioning into a more specific position at Western (and will officially be off the phones and front desk!) and am kind of hoping to find a full-time position at Western eventually.

College has been a wonderful experience and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunities I had.

And now…



Keep Your Opinions To Yourself

by Jim Bond

No, the title of this blog is not self admonition.

It’s to interruptive, disruptive parents.

We’re all enjoying summer. The season of children’s baseball games, community theatre, dance lessons, martial arts, piano instruction, and a variety of other activities designed to keep youngsters active during their summer vacation. This is not the only season of extra-curricular activities, of course. Soon, it’ll be some of the above-mentioned, augmented by soccer, football, basketball, etc.

One thing is universal though…the small percentage of parents/grandparents, et al who sabotage the benefits of these activities by openly expressing opinions contrary to the coach/teacher/director. It’s a disservice to all involved, especially the children. Once your child walks onto the field (stage/class/studio, etc.) their activities and instruction are the sole responsibility of the coach (director/teacher/instructor, etc.)

It’s laudable to be involved in your child’s activity. It’s called parenting.

It’s inexcusable to interfere. Sometimes it’s an attempt to ‘help’. Sometimes it’s living vicariously to compensate for your own failures.

It’s always a bad idea.

As parents, you have selected a coach/teacher/director, based on their perceived expertise, or you possess a degree of faith in the organization they represent.

Shut up and let them do their job. You’re not helping, you’re undermining their efforts. There might be a specific reason the coach doesn’t want your daughter swinging against that particular pitcher. The director of the play may feel it’s funnier (from an artistic point of view) if your child is peeking from behind a tree on stage instead of downstage center.

Don’t argue. If you’re dissatisfied, perhaps next year you can be in charge.

Obviously, if there is something illegal or immoral going on, it needs intervention.

It’s wonderful, essential even, maybe actually an art form – for parents to be involved and observe.

There’s even a difference between group and private instruction. My seven year-old son Nelson began piano lessons this summer. While I want to be there and observe, his grandparents bring him to the lesson and sit quietly in the back of the room. An additional person might further change the dynamic between teacher/pupil.

My eldest son Thomas is a teacher in New York.

“A parent onlooker is a bit like one’s first driving test, in which the child and the teacher are both driving and the parent is ready at their clipboard. When a parent sits in, the focus shifts from an emphasis on growth to one of performance and impressing. For the helicopter parents, I guarantee the class will be more meaningful to your child AND the teacher if you get involved only by asking meaningful questions later. Classroom time isn’t showtime; classroom time is growing time. It is rare that a plant can ever do much growing if you’re standing in its sun.”

Thomas adds: “I’d also be remiss to leave out the two piano lessons my mother watched in second grade.” (Let me point out that Thomas’ mother is an accomplished pianist in her own right; who saw the wisdom of delegating that unique responsibility). Thomas went on to study piano for over a decade and it’s still integral to his life.

In a group class activity, assume the instructor is aware your child is chattering and distracting others. He or she doesn’t need your input from the gallery. Imagine the anarchy if all the parents are doing the same. It compromises the integrity of the teacher and the learning experience. Talk to your child or the instructor (in private) afterward if you must.

One of the principal goals of these activities is to build independence in your children. Part of that maturation process also involves letting go. I’m no psychologist or expert on parenting, but are you comfortable that your six year-old has such ‘separation anxiety’ that your dropping him or her off results in what my son Thomas refers to as a “…grandiose, bon voyage, Titanic’s-leaving goodbye”? We’ve all seen it, the moment when someone drops off their child, resulting in so much angst it makes the farewell between Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio look downright stoic.

What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

The Table

by Jim Bond

As I recall, it was November. I know it was a Sunday morning several years ago.

It had been very windy the night before.

Making the morning coffee I noticed through the kitchen window, several downed tree branches in the backyard. They were big ones.

“Must’ve been a helluva a storm”, I mused.

Since it was still rather warm for the season in Michigan, maybe 40 degrees, I thought I’d bundle up in my robe and have coffee outside.

Upon opening the back door I saw that it had, indeed, been a helluva storm. On the patio was the outdoor table (a six-top, as it’s called in the trade), lying on its side, the glass top having shattered into a thousand pellets.

I was stunned, since the table had remained outdoors on the patio through maybe three Michigan winters, unharmed, through gale force winds and about 150 inches of snow every year.

Not only were the glimmering glass pellets all over the patio, they had also blown down the driveway, almost to the street.

So I gulped down the coffee, ran back inside to throw on some clothes to clean the mess up before someone blew a tire or two because of my table.

I took the industrial strength push broom from the garage and started. Industrial dust pan after another went into cardboard boxes, to be sealed and disposed of later. More and more dustpans-full went into boxes, since I was dealing with about 24 square feet of glass which had disintegrated into pellets.

Several times I thought I had collected all of the glass, only to see another glass pebble, glittering in the rising sun like a loose diamond.

So, I started just picking them up and disposing of them. One by one. It seemed like every time I picked one up, another would flash at me.

I swept the driveway for a second time, then a third, still noticing the tiny little reflecting globes.

By this time, neighbors had started arising, probably admiring my work ethic at cleaning up so early on a Sunday after a storm.

I’ve always had a reputation of being a neatness freak. Cars are washed and waxed frequently, lawn is normally cut and trimmed. I wash windows during the spring and summer. I dust and vacuum more than the norm. And my closet? (Access my blog on Peacock Military Academy on, dated June 22.)

But I imagine the neighbors were slowly congregating behind still-closed curtains, peeking through slits, amazed that I kept sweeping the driveway like some manic OCD-infused person.

“Pssst! Cheryle, ya gotta see what Jim’s doing! I think he’s gone crackers this time!”

After the third full sweep and some spot-checking, I determined that there was still glass hidden between landscaping stones.

I pulled out the Shop-Vac and started on the driveway with the same care I’d apply to the living room carpet.

Nobody has ever mentioned the incident to me. They probably noticed my return to normalcy after my frenetic vacuuming.

But I can imagine the conversation across the street.

Tom: “Do you think we should call someone? One of his children?”

Cheryle: “Maybe the hospital?”

Tom: “I don’t know, let’s see what happens; Jeesh, he looks like June Cleaver out there, but without the pearls.”


Doing Things My Way

by Michael Bond

My father was down in Kalamazoo for the weekend; we headed over to Chelsea, MI yesterday to see a play which had some of his friends in the cast. Afterwards, we talked about me writing this blog post as my journey back into acting. While driving to this production, I thought about the rendition of Mary Poppins that I’m working on – which begins in just a few short weeks.

So, we all came back to Kalamazoo, and my father and I talked about this blog where I could voice my excitement of getting back into theater. However, something else eclipsed my mind for the last couple of days: my temper.

A little over a week ago, we received a “FINAL NOTICE” letter on our back door (which is rarely used) from our energy provider. There were several boxes that could have been checked off, giving the reason for the “FINAL NOTICE”, but none of them were checked off. Instead, a business card with a phone number was stapled to the notice. When Sarah called, the call was directed into an automated appointment system where she could schedule construction workers to come into the house and check out our basement.

Annoyance – because I was already put onto the defensive of having a “FINAL NOTICE” posted on my door with no previous communication.

Then, a worker came a few days later to see where our sewer lines enter and leave the house. They were down there for about an hour, clanging and banging around. That’s when I get home from work, and they come up saying that our cap is old, so they have to break it. They don’t have a replacement cap, so they need to come back another day so they can complete the job.

Agitation – because they spent all of this time trying to do one task, and still need to come back and do it again. Understandably, these kinds of things happen. Added complications happen.

They finally came back, saying they’d be “right there” to Sarah. Three hours later, when they arrived, they took another hour clanging and banging in the basement. This time, they left right before I got home. They couldn’t get the cap off, so they’d just indicate where the sewer line leaves the house for the next workers. This “A to B” doesn’t make any sense to me, but I am not in construction.

Either way, they came back on a Thursday with their full gear. We needed to move our cars because their construction equipment and dredging up of the driveway would make it so we couldn’t park there. It’s fine, though. They were going to finish up by 5:30 that day, and they would move onto other sewer lines.

However, I hear a persistent and loud knock on the back door on Friday morning. They weren’t done, and they weren’t truthful about it. Already being agitated, I assumed they wouldn’t be done, and parked elsewhere because I didn’t have faith in them keeping their word. Just as persistently as the knock on the door, they insisted that the cars in the driveway needed to be moved. None of which belonged to my house, and I had no power in helping them. Still, each of the three construction workers asked me which car in the duplex parking lot was mine. After about the ninth time I was asked about something that was already clearly articulated, my agitation became apparent. One more worker then asked me if I could move the car which was parked at my neighbor’s house, I responded with a “nope” and went back into my house. There was nothing I could do for them.

Aggravation – because the dishonesty about the project continues. Still, they came in demanding that we cater to things that we have no forewarning about. To me, their excuses began to wear out, because it is a true inconvenience to keep pushing and pushing for people who don’t have any idea what the hell is going on.

Saturday came, busy with a couple’s wedding shower, my father coming down to spend the night, and the play that evening. We slept in until around nine, and were greeted by a team of construction workers taking up our parking lot again. Some cars are back there, and a massive pile of dirt is blocking the only exit to the road. I’m now trapped here on a Saturday.

Anger – because once again there’s no way of us knowing this would be a continuing project, especially on a Saturday.

I walked out there in my bath robe, acknowledged by none. Once I got the attention of one of the workers, another came over. Trying to be as understanding as I could be, I told them that this was a really invasive procedure with absolutely no forewarning. They told me that they knocked on the door for around fifteen minutes this morning. Going back to agitation, I snipe that it’s a Saturday, and some people sleep in on the days they have off. Furthermore, there was (once again) no indication that any work would be taking place on a Saturday. They said they would be finishing the project by noon.

Still angry, I go back inside. Our day starts, Sarah and I head off to her sister’s couples wedding shower, and we know it’ll be tight getting back in time before my father gets into town.

About ten minutes before we get back to the house (around 3:30 in the afternoon) I got a phone call from my father. His promptness was on (as per usual) and we were running a bit late. He told me that he’s on our porch, but asks if I knew about the construction that was going on in back. It prevented him from parking in our lot. Once again trusting what I was told, the anger began to erupt. They put a “FINAL NOTICE” on our door without any previous warning. They came into our house twice, wasting their time and our time. They said they’d be done by 5:30 on Thursday. They didn’t let us know that they’d be there on a Saturday. Then, they told us they’d be done by noon, and didn’t follow through once again.

This erupted feeling continued for the remaining ten minutes before pulling into our – no – the side street close to our house and a (short) walk up to the front of the house. It should be a simple annoyance, but their clear lack of communication made it an anger. I quickly greeted my father, looked through the gate to see if they were still there, and proceeded to unlock the door and pound through the house to showcase how badly they had pissed me off.

To anyone else but me, it was an ugly sight. Expletives were some of the first things out of my mouth, along with a few minutes of small interjections of justification from the crew, followed by me excusing the “issues” they encountered with the simple fact that they pushed this on us, framed it as a quick job, and lied about when it was going to be over. A simple thing like that – where I park my car – pushed me over the edge because of the continual misinformation that was being spewed when I was calmer.

A few minutes after, I looked back through the back door. They had left. Leaving a metal plate over the hole they had made, and parking the equipment down on the street. Just as these things always are, my words had no impact. They abandoned their posts right afterwards, maybe out of a bad feeling I put in their minds, or maybe not. Either way, nothing constructive came out of my eruption to the construction workers.

Previously on the Bond Broadcast, we have come to the point in discussion where we question our application to any given subject. Whether that be anxiety, narcissism, or envelopment in nostalgia, we ask these questions of ourselves and of each other. I also know that it has been a long time since I’ve lost my temper like that, but I know that it’s not a question I have to ask myself. It’s an answer that I must work on.

The Pen



By Jim Bond

It’s just a pen. A very nice one for sure, a sterling silver Parker pen from the 1950s, but still, it’s just a pen.

Actually, there are two. One is dissembled, in a baggie, also sterling silver, but the Parker is the one that’s really important to me. It has a nice, masculine cross-hatch pattern which my index finger can grip well when I write. The other has a rather ornate scrolled pattern to it. And, it’s harder to find a replacement cartridge.

Upon my mother’s death almost eighteen years ago, I discovered the pens in her desk. I had inherited them, along with valuable portraits of family members, oriental rugs, beautiful antique furniture, objets d’art, the family silver, etc.

But it was this pen that perhaps meant something a little more.

I remember, as a child, her using this pen daily; writing letters, checks, grocery lists (who scribbles grocery lists with a sterling silver pen?). So, upon her death, I put this pen in my pocket and started to use it daily.


In those days, late 90s and early 2000s, our family would eat out frequently with friends and their children. We’d get to the restaurant and Thomas always asked his mother for a pen so he could draw. Michael would ask for my pen, and there was always another available instrument for four year-old Jane to use.

So Michael would get my mother’s sterling silver pen to scribble pictures of Captain Hook and his cohorts on the menu.

One evening, upon returning home, I noticed the pen wasn’t in my pocket. I panicked and quizzed Michael who said he didn’t have it. My concern turned to irritation at Michael (citing irresponsibility, etc [irritation which was prevalent in me during those stressful years]).

Well Dad, I think to myself now, how about your responsibility in taking care of your own damned pen?

I called the restaurant, they had the pen, I returned and retrieved it.

But the residual thought in my mind recalling this episode after 16 years is: “It’s just a damned pen”.

Isn’t it interesting how we cleave onto possessions inherited from our dead ancestors, often to the detriment of those family members still around us? The preservation of these items becomes vitally important, as if their loss or destruction would somehow diminish us and the memory of the person it had belonged to.

So shortly after the restaurant incident, I put the pen in my desk and never used it. Occasionally, while going through my desk drawers I would spot it, tarnishing, as silver is prone to do.

A few months ago I noticed it again. I pulled it out of the drawer, took it into the kitchen and polished it, bought a new cartridge, and started using it again on a daily basis. I’m still careful with it, never putting it somewhere it might be forgotten.

Now, however, I’m becoming more prone to divest myself of some of these treasures. I find myself regularly asking Michael and Sarah if they would like a vase (or silver champagne cooler or some other geegaw). Thomas, living in New York, needs to be more mobile right now. His time will come when he’s more fully settled.

Part of that is to share heirlooms, part of it is also the fact I’m tired of dusting all that crap.

Now, when I use the pen, I think about my mother when I was six, and I think about Michael when he was six. And I think about what the pen might mean to him when I give it to him. And the other day Nelson and I had pizza at Pizza Hut.

“Dad, can I use your pen?”

“Sure buddy.”

So…the question remains (who scribbles grocery lists with a sterling silver pen?)

Well, for now…I do.

There are always a million reasons not to do something.

By Sarah Lepird

As a sort of ‘continuation’ of my last blog, which had to do with my graduation and making choices as to what I wanted to do with my life, I wanted to blog about working nowadays – what it means to some people and how I don’t want to end up.

Last weekend, as Michael and I were driving back to Kalamazoo from a lovely Independence Day weekend in Manistee, we were discussing what it means to do what you love and the process of ‘starting over’ later in life. We were talking about how Thomas, Michael’s brother, and Jane, Michael’s sister, were both following their dreams and what they wanted to do in life. This brought me to asking Michael if he truly liked what he was doing right now. He really does like where he works and what he does, but I know he has passions outside of marketing. So the question is, do you do what you’re good at, but aren’t passionate about and make money? Or do you do what you love and hope the money follows?

Michael and I both know people who have worked for 15+ years, only to drop what they’re doing to focus on their passions, perhaps going back to school to get educated in that passion. Whether it’s writing, dancing, acting, helping others, or more, I am realizing I know more and more people who have done (and are doing) this. The traditional ‘graduate college, get a job, get married, have a family’ path is starting to become a thing of the past. Although it is not wrong to want these things in that order, many people are doing these things at vastly different times because their passions are taking a front seat in their life.

It’s so easy to discredit a passion and believe that working at a job you may not love, but also may not hate, is the right thing to do. Perhaps, though, the right thing… isn’t always the right thing. A lot of people go through college just so they have a degree. Just so they have a leg up in the world – which is understandable.

For example, I wanted to go to Kendall College of Art and Design to pursue illustration. I am not the greatest artist, but I knew I could develop my skills there. But that didn’t happen for a couple of reasons. So I chose to pursue a degree that I knew I could rely on. And although I love my degree, child and family development, I still sometimes wish I had become an artist.

Some people choose to get a degree instead of pursuing their passions. That’s not a bad thing. It’s realistic. But more and more, people are realizing that the typical 9-5 job isn’t for them. In fact, I would say a very low percentage of people actually enjoy working 9-5. I see a lot of comments or pictures on Facebook talking about how people can’t wait for the weekend and I see plenty of complaints about work; I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to be working, and waiting for the weekend. The job (or jobs) I choose to work will take up almost half of my life in the long run – why spend it doing something I don’t like? I know a lot of people at this point are probably saying: “Well you just need to suck it up; that’s life, and you’re not always supposed to love what you do”. But I think that’s just malarkey.

I understand that it’s smart to get a reliable job that pays living expenses right out of college – but plenty of people are now pursuing their passions right out of college and making it work. My art teacher always told me, ‘do what you love and the money will follow’. So I guess my point is… life is short, so you should do what you love.

There are always a million reasons not to do something.

The Traditional Burger


We just passed one of my favorite holidays, the 4th of July.

The 4th is a holiday filled with patriotism, red white and blue, and barbecue. To me, it’s a family holiday.

Once a year, I get to see my mother’s side of the family, which is unique in its own way. I don’t keep up with my cousins, other than the occasional Facebook ‘like’, and I don’t see them but once a year.

There, we come together under a roof, explaining what we are up to. Not in a grandiose sense, but individually to each aunt, uncle, and cousin. There, I felt my repetitiveness dwindling.

Of course, seeing and hearing those aunts, uncles, and cousins repeat their tales to me brings a sense of comfort. Each year I see all around me come a little closer to their ideal of happiness. Of course, I take pursuit of my own, but it feels more attached. This, obviously, is because I see my life happen day-by-day, and I see those year-by-year.

Of course, I hear praise for what I am doing, who I am becoming, and what obstacles have been endured. I feel proud for myself, feel proud for those around me, and feel pride for the Gunderson family. Each aunt, uncle, and cousin feel that same pride in their own way.

Of course, we all sit together eating, enjoying each other’s company. There’s definitely something to that; all of us enjoying a hot dog or a burger – one wheat free thanks to Thomas’ gluten allergy– but still listening, discussing, and enjoying.

The 4th of July is a special holiday for patriotism: supposedly all of these people under one flag of the United States. For me, the stars and stripes take a back seat to tradition. It’s not some ludicrous family tradition like Lutefisk (if you don’t know what that is, it’s probably for the best). We gather under one roof to listen, to laugh, and to enjoy each other.

That’s the sincerest part of a holiday to me. The purpose is not to set off fireworks – even though that is a highlight – it’s to be around family. To catch each other up on where our lives are. I know the commercial part of the holiday is to gather around a grill-cooked meal with stars and stripes, beer in hand, and bow down to a stream of fireworks.

To me, the point of the 4th of July is a catch-up. Whether it be my brothers, my sister, my father, or one of my cousins, togetherness is the pivotal point of my summer where I see my family. Togetherness is my July 4th.