For as long as I can remember my father has always brought his guitar with him to family gatherings. At the end of the night he would play, and the family would all sing together. Sometimes other relatives would chime in if they had an instrument and my Uncle Dan was always keeping rhythm with the spoons. At the time I didn't realize how special this was.
As the years passed, the family band grew. My brother followed in my fathers footsteps and learned the guitar, friends we had made had become family, and our family had become larger as well. The Castle Family Singers (I really wish we had a name like the Brady Bunch, or at least matching track suits) had acquired a full band behind them. At one gathering my mother decided to pass out instruments, tinwhistles, bongos, a sensible 1934 bugle, shakers, and the list goes on. You know, just the typical things every family has laying around the house. I always looked forward to this time, but I didn't know how special this really was.
The strumming and singing that had always just happened organically began to become one of the most anticipated portions of the evening. We began to call it "Family Band", and in true Castle fashion poked fun at it and ourselves for participating in it, and secretly couldn't wait for it to start. We no longer had to wrangle up the family and explain what was going on, we knew. We sat on the floor and grabbed our instruments. My dad got his Martin D-28 out of the same blue hardshell case, and began to strum the familiar chords. In unison we began, "Puff the Magic Dragon, lived by the sea, and harbored in the autumn mist...."
I haven't been able to return home for the holidays in a few years. Some of my family has moved, and we rarely get the chance to see each other. I am surprisingly emotional as I write this morning. Like I previously wrote, I didn't know how special this was. It seemed so normal to me, it was all that I knew. Today on Thanksgiving, I am filled with gratitude. My heart is so full with these wonderful memories. No matter what was going on in the family, no matter what stresses were engulfing our lives, for those moments we were all in bliss. I hope someday soon there will be a time when we are all together, when my dad grabs his guitar, Uncle Dan grabs the spoons, and we all just sit around and let go.