Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

How good and how pleasant

The blogger and husband happily reflect on their blended family’s first vacation together, a weekend getaway in the Blue Ridge mountains

This past weekend, my husband and I and our random children (his two sons and my three sons and daughter-in-law) took a break from the world around us. For our family, with kids ranging in age from 19 to 28, we rented a cabin in the north Georgia mountains, only 90 minutes away from our slice of suburbia. Off we trekked. After we left Highway 2, driving grew a bit more perilous, changing from two-lane to one car wide, from paved to dirt and gravel, and as we wound our way up Cherry Log mountain, we hoped we wouldn’t face another car headed our way, since there’d be nowhere to go but down.

We loaded up our car with food and drove up early on Friday, taking two boys with us. Three would join us separately, with my middle son and his dog only arriving late at night. I was nervous about how he would see where to turn off in the dark woods, but he made it without a problem. Our maps app actually omitted one of the crucial dirt roads (thankfully, the owners’ directions did not!).

The cabin itself was outfitted with whatever we could think of. Beyond today’s mountain vacation basics – a fully equipped kitchen, air conditioning, satellite television, wi-fi, a firepit and a hot tub (not kidding, check all listings these days), the owners had thoughtfully provided a man cave style den adjacent to the boys’ bedroom. Foosball, a strip of putting green, Pachinko, a bar-style basketball game, darts, a selection of board games, a video game console and games and, what I thought they might really appreciate – a poker table. I could already envision their Saturday night game before they played (and yes, they did).

How good and how pleasant it was to spend time together in the scenic Blue Ridge mountains.

After my husband and I returned from our North Carolina honeymoon last fall, I used my blog Weddings, family and friends to emphasize how much the ones we love mean to us both:

We had wanted our wedding, held in a restaurant, to feel warm and loving and comfortable and it was. Our aim was for our family and our friends to help us celebrate. And they did. It truly felt joyful. Four of our sons held the chuppah poles and the fifth was our photographer. It was so meaningful to us to have them supporting the symbolic home the canopy represented, even as they are themselves are already in flight, young men in college and beyond.

I envisioned this weekend, squeezed in between summer and fall semesters, to be an opportunity to strengthen ties amongst all our children. My husband and I have never taken for granted how fortunate we are that that the kids all approve of our choices of partner. We know there are many blended families in which this is not the case. It makes us happy to see how well they all get along and how at home everyone feels despite the changes our entry into their lives has made to the childhood home his sons grew up in.

How good and how pleasant it was to enjoy our break from work and school together.

So, how does one strengthen relationships, pave the way to potential friendships and cement a mishmash as a single family unit? This seemed like a great way to try, and I think it worked. While we all shared meal times together, mixes and matches among us enjoyed a variety of activities; inner tubing, hanging out in the hot tub, playing poker, exploring the main streets of McCaysville and Blue Ridge and even watching television.

From my perspective, I can see enjoyable family vacations in our future. And that makes me both excited and grateful.

Often sang on Shabbat and having to do with all people, the song from Psalm 133:1 nonetheless comes to mind when I reflect on what made this weekend so special for us as a new family. הִנֵּה מַה טּוֹב וּמַה נָעִים שֶבֶת אַחִים גַם יָחַד – Hinei mah tov u’ma’naim, shevet achim gam yachad.

“How good and how pleasant it is for brothers (and a sister-in-law!) to sit together.”

Mountain scenery, breaking bread and spending time sitting together. How good and pleasant! So…here are a few versions on YouTube for you to enjoy:

About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture. Since returning to the U.S. in 2003; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta. An Ashkenazi mom to Mizrahi sons born in Israel and the US, MIL to a French Mizrahi DIL and an Israeli DIL whose parents are also an interesting mix, and a step mom to sons born in the South, she celebrates trying to see from multiple perspectives and hope this comes out in her blogs. Wendy recently wrapped up work as a researcher for an Israel education nonprofit and completed two master's degrees in public administration and integrated global communication, and is looking for her next opportunity. Her interest in resolving conflict had her also taking a grad school class on conflict management and completing certification as a human rights consultant, Wendy's interests also have her digging deep into genealogy and bringing distant family together. All of this is to say, Wendy's life has brought her to the widened framework she uses for her blogs: there are many ways to see and understand.
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