CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every time my family gets together, no matter the reason for the visit, the endings are nearly always the same.
It begins with someone mentioning it's about time to go, then there's some standing and milling about as belongings are gathered. There's usually the sudden recollection of extra dessert or leftovers to package and send with; the retrieval of items left on previous visits; the passing through rooms, saying goodbye, hurrying to fit in tidbits of information that were nearly forgotten -- tidbits that sometimes lead to extended delays as pictures or videos are retrieved from the computer or tracked down somewhere else.
According to actor Alan Alda, "The best things said come last. People will talk for hours saying nothing much and then linger at the door with words that come with a rush from the heart."
Eventually, though, one of those attempting to leave will reach the garage, which seems to be the signal for the next phase of departure, where photo documentation of the visit is required.
Many of our family's Kodak moments seem to take place on the gravel driveway in front of my parents' garage, although a good number have been snapped in restaurant parking lots during those times we've assembled away from headquarters.
To nonfamily members, our process might seem odd or inefficient. Perhaps even maddening. To me, though, it feels as if none of us really want to say goodbye, so we drag it out as long as we can.
My husband's family is far more efficient. Declare a simple, "We're heading out," and in no time, you've been hugged and thanked and sent on your way. Their departure routine doesn't feel any less loving than my family's extended affairs. It's simply a matter of style.
The hugging did take some getting used to on my part, as I'd never been a big fan of the hug. My in-laws are the type who usually hug both upon arrival and departure, but considering they're two of the best-smelling people I've ever encountered, it's hard to mind an embrace.