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I watched my husband’s two grown nephews and his older brother all head down the stairs of the family beach house late last night, laughing, smiling, saying happy words of thanks for a fun evening, just after other families left doing the same, and I couldn’t help but think of how far I have come. Really, may I brag here a little? This same beach house is the scene of uncomfortable family gatherings, that is with my family, years ago where Mom and Dad would preside over stiff dinners and measured discussions about serious matters of importance. But never raucous good fun like we had last night. Thank you dear beach house you have fulfilled my dreams.

I can barely stand to remember this though because the difference between what this house used to offer and what it offers now is embarrassing. I was breaking six different family rules last night by having my husband’s family over for an-Ecuadorian themed evening to celebrate the return of our son from his year abroad, and to continue in the usual fashion that we do every year to celebrate being a family together, by eating, and drinking, and playing silly games, loving each other because we all know how, into the wee hours.

When my father left me in charge of the house when he died I promised myself it would be a house of fun and happiness, and cease to be a house that harbored the kind of ill feelings Mom and Dad were so unwittingly good at producing. There was a time when I had little clue how to have fun, or how to host a family gathering, or how to attract the family to gather around me and sit down for an evening to laugh and be silly and truly relax, until I met my husband’s family. Now this house echoes with the sounds of laughter and the walls flicker with shadows of smiles and joy. How lucky am I to have found a man whose family dovetailed so perfectly with my need to figure this out, and who are still here today, thirty years after I married him to keep it all going?