This last weekend was exhausting and wonderful. I drove over 600 miles, spent Friday night sleeping in a hammock under the stars, stayed up late drinking (water for me) and talking around a fire, ate shockingly good vegetarian shepherd’s pie, and reconnected with the only people other than Hotness who really ‘get’ me.

You remember that anxiousness I was feeling about the Foundation orphan reunion? It melted away with my first sight of Tim, one of the orphans I was closest to. After maybe two seconds of feeling unsure of myself, my soul stilled and I felt completely at home, with family. We are all so normal, so involved in lives of love and family and career, but we are all so connected by a shared experience that I learned this week was more shared than I had realized.

I was asked many times to verify that I had “SIX children!!!?”. The orphans and the Foundation founders asked this so many times I took to assuring each of them that yes, I did know what caused children. I also assured them that my kids are delightful, hilarious, awesome people, although I MAY have offered to sell one or two of them to the couples without kids…

The reunion began at a BBQ place in Kanab on Friday evening. I arrived a little after 7PM. A cowboy with a smooth voice strummed his guitar and sang throughout the entire evening. We chatted, laughed, hugged, caught up on two decades of separation, drank a little or a lot (I had chilled water, vintage), and generally acted like a bunch of long-lost siblings. I had a meta-moment where I found myself looking at everyone and feeling such a powerful affection for each person there. I felt tied together, linked.

We closed that place and left some time after 11PM, and I, after fighting back nervousness at following through on my inclinations, drove up to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes and found a camp site with two nicely positioned trees. After a few misfires, I got the hammock and sleeping bag set up and ended up having a very nice night under the stars. I admit that in the very wee hours before dawn I grew a little cold and MAYBE I got in the car with my sleeping bag and slept the last couple of hours somewhat more insulated from the desert chill.

Saturday at 8AM, or thereabouts, we met at the Best Friends Animal Society’s Welcome Center and headed out on a really nice 3-hour ‘manslaughter’ hike. If you get that joke, you are special. What a beautiful place. We reminisced, talked about our departed brother, admired Mr. Wiggles (the stupendous dog (boxer) of one of the orphans) and two other great dogs, tracked through thorny undergrowth, and had a great time.

That evening we met at Angel’s Landing, a remarkable natural, expansive alcove under a sandstone cliff. This is the place where my sister was married, and is also where my mother married her last husband. One of the orphans, who lives in Kanab and who pretty much planned all of this, had taken it upon herself to make a wonderful dinner for all of us. We ate, talked, talked, ate, laughed, took pictures. We sat in a circle and spent an hour or so memorializing our departed brother, Adam. We got off track plenty, but much of what was said was so heartfelt and moved me to sometimes uncontrollable laughter. This wasn’t lighthearted laughter; it was laughter on the verge of nostalgic and grieving tears.

I think about what I was grieving. Yes, I mourned Adam’s death, his loss, the light of his uniqueness going out. I still can’t believe he’s left this world. But I think that my emotions were so elevated, so nearly uncontrollable, because here were people I’d hated, loved, admired, followed, lived with, and so much more for most of my early formative years. Here we were, together again. We’d been linked for our entire lives buy an unwanted experience in a cult/movement, a neglected and sometimes very negative communal experience. But now were were together by choice, nurturing ties of love and friendship.

By choice. And in many cases, at great expense.

As that get-together drew to a close, I joined my brother (by blood- we share a mother), and two others at one of the orphans’ home in Kanab. We built a fire and talked some more. I got to bed at 3AM or so. One of the orphans I grew up closest to is a Major in the Marine Corps. He was at that fire. He commented that I was going soft and needed to get control of my blubber. He’s right.

Sunday, we met for breakfast, got very loud and had a great time, and then went our separate ways.

This wasn’t a cathartic experience; I had no epiphanies. This was a full, wonderful weekend. For me, it was long overdue. On this side of the memorial weekend, I am maybe a little different. My heart is a possibly a little bigger. My faith is definitely stronger. My appreciation for my family and SIX kids is greater.

But my appreciation for my Foundation brothers and sisters is greater too. They’re amazing, inspiring people, each so unique and delightful.