It was a father-son weekend away of climbing and water and sports and night fires and running around a small island on the Nile River in the countryside of Uganda.
And one of the boys stood by a swamp and held up some mud like it was a trophy, and then another boy said something about the spirits, that maybe the swamp was filled with spirits watching us, and there must have been a lot – at least 500, he thought – because spirits don’t take up much space.
We may not know if such spirits watch or if they care or if they even exist in our river swamps, but what we can be more certain of is that we, all of us, are children of the earth, of the mud, because Adam was formed out of this mud of the earth and his very name, in fact, means red earth.
We also know that if our old family of origin is earthy and muddy and even slimy, then there is plenty of the same in our families of today. And despite the façade of even the most perfect of families, it is only a façade, no, there is no such thing as a perfect family.
The family is just what it is: sometimes a comforting shelter from the storm, sometimes a house of memories that can be rather devastating, usually a mixture of something in between.
Yes the first step in accepting its past and loving its present is by accepting this, that family is most family when it functions in all its complexities and even failures and weaknesses and, yes, muddiness.
We need not expect anything less. Or more.
This is why the Sons of Adam need to get away to river islands in Africa, just like Daughters of Eve need to get away to their own places. As do husbands and wives. To build and rebuild that home of relationships where the work, really, is never done.