Before I talk about Jay’s birthday party, I have to tell about our family reunion. The kids and I participated on Friday at a good ol’ fashioned cookout and Saturday at a dinner banquet (Hubby had to work). I am one of five, my mom was one of eleven, and her father was one of thirteen. For the past consecutive thirty-six years, my mother’s family has celebrated the lineage beginning from the parents of those thirteen (that is, my great-grandparents). We’re up to six generations now, and this year, some new cousins by way of my great-great grandfather’s brother found their way to us.
I mention it here because I realized on Friday at the cookout how lucky my kids are to be a part of this long, strong, proud tradition. A first-time attendee used the word “extended” to describe her connection, and my cousin Sharon quickly corrected her, “Don’t say ‘extended.’ You’re family.” Other words you will rarely, if ever, hear are “half” and “step.” And, exes hang on for decades. One of my cousins introduced her new husband to an aunt at a family gathering last summer, and the aunt told him that he is welcome to still come around even if things don’t work out between them. He was a little mortified, but Auntie was quite serious. There are more than enough examples to prove she was speaking truthfully. Not only are exes still welcome, but there is at least one who has brought his second wife and their children to family events. And, his children from his second marriage have been listed in our annual family reunion program booklet. For many years, I thought the kids were my blood cousins.
Are we perfect? No. We keep secrets, gossip, fuss, fight, and have some drama now and then. Sometimes, we annoy the heck out of each other. During the banquet, three of my aunts sent me to get second plates for them. Yes, I said three. One had the photographer get my attention from across the room. I was flattered, thinking that she wanted to have her picture taken with me, and all she really wanted was more carrots. Later, I was complaining to some cousins who are also in the late 30s, and we joked that by now, with kids of our own, we should be past the age of having to fetch stuff.
For the most part, though,there is a tremendous amount of love and support. This family is a big, loving, enveloping organism, and I’m glad that my kids are seeing and experiencing what it’s like to be a part of something so big.
To Mae and Jay, right now, reunion may be about fun and games, and adults patting their heads and remarking about how much they have grown and from where they get that stubborn streak. 😉 They will realize one day that there is much more to it. I always feel a tinge of pity for people who describe their families as small or say that they don’t know their cousins. In my mind, that’s a form of poverty. One of my great-aunts will turn 100 on July 10 and she asks about my children by name whenever I talk to her, which is about once every other week. That is rich — to be known and asked about, to have your name spoken and stretched over a bridge 96 years long.