(A handmade Christmas 2008 gift from my artist sister for my family photo wall)
My mother and father both were the oldest of 7 children. I am the fifth child of 9: five girls, 4 boys (one brother is deceased). My parents have been gone for many years. Although I do not have children of my own, I love being “Auntie Felicia” to 14 nieces and nephews (sadly, one nephew and one niece deceased) and 30 great-nieces and nephews. And that's just the immediate family!
Yep, that's me!
I love my huge family. But lest you think we are a homogenous, talk-every-day kind of family, we’re not. We’re a diverse collection of independent beings, and although we share a common upbringing, some of us are as different from each other as we can be.
Having a [large] family is like having a
bowling alley installed in your brain.
- Martin Mull
Our political beliefs range from ultra-conservative to extreme left. Our religious beliefs cover the spectrum from born-again to religious indifference. Our food tastes range from meat-and-potatoes to vegetarian. Most still live close to home in the area where we grew up, but some are gone to other states. Some are very traditional, others fiercely independent and progressive. Our sibling horoscope signs are volatile: two Aries, two Scorpios, two Leos, one Virgo and one Capricorn. Some are homebodies, others are community activists. Some love Las Vegas and gambling, I hate it (even though I had to go there a lot during my previous career).
(In case you’re wondering, I’m an Aries, very independent, and as the quintessential middle child, I usually find myself in the middle, but leaning left.)
So much of what is best in us is bound up in our love of family,
that it remains the measure of our stability
because it measures our sense of loyalty.
- Haniel Long
Here’s why I’m most thankful for my family:
- In spite of our differences, we all still talk to each other. There’s never been a time when anyone severed themselves completely from the family, and when I meet people who haven’t talked to their siblings in years I feel very sorry for them.
- In times of need, there’s no question that we will “circle the wagons.” Each one of us has had our share of pain and suffering and sorrow, and that is when I see the best in my family.
- We still hold tight to a few treasured family traditions, especially at Christmas, and I’ll write about a few of those next month.
- Instead of complaining about their boring old aunts and uncles, the “young’uns” enjoy their time with the extended family and look forward to those times when we get together. Somehow we transcend the generation gap quite well.
That is the best – to laugh with someone because
you both think the same things are funny. – Gloria Vanderbilt
And the best family thing I’m thankful for?
- We are all very funny and irreverent and we all laugh A LOT together. Most of the humor is the you-had-to-be-there kind, where we feed off of each other and laugh til our stomachs hurt. Although when I had my siblings write childhood stories about each other for the annual family calendar (more about that next month too) it was bloody hilarious!!
- Did I mention that we are all very talented?
And so for Thanksgiving we will all gather together at …. the bar. Seriously! LOL
You see, one nephew and his wife own two brew pubs, one in Ann Arbor, MI, and another in Ypsilanti, MI. I still have fond memories of how we all helped clean up, fix up, scrub up the first pub to get ready for their opening. For quite a few years now they have hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at Arbor Brewing Company for whoever in the family can make it. I’m so grateful to them for having so generously hosted for so long. (If you're ever in the neighborhood, stop in and tell Matt and Rene their Auntie loves them!)
My wish for you this Thanksgiving: I hope you find yourself surrounded by a loving family and that you are overwhelmed with thankfulness for the blessing that is “family.” I know I will.
So it goes, I guess. People show up out of nowhere and a whole life gets built up around them and through them, the pieces of time and adventures you share fitting in a kind of mosaic that evolves into some near-perfect shape that stays with you … And you know you didn’t get rich, not in the way you expected, but you got lucky.