I don't feel like that anymore...well OK, sometimes, but not very often.
This past weekend was an example of how having a huge family can really be amazing. There are a lot of people to love you, people to hold you up. People that aren't telling you the way they think you should be, just people that love and are excited for one another's victories and there for any disappointments.
It's powerful knowledge to have. To know you are loved and that you are very much not alone. Not even a little alone, ever.
I am the youngest in my extended family of cousins, etc. and was always distant from my extended family by actual miles or other family stuff. My family world has always been reasonably small. I have one brother and my parents and was very close to my Mom's Mom, but that's it.
I have seven first cousins, two aunts and until recently two uncles. I didn't see them often though growing up and I loved them because they were my family, but not really because I truly knew most of them. I just wasn't around often enough. My parents had some very close friends and neighbors that I felt close to, but mostly it was just us...my brother, my Mom and my Dad, and my Grandma.
Just for the record, I'm not complaining in the slightest, it was great.
But, Alex's family is different. There are a lot of them. There are really a lot of them. His Mom is one of five and they all married and reproduced a lot. They also are all big personalities so they sort of seem like a lot more than there actually are. If I had to guess after the first time I was around them I would say he had about 20 first cousins, but there are actually a few less than that....not many less though.
They also seem to include people as family that are not blood relatives, but always seem to be around due to friendship and sometimes friendships turned marriage. There's a lot of drama, a lot of intrusion, a lot of stories, a lot of past sadness, but a lot of joy and oh boy a LOT of love.
It's a little overwhelming. I was very intimidated for a while. I felt uncomfortable and awkward whenever I was around them. I didn't understand all the joy and oh sweet mercy all the volume of their voices. Why is everyone so damn happy and so very, very loud?
This past weekend was no exception to the exuberance the family all showed one another. Nothing gets this family going like a big wedding. Alex's cousin Shane was getting married to his girlfriend, Laura, whom already felt like part of the family, and the family came out in full force to celebrate the event.
It was wonderful.
But I like to make things complicated and a bit dark to compensate for every one's constant excitement in this family so I spent the last month filled with anxiety over the arrival of last weekend. I was up at night worrying. I plotted and planned strategies for survival. I cursed myself for being so anal and uptight about things. The main source of my concern? What the hell am I going to do with my kids during the night time events?
Four hours away from home meant that I wasn't too informed on babysitter options locally and most of the ones presented to me sounded like I'd have more comfort if I just tied them each to a leg of the dining room table and threw some cereal on the floor for while we were gone. I did think of Craigslist, but figured that might be a little dangerous to use for a babysitter from there given my recent experiences, so what are we to do? Well, remember all those friends that are part of Alex's family?
Oh they saved us. They stepped up, and they did it with a smile. They are oh so very wonderful.
My Mother-in-law has cultivated some of the most amazing women in her close circle of girlfriends and in doing so, they have become part of our family. That big, crazy, loving family. They have been a source of support, love, entertainment, distraction, and joy over the years for her and in turn for the rest of us. This weekend was the perfect example of that unquestioning, giving type of friendship turned family that we are so very blessed to have.
These friends knew we (Alex's sisters and me) couldn't take our kids to the rehearsal dinner so Friday friend Jean stepped in and said, "sure, I'd love to babysit for 10 children in a beach house! That sounds great." Seriously, she thought it'd be great....she wasn't even drunk when she said that....or when she arrived to watch the kids. She's miraculous. She drove from Houston to Galveston to watch all 10 kids and did it with a smile, and with a joyful heart.
The wedding meant that kids could be there, but really, how much fun would any of us have for long if we dragged all 10 of our kids to the ceremony and then to the whole reception? What would our chances be of being able to hear the ceremony or really get down on the dance floor? Not very good...and it's important that I can get down on the dance floor because I'm such a good dancer.
So, friend Tawnya stepped in and said, "sure, I'd love to babysit for 10 children at a beach house even though I have a pile of stuff I have going on at home. That sounds great!" She also was not drunk while accepting the job OR when she arrived to help with the kids. She drove from Houston to Galveston, showed up with a smile and a thousand reassurances that there weren't going to be any problems. Miraculous!
See, these women knew that our family needed some help and they stepped in with ease. They showed the kind of love to our kids that would make one think that they hadn't ever been around 10 kids at the same time. Surely they must just be blissfully unaware of how horrible that could be? Surely they just don't understand that there is a good chance for tears and poop and tantrums at the same exact time? Surely they at least had been drinking a little when this decision was made?
But they are just loving. They love our family so they loved our kids and what more can you ask for in someone that takes care of your children? That's difficult to find, even on Craigslist.
Even though Tawnya and Jean weren't at the rehearsal dinner or the wedding, I felt like they were just another extension of Alex's huge family of joy. While we were all celebrating and being VERY loud, our children were being loved and cherished (or at least kept alive) a few miles away so that we could enjoy all the adult fun. They are so good to us.
It was so refreshing, so liberating. I was relaxed. Gasp! How did I get to that state while traveling with my kids and sleeping in a house with 10 children?
Don't I look relaxed?
Alex's loud and very loving family, including Jean and Tawnya, were a wonderful reminder of the love that is so present in and among all of us. They all were a reminder to me to step out of my small family mind and remember, even relish in the fact that I am so blessed to have this HUGE family from Alex. I sort of like the loud now, at least minus the kids. I like the drama. (A little. ) I love the joy. The joy is so very nice.
I also learned a powerful lesson from Jean and Tawnya. They are a profound example of friendship turned family and I know I have that here in Austin too and I should think about it more often. I know I have women that would bend over backwards for me and for my children and I want to cherish that. I want all the Tawnya's and Jeans in my life to know that I love them and I have gratitude for them. (Amity, Jenn, Sue, Amy, Emily, Jessica....to name a few, I'm thinking of you!)
I'm not sure I'll ever fully adjust to being a part of a big family, but I definitely appreciate it and love it. My small family is still amazing to me too, and oh so much quieter, but it's good to have a little of both, especially when you need to break it down on the dance floor....loud people are really good for that!