Sunday, October 19, 2008

On large family gatherings

I love getting together with extended family. My family is a pretty large and loud bunch, and I like it that way. People everywhere, talking. There's always somebody to talk to, always something going on. My dad's side of the family is bigger (and therefore louder!), but this weekend, we had both sides of the family together for my brother Mike's wedding.

Mike and Caroline play Chutes 'n' Ladders while Grandaddy looks on

We had the rehearsal dinner on Friday evening, where we took up a very large section of the restaurant - we had easily doubled the number of other people in the restaurant. Most of my cousins on my dad's side were there, most of them with their wives and children. Nearly all of my aunts and uncles were in the room... only one wasn't there. It was a busy evening, full of mingling about, chair-swapping, and catching up with each other. Caroline was well-occupied between some activities at the table, eating dinner, and sitting with Gramma and Grampa for dessert. With all those relatives, there was no shortage of people for conversing with Caroline or improvising a changing table in the bathroom so I could get Cecilia into a clean diaper!

The next morning brought more family gathering time, as everyone was invited to the rental house for brunch. My mom and several other female members of the family (plus my husband, who helped out too, as well as trying to figure out why the microwave stopped working and the stove was taking 45 minutes to preheat!) prepared the food... baking quiches and hash brown casserole, cooking grits, brewing coffee and hot cranberry cider, getting out breads, rolls, ham, fruit. Plenty of food for all! The groomsmen were also staying with us, so we had a full house! And where there's a gathering of a large family, there has to be a large quantity of good food! The kitchen is the heart of a home (and the same holds true in a rental home where the oven and microwave are both broken), and we all gathered around the table, counter, and found places to sit in the open living/dining/kitchen space.

my aunt and mother working in the kitchen

So, the gathering included the following: my parents, my family of husband and two daughters, my three brothers, my mom's brother and his girlfriend, my mom's dad and his wife, four groomsmen and the best man's wife... and those were just the people who were sleeping in this rental house! The rest of the family who was staying in other rental houses came to the brunch as well: my dad's two sisters, one of which came with her husband and their son and his wife, and my dad's older brother and his wife and youngest son (whose other two sons, their wives, and collective six children didn't come to the brunch because one of the kids was sick, but they were there for the rehearsal dinner and wedding). I hope I'm not leaving anyone out ;)

This is something else I love about family gatherings... the laid-back atmosphere that allows for the older children to interact with a wide range of people, and the babies can just take it all in. Caroline had great fun watching football with Uncle Mike and his friends, and she enjoyed playing with and talking to whoever would engage her. Cecilia watched the goings-on from her cozy spot in the sling as I moved about, preparing food and taking photos. Humans are social creatures, and being amidst all this social interaction is just a real-life lesson for a baby. She experienced the sights and smells of cooking, the sounds of happy conversation and football announcers, and, as is typically the case, she dozed off as I busied myself, which just comes so naturally when I am not worrying about a schedule or quiet or that she might not be getting enough sleep. All those worries are lost when I can let go of them amidst a bubbling, busy gathering such as this.

Cecilia, tired out from being carried around while watching people

There was such a wide range of topics we could discuss - I found somebody to talk to about natural childbirth and natural family planning, as well as somebody who could reminisce about the Florida Gators football team from the early-mid 90's (we talked about specific players and plays even, both of us having recorded many games and watched them repeatedly!). We found one family member who said she was voting for Obama (we only found one total, actually). We found people to discuss parenting, the playoffs, and politics.

my brothers, Mike and Tim, and my husband

And once she was awake, there was no shortage of people to hold the baby! She was quite willing to interact closely as long as she wasn't too tired, and as long as I wasn't too close by...

Cecilia with her great-Grandaddy

Cecilia with her daddy

Cecilia with her godfather and uncle, Tim

So, if everyone generally gets along (and maybe even if you don't), make some time for your family and close friends to get together with no real plans (well, we had to get to the wedding, but our morning and early afternoon were wide open to just be... and to eat, of course!). Big families all together can be overwhelming sometimes, but they are quite an enjoyable blessing more than anything.


Tim said...

i like aunt kathy's bo-face in that picture.

Tim said...

correction: bob-face