We are family…..


Today I am filled with the sense of power and connectedness that comes from belonging to the kind of group that you would choose to join even if you hadn’t been born into it.  I’m feeling the support that comes from being kept afloat by a whole bouquet of loving arms.

I am the second child in a family of six children.  My mother was one of four, my father the youngest in a family of twelve.  I have grown up in a pack of aunts, uncles and cousins, first, second and once removed.  I have memories of holiday feasts and family vacations. Of family picnics and costume parties and trips to the World’s Fair.  I have never, ever wanted for company or friendship or a sympathetic ear.

Naturally, there are both pros and cons to being one in a crowd of hundreds. As a young adolescent, I yearned for just one day with my own closet, my own bedroom, my own drawer full of socks.  I sometimes felt suffocated by the expectations that came with being the oldest girl in a big Italian family.  I made up daydreams in which I was a lonely only child.  With a big ol’ lonely bedroom all to herself.

Every teacher that I ever had (or so it seemed) knew my cousins, my brother, my parents or my somewhat famous baseball-player Uncle.  I came with a whole suitcase full of history and stories and past events in which I had had no part.

I used to feel like I could never be an individual, free-standing, self- sufficient human being.  I used to feel as if I would never, ever manage to break free of the family crowd to stand on my own merits. I used to feel like maybe there was just a little too much togetherness happening in our house.

But many years have passed since those years of teen angst.   Now I am the mother of three grown children.   Now I am the daughter of a father who has passed and a mother who is getting older.  Now I understand the strength and safety that comes from being one part of a greater whole.

My kids love having each other around.  I know that they celebrate together, and I suspect that they find times to gripe about their parents together.  They love those times when they are sharing jokes and food with their cousins.  They like the fact that they have big, loving gangs on both sides of their family.  My husband’s crew is as close and as fun loving as mine.

Today my brother and his wife are grappling with the fear that comes from having a son who is battling cancer.  They are upset, confused, angry and scared.  They are overwhelmed.   And they are being held up and kept afloat by the love and hope and security of the family.  Our arms are outstretched, entwined; a bouquet of strength and energy.  The family will gather around and come together.

A few years ago, one of my uncles proposed a toast as we all gathered to honor the memories of my maternal grandparents. He raised a glass of wine and said the words of the toast.  A few months after that day, two of my children and two of their cousins had the words tattooed on their bodies:

“Sempre la famiglia”.

“The family forever”.

16 thoughts on “We are family…..

  1. This is a lovely heartfelt post. I was the opposite of you – I longed for a big family however as life has progressed I find myself surrounded by a small but happy and supportive group of friends who are dear to me. Maybe our family come in different forms, but I’ve learned to cherish what I have.

    As for Gaelic I might be able to help you out there if you need a few things translated. I have a couple of friends who have Gaelic as their first language and I know they would be happy to translate phrases for you. You have my email address – feel free to pass it on.

    Anyhow here are a couple of the phrases I know.

    Slàinte! Which means health (it’s used as a toast)
    Slàinte mhath – Good health
    A h-uile la sona dhuibh ‘s gun la idir dona dhuibh!
    The above means ‘may all your days be happy ones! (That might be a long painful tatto though!)

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  2. Family is the rock during tough times…the sibling you can talk to and laugh with, the cousin you can grieve with, the parents with their guidance. I love being part of a large family and always having someone around, although I too longed for the days of not having to be the oldest and “the example”. Prayers and well wishes for your family, your beautiful family.

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    • Thank you so much. We are very hopeful that everything will turn out well, but it has been a pretty rough couple of months for a wonderful young man and his family. Your love and support is so deeply appreciated; I will pass it on to my nephew!

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  3. …and I am so jealous! As a prouct of a half dozen foster homes and orphanages who married the love of my life but whose family had and has no vision for “being family,” I often yearn for what you speak about. You are very, very blessed, Momshieb. This story is very beautiful and I wish your nephew healing and grace. All the best.

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    • Thank you, Eleanor! I do know how blessed I am, I do….the older I get, the more true that is. Thank you for the good wishes for my nephew…he is a wonderful young man, and deserves only the best! All the best to you and yours, too. Karen

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  4. Our family is going through the same thing with my dad, but then, you expect to see the last of your parents’ days as the circle of life. My heart goes out to your family; I can only imagine how hard it is for parents to watch a child (no matter how old that child is). No matter what, cancer is hard, but having that support system makes it easier to handle than having to deal with such things alone. There’s not much to add that hasn’t been said in the lovely comments above, so I’ll just say – many prayers and hugs to you and yours, Karen!

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  5. Thank you, my friend. And my prayers and well wishes to you and to your family, especially to your Dad. No matter how old we are, our parents are our anchors, aren’t they?

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