Thanksgiving for my family is insane. As a member of an incredibly large and close-knit family, Turkey Day has a huge significance to myself and my fam, since its the one time of year that all 50 (yes, you heard me right, fifty people, all cramming into one house full of food, chatter, squealing children, and slightly inebriated adults) of us get together and remember what it means to be part of something so unique in this day and age as a family that gathers together like this. It’s essentially mandatory attendance and absent members are always missed by all. My brother was unable to attend this year and his absence was particularly keen to myself and my cousins.
I feel like our family thanksgivings are particularly unusual, not just for their size (though, we keep reproducing, so it’s getting to the point where we might need to rent an auditorium or something) but also for the extreme closeness being part of a family like this has bred into us. It all started with my moms parents, Dorothy and Gerard, and their brood of six; Rita, Anne, Lorraine, Al, Jerry, and my mother, Rosemary. Family thanksgivings only got crazier, and progressively larger, as those initial six began to marry off and pop out their own little rugrats. Since there are vast age differences between my mother and her two brother and the older set of girls, there are similar age gaps between myself and my cousins. The older generation (Rita, Anne and Lorraine’s children) have now moved into the family-starting stage themselves, and the brood continues to grow, with another cousin announcing her first pregnancy at dinner last night. I am petitioning for t-shirts with each child’s name emblazoned on the back so I can try to keep them all straight.
The younger generation, the kids of my Uncles Al and Jerry, as well as myself and my brother, were all raised together (much like the older set was). We are all within three years of each other and we all grew up with each other like siblings, rather than cousins. I spent the majority of my childhood in the company of Trevor, Chloe, Kelsey and Spencer, with family vacations spent on the Monterey coast and holidays spent at Kelsey and Spencer’s parents house. That closeness has drifted a bit in the last few years, with life taking all of us in different directions and family BS creating rifts between our parents that had never been there when we were younger. But this year, things seemed different between us all. While our parents still have their issues with each other, I felt for the first time in a long time that my cousins and I might be finding our way. Both back to each other and in each of our respective lives. I think we’ve all reached a point where we have learned to set aside the drama and focus on positive and productive relationships and goals, both with each other and within our personal lives. It was the first time in years that I was able to sit down and really talk with my family, to learn what was going on in their lives and be excited, surprised and inspired by them. They are all incredibly intelligent, passionate and beautiful people with so many gifts to give the world, and I am so fortunate to not only know them, but also call them family.
So, in the spirit of one of our oldest and most social-anxiety inducing traditions–in which each guest in attendance must stand up in front of all 50-or-so of us and tell everyone what their thankful for–I am doing a little gratitude post, since I always get nervous and forget what I was going to say when the actual terrifying moment of truth comes along.
1. My incredible family: first and foremost, I am so blessed to be a part of both an immediate and extended family that is incredibly loving, supportive, encouraging and committed to each other. I have been gifted with parents who love and support me, both in my pursuit of my goals and dreams, but also in my failings and weaknesses. I have never doubted how much I am loved and encouraged to do my best and that is something that a great many children in the world do not have, so I am incredibly fortunate and every thanksgiving I am reminded of what a wonderful and unique thing a family like ours is.
3. My life: the last two years have been crazy. With so many ups and downs I felt like I was riding out a hurricane with only a pair of water wings keeping me above the waves. But life has an odd way of working itself out, and I am still kind of in disbelief of how things have fallen into place. I’m in a beautiful apartment in an amazing city, basically living the dream I had as a teenager wandering the streets of San Francisco and imagining what it would be like to live in one of those beautiful Victorians that pepper the hills here. I’m living with my amazing cousin Kelsey, who never ceases to amuse, inspire and encourage me, as well as two other young women whose kick-ass attitudes and incredible drive and passion are just awe-inspiring. I’m finally in a place mentally, physically and emotionally to pursue my dreams and goals in a way that, until recently, I felt completely incapable of. And I am blessed with incredible friends and family who have been nothing but supportive and encouraging of me and my future.
Things are not perfect, there is still a great deal of work to be done in all aspects of my life, but on a day like today, surrounded by this amazing family and with the knowledge that all of them and all the people I am lucky enough to call my friends support and love me so unconditionally, I can’t even pretend like things aren’t amazing for me. I have so many gifts and so much goof fortune and love to be grateful for that everything else–the small, petty things we don’t have and the BS and drama that we all allow to consume us during the majority of the year–seems so irrelevant and unimportant. I have so much and it’s important to realize that life is fickle and changeable and appreciating the NOW and the blessings we have in this moment is both incredibly important and incredibly easy to forget.
So, learn from the past, stop worrying about the future, and put aside your differences of opinion or politics long enough to really think about how much you really have in a world that is usually incredibly unfair and unkind. Be generous, be gentle and be grateful with and for yourself and each other. We are all we really have.