Thursday, December 07, 2006

"We Are Family"

After dinner last night, Daniel and I set about on the hard task of continuing to combine the office and guest room into one. We decided the small bookcase we’d kept writing books in would become a bookcase for the baby’s books. The difficult part was, Daniel had to pack away some textbooks that he enjoyed having accessible at his whim, and he parted with a few paperbacks. We’re recognizing these adjustments as the small sacrifices we must make to make room for baby. As Daniel sorted and reorganized his books, I became absorbed in keepsakes from our past. Yearbooks. Wedding memories. Photo albums.

I was particularly swept up in a small purple album that I had put together not long after Nana had passed away. To me, the color purple will always be synonymous with my Nana. She looked beautiful in purple, and I think she knew it. Plus, she loved that book: ‘When I’m an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple’.

The pages of the purple photo album were filled with my family and Nana in her last days. There was one of my younger cousins holding Nana tight. There were a few of Nana holding Max on her lap. Nana loved Max and called him ‘Maxfield’. There were photos of my oldest cousins birthday party and a few of us celebrating Nana’s last birthday with us. In those photos, I am pictured smiling and laughing with tears in my eyes and a blotchy face. I would think it would be difficult for an outsider to distinguish what emotion I was actually feeling on that day. Was I laughing so hard I cried, or was the moment bittersweet for me? I think it was actually both.

About halfway through the album there are photos of my mom’s two sisters and two of my cousins. My aunts are drinking wine and all four of them are smiling and laughing as they look through an old photo album. There’s a photo of their two husbands. They are sitting in front of the Christmas tree and it looks like they are telling jokes or old stories. There’s one of me sitting between two of my cousins…all of us smiling. It is clear that we are related. There’s one of poor Bailey, standing on her hind legs at the back door begging to be let inside where all the people are. There are some goofy photos of Daniel and me. One of my favorite photos Daniel and I have ever taken with my dad is in the album. We are all in the kitchen, arms around each other. We look so happy to be together, a family. All of these photos were taken in the days after Nana had passed away. My family had gathered for nearly a week to be together, to celebrate Nana and to lean on one another.

The thing is, I struggled a little bit last night with how happy we all looked without Nana. I pulled Daniel over to look at the pictures with me and asked him if they seemed strange. Didn’t it seem out of place that we were all so happy together? We smiled and laughed and drank wine like we were at a party. The photos could have been taken at a reunion or a Christmas celebration. He said it all seemed normal to him at the time. “But it’s weird, right?”

Early this morning I was stirred awake by butterflies (Zocon?) in my stomach. Then I started feeling that lower back pain that I’ve come to get used to with this pregnancy. Between the fluttering and the jabbing pain, I was having a hard time going back to sleep. So I thought about the photo album. I thought about what Daniel had said about it seeming normal and I realized he was right. My family is just that way. We were all sad and missing Nana, but we’ve been through this as a family already when Pop-Pop died. We’re close. We get through things better when we can laugh and remember the good times. My family sticks together even when things are hard. It’s just what we do.

Nana and Pop-Pop had five children. All five children married and so I have a total of 8 aunts and uncles. I have 14 cousins, (4 of them have spouses). I have 5 second cousins with another one due a week or so before Zocon. My family is large and I love them all. Despite the miles between us, the different circumstances we deal with, our differences in politics and religion; we are all family. We are happy when we get to be together. There have been disagreements about each other’s spouses, children, beliefs - but my family doesn’t let that break us apart. My family hashes things out, agrees to agree or disagree and then moves on. If I ever needed anything my family would jump to help me and my growing family - and I would do the same for them. I know that they do not judge, even if they may have strong differing opinions. We may not all be best friends, (in fact, we might not have chosen to be each others friends at all if we weren’t family) but we’re linked because of our blood...because of Nana and Pop-Pop. We’re all different and I think we enjoy that.

I’m an only child. I have two brothers from my dad’s first marriage, but I didn’t grow up with them. Different cousins became my pseudo siblings and certain friends have become a part of our extended family. I am grateful for that, but I always wanted a brother or sister of my own. I’ve always admired the love my mom shares with her brothers and sisters and the closeness my cousins (and friends) felt with their siblings. I guess I've always romanticized what it must mean to have a sibling. I imagined it was a bond that couldn't be broken. I wanted that.

I want that for Zocon. I want Zocon to have a brother or sister. I want our kids to know my aunts and uncles and cousins. I want them to know Daniel’s sister. I want them to visit their two sets of grandparents like I got to. I want them to enjoy family reunions and shared holidays. I want them to feel comforted that they have a family who loves them, unconditionally. I want my children to know that if their parents can't be there for them, that there is a whole group of people in line to love them and support them in life. I want them to have memories of their family laughing together. I want them to feel like they always have someone to talk to. I want for them to be able to look at old photo albums and feel a connection with the people pictured. I want them to have everything I had and more. That's not too much, is it?

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