Tuesday, August 5, 2008

You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.

Oh boy is that the truth.

I come from a large family, on both sides. My mother is the youngest of 15, and my father is the oldest of 8. My mother’s side is the one who I spend the most time around (they are located here - my father‘s family is in Maryland). Every month, we meet at a local restaurant for dinner. No way do we all pile in there, they would have to close the place down, but it is enough to have a good time - or somewhat of it.

My mother has two living sisters and one living brother left. Of course, they do not all see eye to eye, so all four of them are never there at the same time. Last month, my uncle was too cheap to come, and my aunt was too cranky to come. My other aunt and some cousins came and mix in some of the rugrats running around like they have no home training - happy happy joy joy. Being around a bunch of children, it never fails to make me check and make sure I popped my birth control pill for the day.

One of my cousins is always entertaining, no matter when you see her she is the comic relief. Do not put food in your mouth when she is speaking because she is going to crack you up with the most serious look on her face.

Sitting around the table, there is so much history there. My mother is the youngest at 73, her oldest sister is 89, my uncle is 86 and my other aunt is 84. I have two more aunts by marriage to uncles that have passed away, and I have known them my entire life so marriage or blood, it doesn’t matter.

We do have a lot of relatives around here, which is one of the reasons I relocated back home. In LA, I was alone and at least here, I get hungry, all I have to do is pick up the phone and I have a meal and then some. Those little things make a difference especially when you don’t have it. Growing up I took it for granted, as we all do, and being 3000 miles away, I missed it so much when I would come home from work or did not have the money to buy anything except Ramen noodles for dinner. How I missed chicken and dumplings, or baked ham.

Getting back to our monthly dinner, no matter when we set a time - there is always someone who will come strolling up after dinner is just about done. Surprising? It shouldn’t be, people do not have a sense of time, and especially my lot.

My grandmother was on my mind today. This year is the 20th anniversary of her passing, and for a small woman, she was a force to be reckoned with. She worked a farm, and handled a shotgun better than any man - and they all were afraid of her. Growing up, everyone gathered at her house after school until our mother’s picked us up, and even the kids in the neighborhood were there too. They knew if they cut up, she’s spank them like they were one of hers, and she would tell their mother what she did. In that day and time, it could be done. At her funeral, many of those kids who hung around her house were there talking about Moma Emma and how she didn’t play. And, she didn’t.

I was living in Los Angeles so I wasn’t here when she passed, but I still feel her now because she left so much for all of us. When I went in for surgery, I wore the nightcap she slept in on my head - I wanted her there with me. I know she was. I remember the stories she told about my mom growing up (she was a terror) and some of the things they did on the farm I could not even imagine in modern times.

I say talk with our elders, they have so much to share with us, and what they lived through might have been a little different, but in the grand scheme of things, it was a lot of the same.