“We are the lucky ones,” my sister Angela reminds us gently. She often says this in a slightly hushed tone, happiness about life tempered with the realization that it might not have turned out this way.
Coming off of a particularly joyful and celebratory year, our family is well aware of how blessed and lucky we are. How different things could be, how beautiful life is. We still have dark valleys and shadows, and we still wrestle with unresolved trauma and unanswered prayers; but wow Love is here in the midst of us. Wow! We feel rescued and uplifted, filled with purpose and surrounded by comfort.
Last summer all one thousand of us (haha) gathered in Oklahoma to celebrate our parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. This dovetailed into an engagement party for one of our sisters, and lots of hooping and hollering about nieces soon committing to college and wahoo the Navy bunch is back in the western hemisphere. A few months later we gathered again for Thanksgiving, which is peak feasting for a family this big. Somewhere in here we learned of a baby about to join the happy ranks. And over and over again jobs are secured and made even better, travel plans happen, health is restored, and Mom feeds us mightily for all kinds of reasons. We attend high school performances. We play games, uphold traditions, swim, trade names for Secret Santa and maintain the world’s wildest group chat, The only thing our Family at Large is not great at, it seems, is Zoom meetings. But man do we try.
On Christmas Eve, at Mom and Dad’s house, the sound track was pure laughter, dotted with raised voices and overlapping conversations. It is a private language only we know, and it is not for the faint of heart. I was in the kitchen, and Dad walked in. He said to no one in particular, “Man I would not want to be an outsider with THIS bunch!” He is so right. We love and welcome new people all the time, and our family prides itself on hospitality; but there is definitely a feral element to our core. We are a bit wild and very protective of each other.
To illustrate this: Even after more than twenty years, My husband and my brother’s wife are often caught at family events, huddled together, their eyes wide and watchful, like prey among predators, just catching their dang breath for a second, ok? Now they have a new member to indoctrinate into their subculture of in-laws, our little sister’s soon to be husband. Funny to me that a family of brown eyed blondes has chosen three green eyed brunettes. The thing is, this makes it easier to see who the outsiders are. Ha. Anyway, it’s the three of them now, against the rest of us. They’ll be fine. We chose well.
We are the lucky ones.
We are lucky enough to have warm, beautiful, comfort-filled homes. We are lucky enough to have all these amazing jobs that not only provide for our needs but also serve our communities and maximize our talents. We are lucky enough to have the foundation of church and extended family and cultural tradition, all the invisible things and memories that become our spiritual framework. We are lucky enough to know how to choose the best habits, cultivate relationships, play and work and forgive each other when we are not our best selves.
We are the lucky ones who still have our parents with us, loving us, hoping we can coordinate our fantastic lives often enough to not lose touch, As if any of of us could ever be happy without each other.
We are the lucky ones who actually enjoy being around our siblings and who are proud of each other’s accomplishments. We love our nieces and nephews so much, and probably each of us at some time feels like the favorite aunt or uncle, because we all make so many fun memories with these precious kids.
We are the lucky ones who can talk about loss openly, because we feel safe with each other. We can also talk about alcoholism and addiction, healing and recovery, and the terrifyingly thin veil that separates us in this warm, glittering life from a very different one.
We are the lucky ones who can support a long calendar year packed with colorful traditions. From Easter to anniversaries, school events, retirements and engagements, Thanksgiving, and the gift giving month of December, with all the delicious seasonal foods that connect our hearts and bellies, it all matters. And it does not come easily to everyone. We could do away with every bit of it and still call it a life, but this is LIFE. We are the lucky ones who have received this immense gift, and we appreciate it. We are so thankful to be passing this gift on to the next generation. Teaching the management of it to them, sharing the joys of it as it trades hands.
We are not perfect, and we are a lot. But we are certainly the lucky ones.