August 3, 2006

I am spoiled, Pt I

After spending this past weekend at my bi-annual family reunion, one thought keeps coming back to my mind:

My family kicks ass.

They do. They really do. Now, I'm not suggesting that yours doesn't; this isn't a contest. But I am repeatedly amazed at just how good the people I'm related to are, from top to bottom. There were probably 40-45 people attending this year (background on all that in a sec), spanning five generations, and there was not one person there who I wasn't thrilled to see. Even our black sheep, if you will, is at worst a medium gray.

This part of my family (paternal grandmother's part of the tree) has been getting together every other summer for pretty much as long as I can remember. See, my dad grew up in a small town in upstate NY, surrounded by cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. They would walk to school together, and spent much of their growing-up time immersed with the extended fam. As they grew up and began moving away, they decided that they wanted their children to have as close to that kind of relationship as possible, so coming to the reunions was a central part of many of our vacation plans. For the past 20 or so years, it's been held at the same place, my cousin's home in Ithaca. It's a great house: a good amount of room on the main floor to eat/socialize, a nice deck out back and a huge open back yard for running around. It's just about perfect. I started out as a kid in the yard, and have graduated to spending most of the time with the other adults (and believe me, I use that term loosely) watching the young'uns from the deck and out in the driveway. Honestly, it's hard to say which I prefer. The perspectives are so much different.

When I was little, I remember playing a lot of hide and seek in the yard, and tag (in all its various form), being mostly concerned about which other kids were going to be there. I was sort of peripherally aware of the old people; I knew that I had to say hello and get hugs, not to mention run the cheek-pinching gaunlet of older Italian women, but I was really interested in eating and playing and not much else. How I was connected to them was very much an afterthought. Trying to crack the cousin-math came a bit later, as I got into my mid-teens, when I really was trying to remember the adults' names and who was connected to whom (and it's tricky, I only really clicked with it in the last few years. I may explain that another time). So originally it was, "which of the kids are going to be there this year?"; then it became, usually on the drive up there, "okay, so what's his/her name again, and he/she belongs to which group?", and now I don't need the flash cards anymore. Well, almost.

The group that shows up varies in number, anywhere from about 25 to as many as 70 a few years ago. There is a core group of regulars, numbering about 20, which includes my immediate family and my first cousins/families, my grandmother and her siblings, and the family that hosts the party. Outside of that, we get any number of people from one gathering to the next, coming in from this area, from Ohio, Texas, Florida, Michigan, and lately from St. Thomas, where one of my cousins moved not long ago. This year was a good example. There were the usual suspects who I saw just a couple years ago, and there were some folks there that I hadn't seen in 10 years or more. So I have most of the names down, there are usually a few new (or at least, new-ish) faces to keep track of. But that's really just part of the fun. There's a running joke that we need nametags (which we did use this year), and should include some reference to our place on the family tree, just so we can keep everyone straight. Like I said, the math is a little tricky. It's all good fun, though, and we have a great time. And we eat. Boy, do we eat. Did I mention it's an Italian family?

I'm splitting this into two parts, because this is clearly too long already. I've covered the what and where, but the who is really the good part. More on that soon.


Site Meter