I grew up living next door to my grandparents (dad’s parents). My aunt, uncle and cousin lived next door too. We went to visit my mom’s parents just about every Sunday it seemed. I remember watching my dad and my uncle play Monopoly on Sunday afternoons. I was so excited when I was old enough to play, too. My grandpa would often have summer barbecues and invite all the relatives … second cousins, great aunts and uncles … we saw each other often enough that I felt I knew them growing up. When my mom’s brothers and sisters (she was the oldest) went away to college and then moved to other parts of the country, we did our best to take family vacations and go to see them. We, of course, couldn’t afford to travel ot London or Australia to visit my aunt, but when she lived in DC we visited at least once a year.
Dwayne lived in the same hometown all of his life, too. His family was all around. He was close to his grandparents who lived down the street most of his life. In his family they had a family reunion every summer … and they’d get together with all the family on his grandmother’s side. Other than the family reuinion, though, they didn’t do much visiting with the out of town relatives.
Katie was born out of state … and I knew my biggest challenge was going to be to raise her with a sense of connection with her extended family. At first we’d go and visit at least once, sometimes twice a year. In Michigan, we’d sometimes have a few of her cousins come to visit for a week or so at a time. We took her cousin, Josh, on a two week vacation with us to Mount Rushmore. And once or twice, Katie would go and spend a few weeks with her grandparents in the summer. Once me moved to Texas, though, things changed. Katie got older; we could no longer drive to see the family in Pennsylvania; there were more and more cousins born and we drifted further away. We’d still visit once a year, but the trips to visit us dwindled — at least from Dwayne’s side of the family.
So, now, as Katie heads off to college, I thought it would be good to take a trip to see Dwayne’s family … it had been more than 18 months since we’ve been up to Pennsylvania. I so much want Katie to feel connected to a family of people much larger than the three of us. Unfortunately, Katie had been a responsible girl and found a job the week before we were leaving and she was unable to travel with us. When we got up north, we met everyone for the Fourth of July Fireworks picnic at his parents’ camp (yeah, on July 1 … we pretended it was the 4th). I was so glad to see everyone; I was surprised to find out that we had missed two babies … didn’t even know they were on the way … but they were just as cute, nonetheless. But I am sad for Katie. I really wonder if she’ll ever see them again.
OK … so, in the meantime, my family has decided to move to Texas! Can you believe it! Mom and Dad have closed on their house in Pflugerville .. they are in the process of moving in. Matt, my brother, moved to Houston a year and a half ago … and, though Mike is still in NY at the old family homestead, we don’t know how long that will last since he, too, is talking about moving out of state.
All of this to wonder with you … about the role of family in our lives. Some say that blood is thicker than water … and I know I’d do just about anything for any one of our family. Others say it’s the people who are around you … your friends … who are your real family. I don’t know, though, I have few friends who have known me for more than a few years. My friends change when I move to new places, take new jobs, or enter new times of my life. My family is always my family … nothing changes that.
Now that there is the ability to blog and email and IM around the world … it seems we could, at least, be much closer to our families. I know that Jen, Dwayne’s sister-in-law, is now reading my blog … Hi Jen! My parents read it … and I read the blog of my cousin, Jon, who’s in the Peace Corp in Albania.
I don’t want to lose track of my family … and I want Katie to feel connected. I’ve taken some pictures that I’m putting up on my website (as soon as I can get the program to work) of all the family in PA. And .. maybe … we can get more of us to start blogging more often.