Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Doing it Family Style

I married a guy with five cousins.

If you're like me, you'd re-read that previous sentence a couple of times trying to find the typo. Five cousins. Total. There has to be something wrong with that sentence.

I've got 19 (first) cousins. On my mom's side. Add in the other 12 from my dad's side and we're up to 31.  And then 31 cousins plus their kids is 52 -- we're more than halfway to a hundred here. With my mom coming from a family of 10 kids and my dad coming from a family of 6 we've got a lot of aunts and uncles in there too. By the time I start adding in spouses, it's more math than my feeble English major brain can handle. The point is, my family is HUGE.

So yeah, five. Well, ok...

Needless to say, when I started introducing my husband to my family there was a bit of culture shock. He couldn't keep anyone straight, and he kept pairing the wrong kids with the wrong parents and I'd spend days after every family gathering trying to sort people out for him. "No, Erica is the one in grad school -- Maryanne is Diego's mom and Maria is my aunt, not my cousin."

One of the things that he absolutely could not grasp was the way my family told stories.  He was always perplexed by the fact that anytime anyone started telling him something, they were interrupted a few sentences into the conversation and the subject was abruptly changed, a new story was started. The cycle kept repeating itself and he would leave hearing the beginning of a lot of stories and the end of none of them.

This never occurred to me, and it never bothered me.  I never left a family gathering feeling like I didn't get a full story.

And finally, I figured it out.  Even though a story is started in one conversation it will be ended in another.  The trick is to to actively listen to all conversations going on at once and let the conclusions naturally come to you (in stereo).  By the time you leave you will have absorbed everything you need to know. If  you grew up  this way, you don't even realize you're doing it.

What an amazing way to communicate. Instead of conversations being complete and segmented, they overlap and re-overlap, and through it all the family is unified and our shared history is solidified. We share and laugh and relive our happiest moments with each other, time and time again.

It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

When I was a little girl we'd all go to my Grandpa's house every Sunday after mass (duh, we're Catholic, as indicated by our ability to be fruitful and multiply).  Those are some of my most treasured memories. The simple joy of being with the ones you love. I'd give up facebook forever if we could go back to that.

I'm not saying that having cousins in the single digits is a bad thing, but I do consider myself seriously blessed to be born into such an amazing (large) group of people. They've made me who I am and I can't imagine it any other way. Plus you can't go to Wal-Mart without seeing at least one of them.

And the husband, well, he gets it now. And sometimes I don't even have to explain everything after we leave.