I took an online quiz probably close to 6 years ago with inquisitive questions that asked you to relate a color to a person, list how much you like certain animals, etc. It turned out that family came up first in my order of importance, money being the last... I always knew I am a family oriented person, I grew up close to my cousins, am a 3rd generation lifetime member of Sokol, a family fitness organization and love children. However, when the answers to this quiz were presented to me, it was right there. Granted, it's simply a fun online quiz, but these things are powerful for me.
They say how when you start to think about something and you desire it deep inside yourself, those things take shape. I realized at age 30 that I was getting to that age where most men I were to date would have children or if they had never been married, probably had a reason why or nobody wanted to marry them. (I've since realized that there are many other reasons for someone to be unmarried...) However, I decided that I would have a ball dating a man with children. No more than a month later I met Jorge's kids, Cony and Panchito. And they were a BALL. From playing with the continual flow of puppies at their Grandma's house, making slides on the beach or creating our own games, I had a ton of fun with them. I haven't seen them in years yet I can still hear them calling my name. Panchito used to come to me when he needed to use the potty- and I loved it!
Since then, I've pondered what it takes to make a family a family. In my immediate family of parents and 3 siblings, we've remained remarkably close. In the outer circle of family, we are just as close. How can you gather 60 people together EVERY Christmas Eve in an outer suburb of Chicago, some people traveling 70 miles to come on Christmas Eve? We have a Cousin Club Pub Crawl every fall! We get together for the 4th of July, we go to weddings, we make beer together, my male cousin even put sunscreen on my back on a topless beach in Spain...
We have a family calendar that Emily started doing a few years back, probably close to 7/8 years ago. In the digital age, this is so important to print every year. If not, how will my great nieces see the picture of Great Uncle Matt and I running a 50K if it's not printed. Who knows what will happen to facebook in years to come? Who will see the text my sister sent me of her dog when we're in our 80s?
With family, it is important to remember that the dynamics will not come together on they're own. Just like any other relationship, it takes effort. The chemistry is there simply because of the genes. But, when there is backlash, you cannot walk away from it like you can a former co-worker. You'll still need to see each other at family events. Unless, of course, you convince yourself it's useless to go because nobody likes you or you don't want to see the other person. And, in that case, you only have yourself to blame for allowing the family to fall apart. I text with my sisters practically every single day. However, we have gone through our fights like most sisters do. We haven't spoken for weeks. We've called ourselves bad names and bitched about each other to the other one. But, you better believe it that we'll be there for each other when the time comes. I appreciate my family so much for not only their unconditional love but also for keeping me in line. It's fascinating that we have matured to a point where we can give each other tough love without getting offended and without pointing fingers and making fun.
However, I've realized over the years that the relationship relies not only on tradition and getting together for holidays, etc, but it's a constant effort. It's a good thing we have facebook! Unfortunately, these things would be much more difficult. However, I still think of the cassette tape my sister made for me and sent to me when I was in Spain and how I got my rolls of film developed in doubles so that I could send them home since I didn't have a digital camera. It made for a very emotional reuniting at the airport when I finally got home.
That being said, there is something very important to keep in mind as well, regarding knowing when to stop trying. When you are the only one putting into the family and it starts to destroy you, that's when you need to learn to take that step back and put yourself first. However, for most families, like other relationships, you're only going to get out of them what you put into them. We wouldn't have a family calendar announcing birthdays and anniversaries if we didn't upload our pics into a common drive. Uncle Mike and Aunt Terry wouldn't continue to host Christmas Eve and the 4th of July if no one came. My mother wouldn't make red velvet Santa bags for everyone if they weren't used and appreciated.
I love my family and vow to continue to keep the lines of communication open, send cards out, appreciate their advice and spend quality time together. It's not too late to come to San Diego and enjoy some sun during winter!!!! It's 63 degrees at this very moment, 11:52 pm. And 3 degrees in Chicago.
Thanks for reading, I had to get these ideas written out...