Families come in all shapes and sizes. Ours is fairly large, or at least it would appear that way (if you go by the reactions we get when people learn how many children we have).
As I sit here, basking in the "post-family gathering clean house" aura that surrounds me, I am once again struck by how utterly blessed we are to have extended family. Particularly, extended family that lives nearby.
We had 18 people in our house for dinner this past Sunday evening, for our "week after Easter" dinner. It was a fantastic evening, all in all.
Just moments before the first of our guests (our eldest nephew and his girlfriend) arrived, it occurred to me that this was the First.
First time we have all been together since my MIL's funeral. I suppose that is significant, but I was glad it hadn't occurred to me much beforehand, and I certainly didn't mention it to anyone that evening.
It seems so strange to have that many people together and still have someone missing. She would have been so happy and proud to see all of her kids and grandchildren together and enjoying one another's company. Even Auntie D, one of her closest friends and godmother to Himself, was able to join us. That was difficult for her, she has been feeling so sad and alone, she told me. She not only lost Laura, whom she'd known for 54 years, she has also lost two other dear friends, all within a few months of each other. Words failed me (which, you might realise, doesn't happen very often). I do hope it did her some good to be with us.
My IL's are as much my family as my own siblings. Given how long Himself and I have been together, that isn't all that surprising, I suppose, but it *is* true, nonetheless. I am the youngest of three, hainvg two older brothers, and Himself is also the youngest of three, but has two older sisters. My older sister-in-law is like the big sister I always wanted to have- she makes me laugh at inappropriate times with her wry humour, always has a ready smile and will kick you in the butt if you deserve it, too. Gotta love that.
My other sister-in-law tends to worry more about being correct and proper, but she, too, loves a good joke, and we still find ways to connect. We all went away for a weekend together a few years ago, myself, both sisters and Mom, no spouses/partners or kids. Interesting times ensued, and it was definitely a weekend I'll never forget.
On this side of our family, we have two nephews and two (living) nieces. They range in age from 28 down to 14- and occasionally they consent to hanging out with their Auntie and Uncle, whether for dinner, a movie, shopping, or what have you. Honestly, this doesn't happen nearly often enough, but I am so grateful that it happens at all- my Aunts and Uncles all lived overseas, so seeing and spending time with them is/was an even rarer treat; I can only hope that our nieces and nephews will look back on the time spent with us half as fondly as I think of spending time with my relatives ...
My eldest brother and his lovely wife have two boys, but they live in another province, so I haven't seen them in a long time (in truth, I haven't even *met* my youngest nephew yet!).
My other brother has no children, but he and his (equally lovely) partner live here in the city, so we try to get together when we can- I know my kids think their Uncle is the coolest guy on the planet, a well-earned title, might I add.
We are not all so fortunate in our lives to have the experience of a close, loving family. If you have one, treasure it. If you do not, consider the Chosen Family in your life- these are those close friends with whom you share a great deal.
I have some chosen family in addition to my "actual" family; amongst them, a friend with whom I am so close, she is like a sister. I often refer to her as such, as it's much easier than explaining. Once, when I was hospitalized for an illness, a nurse, after hearing her lecturing me about making sure I stayed healthy, stated "You two are sisters, aren't you ..."
We both have another mutual friend who is also like our sister- one of those people who drives you crazy and brings so much joy and support, all at the same time. We love her, too.
I also have a bunch of extra kids- I may have given birth to five, but the reality is I have far more children than that ... I can think of at least 4 or 5 children who are not related to me by blood nor marriage who call me either "Auntie" or "Mom", or even both (depending on her mood).
Remember, your family are the people who know how insufferable you really can be ...
and they love you anyway.