For anyone who doesn't know, I come from a very large Italian-Catholic family. My dad was one of 11 kids raised in a small farming community in Western Kentucky called Fancy Farm. I swear, that is the name of the town--you can google it if you want. I have 28 first cousins on that side of the family--meaning there are 30 grandchildren all together--and there are currently 23 great grand kids with more always on the way. When you add in spouses the grand total of family members comes to well above 80.
Now, I know I'm not the only person out there who has a large family. In fact, I know of several people who have families similar in size to mine. What really tends to make my family unique is the fact that almost every person in the family lives in or near Fancy Farm. My self, my sister and one other cousin live in Lexington. I have two cousins up in Cincinnati and an Aunt, Uncle and three cousins in Atlanta. My dad lives in Glasgow and one cousins and his family who live in Tennessee. Other than that, the entire family lives within a 30 minute drive of each other.
As you can imagine, this means that any family event (of which there are many through out the year) turns into a huge gathering. My Grandmother has anywhere from 60 to 80 people over every year for both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. My Aunt Elaine's 4th of July pool party draws a crowd of close to 50 or 60, and a good portion of the family (20-25 people) cook together at least once every week.
Because they see each other so much, the family is really very close. And I love going down to visit them. I love the hugs. You don't realize, living by yourself away from most of your family, how little physical contact you have on a daily basis. But in my family, you hug everyone when you arrive and when you leave every time not just at the beginning and end of the trip. My days were filled with hugs, and it was great.
And I loved getting to see all the kids. I don't get to hang out with a lot of kids in my day-to-day life. But this weekend was all about kids. Kids of all ages from my 14 year old cousin Jailynn to my cousin Kelly's new baby who is only 9 months old. There were games to be played and stories to be told and hand to be held and things to be shown. My sister and I are the "cool older cousins" who live out of town and only come to visit a few times a year, so a lot of the kids compete for our attention. Nothing makes you feel more loved than having four little girls fighting to sit next to you at dinner.
Chase, Trey, Kristen, & Chance
My cousin Aaron's little boy Carson
My cousin's little girl Mallie
But of all the things I love about my family, the thing that I love the most is the fact that they love me totally and unconditionally. They love me because of who I am. They love me in spite of who I am. They love me for who I am. And everyone needs to feel that kind of unconditional love. After all, that is what family is supposed to be about.
My cousin Bryan with his girlfriend Courtney