For the longest time, my family consisted of me, my sister, my mom and dad, an aunt and uncle and two cousins, and two sets of grandparents. There were twelve of us, an even four in each generation. My mother and my aunt both married only children, so there weren’t even any extra in-laws, no other branches of the family tree. (My cousins’ other grandparents were as close as we came, but they had long ago retired to Florida and never seemed to be around when we were.) The twelve of us fit easily around holiday tables, and nobody was more than a half-day’s drive away.
That didn’t change for a long time.
Now, though, there are all these other people who have complicated our very symmetrical family. There are husbands and kids and babies and in-laws: parents in-law, and siblings-in-law, and even a cousin-in-law and a second cousin on the way, and in-laws that aren’t really related but still feel like family.
Last weekend, I drove down to Atlanta for a baby shower held for Rob’s brother’s wife, who is expecting their first child in October. Maybe for the first time, I spent time with Rob’s side of the family without Rob there. I thought it would feel strange – like I was intruding on somebody else’s party. But the truth was that it felt like family – not his family, not my family, just family. I loved hanging out with my brother-in-law and noticing all the ways he is and is not like his brother. I loved talking to my pregnant sister-in-law about swollen ankles and car seats. I loved seeing all the new baby clothes, washed and hanging in the closet, waiting for my niece to be born. I loved making plans for Thanksgiving and realizing the baby will be here by then, and thinking ahead to Christmas, and even next summer – because that’s the thing about family; we plan to stick around for awhile.
We don’t all fit around one table anymore, and it’s hard enough just to get us all in the same city at the same time. The tree seems to be sprouting new branches all the time. Families are nothing if not complicated, but I’m sure grateful for mine. Happy anniversary, Rob.