|Sign-up, its free!||Close [x]|
Pose this question to 10 different people and each one will have a different answer.
While in Cabo for Thanksgiving, I ran into a friend from high school I hadn't seen in more than 20 years. We spent a few minutes catching up, and then he asked if my husband and I would like to go out with him and his friends that evening.
I politely declined, explaining that we were visiting with my whole family and planned on dining together. He looked at me and said, "Your whole family, Yana? Nothing has changed in 20 years, has it?" Seeing the look of shock on my face, he quickly added, "Don't you remember? You always missed the good times because you had to be with your family."
I smiled, remembering the time I wasn't allowed to attend a costume party because my great grandmother was turning 85. I also remembered feeling resentful and bitter after hearing my friends talk about all the great times they had at the party. After all, why should anyone, especially me, have to miss a fabulous costume party just because great grandma was another year older?
I looked at the man standing in front of me and recalled how he used to lecture me about how silly it was to listen to my parents and do what they said. Then I asked about his family.
Turns out he hardly sees his kids because he recently divorced and his wife moved to a different state. He doesn't get along with his dad, so he only sees his parents once or twice a year. And his brother, who was a pain in the butt then, is still a pain in the butt. So they rarely get together. Apparently, not much had changed with my old friend either.
I invited him to dine with us that evening, but he quickly declined. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Then, in one of those ironies of life that proves to me that God has a sense of humor, we ended up at the same restaurant with tables right next to each other. I couldn't help but laugh! Like it or not, my family would be in his face all evening.
Fourteen of us came together for this vacation. My parents were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary, and what better way than to share it with their kids and grandkids? Despite the occasion (or maybe because of it), all the usual family dynamics took place.
For example, I love my brother, but we can't get through dinner without getting into an argument. I constantly pick on my dad because when no one is looking he sneaks foods he isn't supposed to eat. My brother lectures his kids and mine, and I frequently add my five cents to his point of view. We discuss and debate all kinds of issues with so much passion that one might think our lives depended on the outcome.
Because my brother and I mix two languages - Russian and English - I'm convinced that anyone watching must think we're about to start World War III. But that evening a man at a table next to us spoke Russian, and he understood everything that transpired. He watched in complete amazement as the dynamics of many united into one.
The thing is, we don't get to choose our family. They come in all shapes and sizes, but we love them anyway. Most of us can attest to a crazy aunt, a loud uncle, a cousin that is hard to bear, or a grandma that has lost a screw or two. But all in all, family unites us and makes us whole, even in the worst circumstances. As this man watched our family from the next table, our eyes occasionally met, and I knew he understood.
He watched my young niece and nephew mingle with my children. The six-year-old niece ran around hugging and kissing her "cousins," and took obvious delight in repeating the word over and over. Her cousins, even though much older, took the time to play with her at the table. They obliged her every whim while she showered them with gratitude kisses. Her brother, a bit older at 11, clearly regarded himself as a peer of my children. It was quite amusing to watch as he tried to act mature beyond his years in order to blend in with them.
The man also watched as our kids raised a toast to my parents and then to my husband and I, thanking us for this special vacation that they look forward to every year. He heard when our oldest daughter said that she hopes to pass the torch to her kids in the future and continue to share that special family bond. And I think his eyes teared up when my son pointed to everyone sitting around the table and proclaimed, "No amount of money in the world can buy this!"
With everyone at our table touching, cheering, arguing, debating and yelling all at the same time, we resembled the scene from "The Big Fat Greek Wedding." As I looked at my kids, I knew by the spark in their eyes and the smiles on their faces that they all understood what makes a family. At that very moment, the man at the next table came over and asked with a wistful look on his face, "Tell me, what do I have to do to have this?"
All the best,
p.s. What makes your family work?