Growing up, the third child in a family of four children, I had some “middle child” issues. Sometimes, I felt a little left out. Sometimes, I felt like the “black sheep” of the family. I was always a little shyer than everyone else, a little nerdy-er than my popular, social sisters and brother. Still, my family has always been pretty close. And though I didn’t always feel like I fit in with my siblings, I have many wonderful memories from my childhood-- of family vacations together, family holiday celebrations, family parties and even plain, old family dinners at home.
This week, my whole family is in the same state for the first time in years. We are celebrating my mom’s birthday with a family reunion. My sisters arrived with their families over the weekend, but we have yet to be ALL together. We are scattered along the Gulf Coast of Florida-- my brother & his family live in the Ft. Myers area and my closest-in-age sister is staying there with her family. My parents live on beautiful Anna Maria Island and my oldest sister and her family are there. My family, of course, is here at home in Clearwater. Even when we are all within a mere 3 hours of each other, it is hard to get together. Thursday is the “official birthday party” but Tim has to work and cannot make it, my sister-in-law has jury duty and may be unable to attend also. There are just always so many unavoidable things pulling us all in different directions. Friday we have planned a family photo with EVERYONE in attendance. We did this one other time, about 7 years ago, but between my sisters and I we have added 5 more children since then. There will be 22 of us, all dressed in blue jeans and white shirts, hopefully smiling happily, despite the inevitable chaos of getting everyone ready and in the right place on time. I am praying it will work out and we will get our picture. It is what my mom wants most for her birthday, next to having all the whole family together to celebrate.
It has been two years since we have been able to pull off a whole family get together like this. We celebrated my dad’s birthday in Gulf Shores, AL in 2008, renting a house that fit us all (only 20 ½ of us then, oh and my grandmother- so 21 ½. If you count Ike, the hurricane that blew by a few hundred miles to the south, the number goes up to 22 1/2). We had a whole week ALL together. It was a wonderful week of happy chaotic fun. My kids still talk about it all- swimming with their cousins, staying over night together, and playing, playing, playing. One afternoon , my sisters, mom, and I talked about leaving the men with the kids and hitting the outlet malls. Our husbands warned us if we tried it they’d give the kids beer and cigars all afternoon. Of course, we assumed they were joking. A few days later we followed through on our shopping plans, only to come back to pictures of the kids all lined up on the front steps holding plastic beer cups and cigars, as promised. My nieces and nephews were happy to pose, excited about holding cigars and pretending to drink beer. My own children were traumatized by the whole event though the cigars were wrapped in plastic and the cups were completely empty. Years ago I would have seen this as another example of me being a little different but this time, Tim and I just laughed. It was nice to know we were raising our kids with such strong views of right and wrong that they were afraid to go along with the joke, but it was just a joke, and a funny one at that!
Anyway, I’m not sure any of us appreciated our growing up years when we were all under the same roof-me, least of all- but now I can see just how precious time together truly is. Despite our differences, I am so very grateful for the family God has made me a part of. And, I am looking forward to all the memories we will make together this time around!