When I say my Family, I mean my growing-up family, my parents and my 10 siblings. Maybe there needs to be a name for that since, when I speak of ‘my family,’ people typically think I’m speaking of my own kids. But it could also mean the whole Clan which would include upwards of 85 people.
At the beginning of January 2017, my siblings, spouses and I gathered at Reed Ranch in northern Michigan with our mother to celebrate her 90th birthday and spend time together over a long weekend. We rented two lodges within walking distance of each other, and we were lucky enough to spend some wonderful quality time together. For me it was memorable because, living in Florida, I don’t get to see them as much as I used to. I was able to spend quiet time with my older brother Chuck as we drove together to our destination. I realized how much I miss him; he’s a great guy. I had a blast with my sisters Kathleen and Molly playing cards and laughing. I enjoyed watching Pat ice fishing on Lake David. I got a kick out of Kevin’s cold-weather gear with his long coat and Russian-style hat. I was entertained by Brian’s witty responses to discussions held around the fire. It’s always special seeing Terry because he always reminds me of Dad. Sean and his quiet demeanor always surprises with his humor, and Mike’s sweetness and off-beat funny side adds so much to the mix. Danny didn’t make it, unfortunately, and missed out on making memories with mom and the rest of us. And mom was in rare form, thoroughly enjoying having her kids around her, rising mid- to late-morning to that first cup of coffee (“The nectar of the gods!), coming out with her cane to dance to ‘All About That Bass,” playing the piano while we sang along, being thrilled with the amazing birthday memories made into books and posters. Meals were made and shared, stories were told, and laughter abounded.
It was wonderful going back to the Katy Lee lodge and sitting around the beautiful fireplace that brought back so many childhood memories, sipping that late-night toddy along with Chucky, Kevin, Brian and Laurie, Sean and Cathy. There’s an indescribable sense of belonging in a clan like ours that I’m not sure everyone has in smaller families. Oftentimes new members tend to shy away or get nervous about attempting to penetrate this crowd, but repeatedly we’re told how accepted they felt by everyone. Maybe that’s because there was always room for one more with mom and dad, and so there was never a question of not accepting.
I have to remember to cherish those times and tuck then away for the future. Right now, we’re all pretty happy and healthy. Now at 92, Mom is no doubt silently wishing she could join her Charlie, but we’re all still glad she’s here and in good form. I added up her grandchildren and great-grandchildren: 63, with one on the way. 63 extended offspring! She and Dad could never have known what they were creating all those years ago. Yes, there were certainly challenges coming from such a large clan, and that’s only from my perspective as the third born. I can’t even imagine the challenges my parents faced! But I consider myself one of the Lucky 11, three girls and eight boys, with spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
My family. My Clan. Those words conjure up quite the memories.