I married into a family that loves to mark momentous occasions by all getting together. Over the years my husband, his three siblings, their spouses, the grandchildren and of course his parents, (and sometimes his aunts and uncles) have gotten together to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and B’nai Mitzvahs.
My family of origin didn’t do this, but when my grandparents were alive, my mother’s parents got us together for big celebrations that included my grandparents, aunts, uncles and all seven of us grandchildren. So when my husband’s family started these large celebrations a year after I got married, it felt familiar to me, and I looked forward to them, even with the stress of getting together, traveling and old family patterns that emerge in us as adults.
Starting in 1991, on through to 2006, my husband’s extended family celebrated my father-in-law’s 65th, 70th, 75th and finally his 80th birthdays; in 2004 we feted both my in-laws at their 50th wedding anniversary and there has been seven the B’nai Mitzvahs. We have partied in Washington, DC; St. Louis, MO; Los Altos, California; Hilton Head, SC; Kings Mill (Williamsburg), VA; Nemacolin, PA and the Eastern Shore of Maryland on the Chesapeake.
Tomorrow we will to honor my mother-in-law’s 85th birthday by spending the next three days in Carmel, CA. We will celebrate her with lunch at Nepenthe, dinner at Bistro Giovanni, culminating in our last night when we will fete her with toasts, stories, songs and skits at The Pacific Edge.
I’m sure that there will be disagreements, slights and disputes after all there are 11 opinionated Sloss-Green family members getting together for three days. But there will also be camaraderie, shared memories and love. Family reunions provide an important way that my husband’s family, and me by association, hang out, celebrate and reconnect with people who share something in common, even if it just memories of past times and people who are no longer alive.
An aside: many, many years ago, when I was 15 or 16, one of my first cousins told me that she had nothing in common with any of us, her extended family, as her excuse for being moody and morose at a family event. Since her wedding, I have seen her only once or twice in the last 30 years. In my book, she and I miss out on a relationship that contains memories of our growing up, seeing each other at family events and shared holidays. A loss that I mourn, but assume she does not.
Marriage means we enter into another family, and find a way to make their traditions our own. Otherwise there is strife and conflict at every milestone birthday, every holiday, every life event. During my 25+ year marriage I have seen my in-laws, sister-in-laws, brother-in-laws, great aunt and uncle in-laws at birthdays and funerals, Mitzvahs and holidays. These are the people whose tribe I joined when I said “I do” all these many years ago when I became Sloss.
On the eve of all packing up and creating a ‘Sloss (Green) family’ village in Carmel for the next three days I found myself nostalgic with memories, both good and bad, of past family celebrations and departed family members. And I remember back to my childhood, thinking of my extended family members, wishing them well where ever they are.
What kinds of family milestones does your family celebrate? How do you mark the occasions?
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