I just returned from my aunt’s 70th birthday party. It was a pretty small gathering of family from great aunts and uncles to grandchildren. Obviously the events themselves were great with pictures and stories of my aunt, my grandparents and her siblings (including my dad). However, the reason I’m writing is more to see how the importance of family has been continual for us. We’ve always been a pretty tight knit family despite many being outside Edmonton. We don’t see each other a ton, say once or twice a year as a group, but it’s always pretty easy to reintegrate as if you see them regularly. This ease has always fascinated me and it was reinforced today that there’s history to how we value family.
My great uncle got up to give a toast to my aunt. He talked about how the nine kids in his family were so excited when my aunt was born seventy years ago as she was the first of her generation. The knowledge of this excitement created a link to all the stories we’ve heard of massive celebrations over the years, Christmas and other, with kids and parents all together. Our generation carried on this value. Growing up we spent lots of time with extended family and those connections were just part of our lives. Our parents had learned that family was valuable and though we thought we were just playing and having fun, really we were carrying on the tradition. This weekend I got to see it continue on again. There is now a generation below mine on my dad’s side with 12 kids six years old and under. Six of them were around and though the two newborns didn’t get in the action quite yet, they all had a great time playing together. It didn’t involve sitting them down to talk about the importance of family but it did involve explanations about old pictures or discussions on where everyone lives. These subtle messages are what brought us together years ago and they’ll accomplish that again with these little guys.
The thing I appreciate the most is that it’s never been forced. It’s never been about achieving some magical level of “family” but it’s been about spending time with relatives who share a common history and are there to support you through the future. I know that sounds incredibly hokey but my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles made it important by simply bringing us together and making the effort to have that happen. I’m lucky to have this in my background and was pretty excited tonight to see that next generation starting to carry on our notion of family.