This weekend I had the honor of watching my cousin graduate from Strayer University with honors. I also had the opportunity to see aunts, uncles and cousins that I haven’t seen in years. There is just something so special about family. Perhaps genetics mean we all get the same sick joke. There’s a fluidity to the conversation and a bond that you feel no matter how many years go by and how different you may become.
Although we all have the same strong roots we have all branched out, we have all gone our separate ways and have grown in different directions. This doesn’t mean we love each other any less. In fact, for me, it makes it all the more interesting to get together and catch up on life. What saddens me is that there are no longer gatherings of yesterday that made it so very easy to live and love in my extended family’s presence. This is the reality of life. We pass the baton and create these gatherings for our own children.
When I was younger I grew up visiting my mother’s family fairly frequently on the weekends. I can remember all of her brothers and sisters sitting at a long table outside of my grandmother’s kitchen. They were louder than loud. My grandmother didn’t cook one meal, she cooked two meals when we visited. She was feeding a small army. I remember little jars of saccharin for coffee. I remember poker games and boisterous laughter. The kids were sometimes told to go downstairs into the basement where we would play video games and listen to the Beatles for hours. I knew every inch of my grandmother and grandfather’s home, even remembering the off-color plaques they had on their basement wall. The smell of mothballs in the front door closet. The books in my uncle’s room. The pride in my other uncle’s voice over his diamond needle on his record player. Holidays and hours and hours of Abbot and Costello, March of the Wooden Soldiers and many old classics. Too many games of football were on the TV set. Sometimes the kids would get bored and we would sneak upstairs to snoop around in some of the upstairs rooms. My poor aunt, the youngest of the family would have us rifling through her drawers of nail polish, jewelry and lipstick. We thought it was super cool that she was older than we were and that she had these womanly luxuries! I’m sure she did not feel the same.
And then life happened and became more complicated. Some of us struggled. We lost the glue that bound us together; my grandparents and the keeper of our family ties. Some of those ties started to unravel. Bitterness. Resentment. Judgements. Sickness. Grief. Loss.
“Hello it’s me and I love you. I know we haven’t always agreed and I know we have hurt each other over the years but this Christmas season I just want you to know that I still love you.”
Those are the words you use. This is the gift you give to yourself this Christmas. If there is room in your heart you can wipe the slate clean.
So to all of my family members on my mother and father’s side. This is my love letter to you. I love you all. Thank you for being such an integral part of my life. You will forever hold a place in my heart. Yeah you. Each one of you. I love you. Merry Christmas.
It doesn’t have to be difficult. You still have time. It’s not too late.