I have mentioned perhaps four or five hundred times that my mother was the youngest in a large Catholic family. For the most part, her family lived in Boone County, Nebraska, in the heart of the Great Plains and smack dab in the middle of farm country. Her father was, among other things, a farmer, though it appears there was no family love for farming, as evidenced by the fact that none of the boys became farmers. In fact, the only reason there are farmers in the family is because some of my mom’s sisters married farmers. A glance at the family tree quickly tells me that my grandmother was, for all intents and purposes, pregnant for nearly 23 years, marrying in January of 1904 and having her first baby (who died the day he was born) in December of that same year. Mom was born in 1926.
And though my mom was a full 21 years younger than her eldest living sibling, she and her brothers and sisters were a close-knit group. My grandmother (understandably exhausted after giving birth for the 14th time, after which she undoubtedly told my grandfather to get his own bedroom) died before my mother reached adulthood, and was sick for quite a while before she died. So my mother was largely cared for by older sisters. Her closest friends were her nieces and nephews, some her own age or older.
As I grew up in Columbus, I spent considerable time with my aunts and uncles, many of whom lived within walking distance of our home. Mom’s siblings, I think, were her best friends, even as an adult. She made sure we knew them all, even the ones who lived elsewhere. That’s commendable, I think, and something I took for granted, but appreciate now a great deal.
And I appreciated it even more during our visit last week to Nebraska where we attended a reunion of many of my cousins from my mom’s side. Oh my word, what a good time we had!
What I like about family (or at least what I like about THIS family) is that, though I hadn’t seen some of my cousins for several decades, it was like I had seen them yesterday. And even better, it was like talking to my mom.
The cousins range from farmers to school administrators, from truck drivers to highly-trained computer technicians. But they all have twinkly eyes (mostly blue) and a sharp sense of humor that is both self-deprecating and pointedly aimed. While not all of my living cousins were able to be there, we were lucky enough to have the oldest (living) and the youngest present. I laughed for three hours. I recalled my mom’s sense of humor and realized that my brother’s hilarious way of looking at life might come from her side of the family.
We reminisced. We caught up on kids and grandkids. We learned new things about our parents and were reminded of old things we had forgotten. Those of us who never knew our Micek grandparents got an education on not only their life, but what life was like back in the days when Grandpa Charles and Grandmother Anna were trying to raise their large boisterous family. That was from which the music commenced, I learned. Grandpa wanted to keep his boys busy and out of trouble so he bought them all a musical instrument and they learned to make music together. The music bug took….
I was reminded about the family reunions we used to have regularly as we grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. They were held in a variety of places. Sometimes we gathered at Pawnee Park in Columbus. We picnicked at least once at a cabin jointly owned by several of Mom’s brothers. But no matter where the reunion was held, we could count on a couple things: the food would be delicious and plentiful, and we wouldn’t run out of beer. Just like last week’s reunion, there was always lots and lots of laughing.
Without this reunion, I wouldn’t have seen this photo of my mother for the first time…..
Or seen how absolutely STUNNING my Aunt Vickie was when she was young……
Or seen these beautiful wedding photos of my aunts and uncles….
This reunion reminded me once again just how important family – extended family – is in our lives and how family helps make us who we are……
This post linked to the GRAND Social