My cousin's daughter, Kimberly, had her baby a couple of weeks ago. Her name's Layla. She's so cute. I'm glad Kimberly keeps us in mind when these things happen. Her blog and e-mails are the only connections I have left with my mother's family.
Her mom, Janet, and I grew up together. Janet was about 4 or 5 years younger than me, but we played together all the time. Janet's older sister, Cindy, passed away earlier this year from cancer. Her younger brother died in 1999 from a heart attack. He had sudden cardiac death, just like me. Only he was asleep and it just happened. She has two more younger siblings, Greg and Mysti, who are also my cousins. Mysti has 2 kids who were in my wedding.
Family was always so important to me. They still are, but we're not close like we used to be. My husband's family is close--his mom, brother and sister--but he doesn't know any of his cousins well, never associates with them, or aunts & uncles. I think, since he was in the military, he got used to not having family around.
I, on the other hand, always had family nearby. We all lived in the same general area except for a few cousins. Sunday dinners, Saturday night suppers, Friday night get-togethers, all at Grandma's were great. I wouldn't trade my memories of those times for anything.
I always thought I'd have kids and we'd all still get together at Grandma's with my cousins and their kids. Didn't happen, though. My next hope was to marry into a large, close family. They're fairly close, but my husband doesn't care for family get-togethers. Plus, I feel awkward when I'm with them.
I've never been comfortable around strangers and I feel like a stranger among his family. Maybe it's the culture: while his family has some 'white' (as my husband says) people married into it, it's a Filipino family. They speak Tagalog when together and I don't think they realize how alienating that is to those of us who don't speak it.
My husband didn't understand why I was hurt by their constant speaking of Tagalog at home.
"We're not saying anything about you. I'd tell you if we were. Just ask."
I explained to him that it was quite exclusionary.
"What if my family and I spoke French? And whenever we were together, all we spoke with each other was French? How would you feel?"
I told him it was impolite to speak a language around other people which wasn't spoken by all of the people present. He finally agreed. Now, if they talk to him in Tagalog and I'm present, he tells them to speak English.
Still, though, if we go to his extended family gatherings, there will be more people there who'll speak Tagalog and I'll feel left out.
But, they're a gregarious bunch. Quite unlike me and my husband. If we spend Thanksgiving with his family again this year (like we usually do), I think I'll finally go with them to the big family gathering. He & I usually stay at his mom's and enjoy the peace and quiet while they take the kids and go party.
This year, however, we're staying at a hotel instead of at his mom's. I've told him time and time again, his mom shouldn't have to tend to 5 extra people and 3 dogs in that one townhouse. It's too much work for her. I was raised to 'spoil your mama'.
Plus, there's only 1 shower for 8 people. Doesn't work too well.
I'm really going to try to be more open and friendlier this year. I'm just naturally aloof around strangers. I think it's because as a kid I was always chastised for being too noisy and taught that "Children are to be seen and not heard." I still kinda believe that. However, I think kids should have good manners and be well-behaved and if they can talk sensibly, there's no reason not to include them.
I also remember, when I was younger, how I'd be excited about family gatherings and was scolded and told to "stop being silly". So I think I learned to overcompensate: I never show excitement or joy around people anymore. Only at ballgames do I feel free to express myself.
Today I'm thankful for: Cheese, my cousin's safe delivery, puppy snuggles, not having a lot of chest pain lately, and, of course, my husband, pups and stepkids.