I’m not going to lie; there were times growing up that I envied my friends with large families around the holidays. They told these crazy stories about everyone coming in town, all of the celebrations they had, and staying up all night catching up with relatives from all over the country. I come from a pretty small family, and our holidays are anything but loud and eventful. This was and always has been my “normal,” and while I might have envied my friends with large families, I never experienced it firsthand and just accepted our peaceful gatherings.
Then I met Nick.
My first adventure in meeting the family came at a pool party to close out summer. I had no idea that I was literally walking in to meet EVERYONE on his mom’s side that evening, including friends who will continue to be a large part of our lives. There were people everywhere, and for the quiet girl with bright red hair, the amount of anxiety and shock I was in, well…it’s all kind of a blur.
You see, I have one brother, and we’re seven years apart. Nick had forgotten to mention he had three sisters, and they would all be at this party. Naturally, they had a boatload of questions about this “new girl” he had brought to meet the family. Luckily, I passed the test, and they are all standing up with us next month when we get married. For a girl with zero sisters, gaining three through marriage has been a wonderful bonus!
From there on out, it was made clear that everyone celebrates every holiday, major sporting event, birthday, anniversary, etc. together. It seemed that each time we were all together, I would meet someone new (Aunt So-and-so, cousins, etc.) They just kept coming. And remember, this is only one side of the family! I seriously love these people, but imagine the shock of going from a family of about twelve total to this!
I think I had just gotten used to the hugging, get-togethers, and large number of members when he threw another bomb on me:
It was time to meet his dad’s side. Both of Nick’s parents have five siblings. FIVE. When I mention who I’m marrying back home, most people can rattle off at least one or two family members right off the top of their head. It’s amusing, but completely new for a girl like me.
We all went to breakfast last month, and I swear it seemed like people just kept pouring through the door. Every five minutes I was whispering, “Who’s that?” as a new face appeared. But they are fun, and it’s loud, and the love and happiness is incredibly evident anytime they are all together. There are so many kids, and my little ones now have two more (huge) families to love them and people to play and grow up with.
Last Thanksgiving, Nick’s mom invited my family (five members) to join them for dinner. I really thought nothing of it, but kept warning them about the large number of people that would be there. Little did I know–I was about to get engaged that day. But it was the first holiday that I felt whole, like this was exactly where I was supposed to be. Surrounded by the love of Nick’s family, my family, and all of the friends who fit right in.
This is what people used to talk about; this is the crazy and loud family holidays I envied for years.
I will never claim I was mentally prepared for all of this, and there are definitely still times that I get completely overwhelmed by it. (For example, my wedding guest list consists 70% of Nick’s family.) But the fact that ALL of these strangers welcomed my kids and I into their big, happy families is better than anything I could have dreamed up. It has definitely been an adventure getting to a comfortable place, and I continue to struggle with remembering names and also continue to meet new members! However, I know that the future holds so many exciting memories and wonderful people to make them with.
THANK YOU to both sides of Nick’s family, for loving us with open arms and for being so much fun to share these special times with. Here’s to big families, small families, and all sizes in between.