I was granted the dubious honor of having a large family while having no real connection with them whatsoever. Like, I don’t actively dislike them, I have nothing against them, and when we inevitably get together for some big family function (hopefully a wedding; more and more lately, though, a funeral), they are inevitably warm and sweet to me. But, again, I know they don’t quite know what to make of me, and that’s part a result of my own quirks and faults, and partly because both my parents suck at keeping in touch with people, and the worst thing you can do for child with social phobia is to keep them from people — unfamiliarity begets anxiety, and anxiety begets more self-imposed isolation. Even if I wanted to get close to my family now, I don’t know that I’d have an idea how to.
My cousin Nikki messaged me today, completely out of the blue, asking for my address, which means I can expect something in the mail in the next few days, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what it is. Nikki is getting to the age, and the stage in her relationships, where always in the back of my mind is, maybe this is it, maybe this is when I get the invitation to her wedding and I’m officially Fucking Old. It’s funny; Nikki was one of the few cousins I was ever close to (I have close to forty cousins, and she is the only one I had a consistent, active relationship with through our childhoods and teenage years), and she”s only a month younger than my husband. But growing up, those four years that separated us made such a huge difference; even though at 30 and 34, the differnce in our age is less than negligible, she will always be the little bean who had to leave the room and go play with dolls because Nightmare Before Christmas was too scary.
Granted, there’s no guarantee that’s what it’ll be, given that I really don’t know what her stance on marriage is and I don’t actually like to presume – it’s just that, honestly, I only hear from my family when someone gets married or dies, and honestly, I’m not going to get mail about a family member’s death. Of course, given that she’s the only point of contact between me and the rest of my family – and these days, even that’s pushing it – who knows? It could be anything. Probably a wedding, though. Even if it’s not hers.
Sometimes I think I’d like to get to know my family better, if only for Bear’s sake – there are a lot of young kids in the family, including kids within one to two years of his age, children born to cousins around my age (give or take a couple of years), and it’d be a convenient excuse to get-together, to get the sprogs together for a play date. I always come away from family gatherings with the conflicted feeling of, “these people are nice people, and they’re my blood, and I should see them more,” and “these people are nice people, and they are my blood, but they are so fundamentally different from me that blood isn’t enough to carve out a space for me here.” I don’t know. I’ll dutifully attend the family functions, and I know I’ll enjoy them while I’m there.
My son isn’t growing up sans family. My sister is around, and she has two kids; the oldest is only three weeks younger than Bear, and her daughter is eighteen months younger. My brother loves being with my son when he’s around, as do both my parents, and all three of my husband’s parents. Sure, my husband’s brother (his uncle) kind of doesn’t know what to make of him yet, but he’s awkward and sixteen, so I’m sure he’ll adjust, and his entle positively dotes on him. My son is not lacking for love, or family, really.
Still, maybe I’ll make more of an effort to make it to some of the less formal family gatherings this year. A cookout, a house party.
We’ll never be close, but maybe we don’t have to be. Maybe that’s okay.