Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join in and write your own slice.
I sit in the familiar garage of my uncle's house waiting for my parents and siblings to arrive from the annual Shetler golf scramble, something I never participate in. It is hot and humid, easily pushing 90 degrees with very little cloud cover to ease the scorching sun. Today I'm glad that I don't golf.
Every year my mother's family holds a sort of mini-family reunion, during which they have a golf scramble and then dinner afterward at my uncle's house. This annual gathering is a massive undertaking. My mother has seven other siblings, all married with at least two children. I have 19 first cousins, most of which are married now with children of their own. My mother's aunts, uncles, and cousins don't come, but still, with nearly 50 people present, visiting with everyone is difficult and something that overwhelms me.
When my mother's family finally returns from the outing, many of them are a bright red, with distinct lines from their hats and sleeves. I remind them that sunscreen is a useful tool when spending such a day outside. (No one laughs.) Uncle Merle then decides we should attempt a whole family photo. This is met with jokes from his brothers about needing a wide camera lens that are immediately followed by many eyes rolling. We succeed in taking the photo and dinner starts. Buffet style with fresh fruit, smoked and grilled halves of chicken, potato salad, broccoli & sausage calzones with cheese, and homemade cupcakes and pie for dessert.
Even though everyone at dinner is family, we still group ourselves with our immediate family. It's especially difficult for my family and I to integrate in with the rest. Most of my cousins grew up together, in the same area of Amish Country, going to school together and sharing friendship as well as a bloodline. My siblings and I did not. We grew up over two hours away and saw our extended family maybe twice a year. It was always obvious, with so many cousins, that they didn't need to include us to have fun. We were often left behind when they would go on adventures through my grandparents' woods. I learned to enjoy talking and cooking with my mom, grandma, and aunts instead.
Nothing has changed. Sitting in the garage after dinner, I still see my cousins gravitate to each other, catching up and sharing stories of marriage and parenthood. I gravitate to my aunts and uncles, talking about our jobs and their retirements, and sharing homemade recipes (I'm one of only a few of my cousins who still cooks and bakes from scratch). Although I really enjoy these outings, and it means a lot to my mother to spend time with her siblings, it is still a bit sad to know that nothing changes, that where you grew up and who you grew up with can have more of an impact than bloodlines.
Slowly people head home, needing to rest for work on Monday or to put their small children to bed. My parents finally decide to leave as well, with such a long drive ahead of them, and I go too. As we leave, my uncles start to talk about plans for Christmas, the only other time during the year that the entire family might get together. On my drive home, I think about how nice it is, despite the stress, to have a chance to see people who shaped my life, even if only in small ways.