My family usually has two Thanksgivings. The first one, on Thursday, is usually just my immediate family. My parents, my sister, and I sit down and have a turkey and all the fixings to ourselves. It’s actually really nice. My sister and I may have eaten a few Thanksgiving dinners in our pajama pants. I cannot confirm or refute those claims. However, Friday, is the big shebang. Four generations of my family descend upon my grand-aunt’s house for the holiday dinner. That means around 40-60 people, depending on the year, show up to the house. The kitchen island when you arrive is just a sea of food, with dishes from all different cuisines. The most notable thing different this year though, was that all my older cousins brought their kids, who were all the age now where they’re running around at knee height causing a ruckus and chasing each other around. You see, all of my older cousins are about 10 years older than me, and that means that they all have kids around the same age, and since my grandmother has a ton of siblings, it means that I have enough little nieces and nephews to field a baseball team in a few years. I would also like to point out that now I’ve officially graduated to the grown-up’s table….at age 27.
Now, to be fair, this was because the little ones up till this point needed constant adult supervision, and I didn’t mind sitting at the kids table, it meant that I was with my cousins around my age, of which there are four of us. This year though, it was a totally different experience. One room was basically the daycare center, where all of young ones had tons of Legos, Hot Wheels, or Frozen merchandise to play with. They would run around and whiz through and around the legs of every adult who dared to venture within their territory. Every adult, regardless of age, would wander in and spend time taking care of and playing with the kids. The grandparents would take glee watching all of them, playing, fighting, crying, laughing, everything that kids do. It’s amazing really, how kids see the world with so much wonder, even though they only come up to your knees. Realizing that made me smile to myself, and it made me really happy, deep down in my soul.
I don’t see these kids every day. I’ll see them only a few times throughout the year, when we have these big get togethers. I’m sure to their parents, the daily grind of child rearing is balanced by seeing their kids grow every single day, but I see them growing up in a series of yearly snapshots, and it’s a beautiful thing. It might be because it was my first time sitting at the grown-up’s table, but I finally realize why everyone dotes on the little ones, no matter what. I think it’s because they’re hope made real. As a adult, you’re painfully aware of the world, what ails it, what we face, and how quickly things can go awry. It’s your responsibility to know, and to do something about, not only for yourself, but for others. That awareness can weigh on you, but then, you’re reminded that life goes on. People fall in love, they get married, and they have kids that everyone will fawn over, because they remind us that throughout everything that happens, we all keep going, and it’s because of the beautiful little things. These were the thoughts that were going through my head as I met the newest member of our family, Edie. As I waved and made googly faces at her, she attempted to wrest my cup away from me to see what was inside. Though she put up a valiant effort for a 7 month old, she failed, and ended up settling for my index finger, which she grabbed with surprising strength, and proceeded to wiggle and stare at for a while.
After this, I went to go get my plate and return to the adult conversation. Of course, with Edie being born, and Emily shortly before, the next one in the family up to bat to be married was me. Actually, my younger cousin Justin decided to cut in line and get engaged before me, so hopefully that will take the heat off of me for a bit, but either way, according to my grandmother and grand-aunts, I’m due. And so, I fielded the usual questions of “Do you have a girlfriend?” multiple times and with countless variations. This was usually followed up with, “Are you sure?” and “You can tell me, I won’t tell anyone”. The latter of which would be a lie. I of course, dutifully answered the truth (No.) with a smile, because I get it. They’ve all seen me, at knee-height once upon a time, adorable and causing a ruckus. Now, I’ve grown up, one year at a time, and the next generation has come along to cause the same ruckus, but much more adorably. It’s beautiful and life-affirming. No matter what, love and life find a way.
I would still totally have more fun at the kids table though. I think the boys like Legos and Star Wars almost as much as I do. Almost.