I grew up in a family where your siblings were your best friends, your cousins stepped in as brothers and sisters and the word “aunt” or “uncle” was synonymous with “parent.” This family was large in numbers, but even larger in loyalty, love and tradition.
This tribe I was woven into was bursting at the seams with adventure and excitement. They made room for inquiry and curiosity and deep belly laughs. They let me and my fellow tribe-lings play on the edge of our limits in order to discover our sense of self and our personal boundaries. Many times they knowingly let us stick a few toes over that boundary line just to test the murky waters.
I cherished this part of myself and my life. I was always looking forward to more time with my people. More fearless adventures into the woods on four-wheelers that were slightly too large for us. More make believe castles and battles and hair salons while climbing trees in a cousin’s back yard. More silly games with 50 people crammed in a house not built for 50, all laughing, and running, and talking over one another. I always realized that I had a lucky draw, but until adulthood I never realized how lucky.
On the tail end of spending a week with this particular family and some of our biggest traditions, I have tried to reflect on what it is that has created such an unbreakable, distinctive, close-knit group. I look around me and I am astonished with the longevity and enormity of this beast we have created. I have told stories and, to be quite frank, bragged about my family since I can remember, and never once have I stumbled on a similar flavor of family to ours.
If our band of people had a motto, a mission statement, it would be “Family First.” I think that loyalty and love underline every relationship in our family. To have earned your keep in this family is to have been loyal to every member of it. A united front. A strong, stable and supportive presence that protects its own. This is not to say that we do not have our discourse and our faults. We love each other as much as we love to argue and fight and even hold grudges with each other. But none of these things ever happen without the understanding that “I am mad at you AND I love you AND when it comes down to it, I still have your back.”
Beyond pure love and loyalty, our family has made it our sole mission to have as much fun as one family can possibly have in one day. And then, just when it seems that we have reached our limit, we try to squeeze out just a fraction more. This aspect of our family’s dynamic is what I believe to be the real glue …no… cement that holds each of us to the other. It creates lasting and joyful memories that links each of us to that beautiful, light part of life. It helps us to forget our differences and past wrong doings and put away our opinions in order to celebrate the love that we have for each other and the joy that exists in this world if you just allow time for it. This part of my family is what I hold most near and dear. It is what brings me back to air when I feel like I have been drowning in whatever hardship I may be going through.
Just one quick memory and I am reminded to fill my cup to the brim every single morning and to not leave one sip of joy or life untouched at the end of the day. Because how could you not smile at the thought of 50 adults dressed in costume forming their own bike parade to the local ice cream parlor on a Sunday night? Or laugh at the memory of a 16 year old, 30 year old and 60 year old all slip-and-sliding into home base in a family game of “Kiddy-Pool-Kickball”? How could you not be reminded of the small joys in life when presented with the image of 20 wish lanterns leaving the hands of young and old from the beach and the dance party that ensued after? These are the happiest memories of my life. Every single one of them packed to burst with joy.
These values has been distilled into every relationship in this vast and dynamic family and it is never more apparent then during The Fourth of July. This day has, for me, become synonymous with my families values. This one singular weekend is when we shine our brightest. Every single last star on the family map illuminated for the world to see. Each relationship strengthened by the traditions and the memories and the support that seeps into every moment of every day.
This immense group travels to Huron, Ohio on the sandy shores of Lake Erie every summer as though it is a primal migration. We all live in scattered parts of the country leading unique and interesting lives, but for this precious moment in time, this one holiday, we all allow ourselves to step out of our day-to-day, adult routines and step back into that adventurous, limit testing, belly laughing kid that grew up with 26 cous-isters/ bro-sins and more parents than we could count. We allow ourselves to let go of our mundane worries and be wrapped in this tightly-knit blanket of understanding and belonging in this place of our lovingly threaded memories.
After making memories like these, I re-enter my daily life feeling braver and fuller and more excited about life. Because of these people, I am reminded that if I fail or fall or even if I am shoved to the ground, I will be loved and I will have an army behind me when I am helped back up. This gift is one that I will never be able to repay, but I hope that I will be able to pass on to anyone who enters my life. It is a tribe that welcomes all who are loyal and loving and full of light. We hope to see you next year, Happy Fourth.
McGill, Webster, Staker, Kerbs, Cozzie
My Tribe. My Family. My Ever-Lasting Patronus.
Rock and Nan, Steve, Mary, Stephen, and Shellie , Stephanie, Jason, Bricen, Blake, Brenton, Brevin, and Blaine, Stacie, Jad, Laila, Sahara, Zane and Nash, Sandra, Chris and Stella, Sue, Rod, Mikey, and Alyssa, Amy, Brian, Ayden and Baby Girl, Sara and Brian, Pam and Ray, Brooke and Tyler, Dad, Mom, Jaren, Johnny and Jansen, Jill, Jim, Justin, Julie and Jessica, Jodie, Ken, Karie, Kris and Danny, David, Lana and Malachi, Rocky, Debbie, Kirstin, Logan, Luke, Nannaw and Pappaw, Jim and Cara, John and Rick, Tom, Letty, Tommy and Brianna, Chad and Nicole. Cozzies and Rueteniks. *
*And all of you honorary tribe members <3
I love you all.