Our family boasts thirty first cousins. My mother’s sister had three children, and my dad’s siblings averaged two to three children each, but my dad took “be fruitful and multiply” a bit more seriously with his brood of eight children. Of course those thirty have also expanded the family tree, so you get the point; there are a lot of us.
We’re all quite different; among us are teachers, nurses, artists, photographers, politicians, lawyers, an actor, and an anesthetist (yes, I had to look up that spelling). We also differ in religious–or not so religious–beliefs, politics, and many other areas of life that seem to drive people to rant at each other. Yet our family gatherings are surprisingly rant-free.
I’ve decided society could take a page from my broader family’s playbook.
Growing up, we visited my mother’s sister only a few times a year: at Independence Day, when Uncle John always made sure we had firecrackers and sparklers, and the badminton game compelled us outdoors, and again we visited whenever our grandmother visited from Minnesota and stayed with them. I know we differed in religion; they were devout Catholics, and we were staunch independent baptists. I never remember an argument over our differences. We loved our cousins and whatever time we had with them. They made me laugh, and I’d love to see them again.
John–I’ll refrain from calling him the name I always called him–came to see us when we lived on a farm. The family had traveled the hour and a half for my brother’s high school graduation, and John was all dressed up in his little white suit for the auspicious occasion. The little city boy, though, could not resist the temptation to get a little closer to the pigs, and if I remember correctly, the story went that he tried his hand at hog riding. Aunt Joan was not as impressed with his new skill as he was.
I have no clue his political position or religious views today; though, I do see him pop up in my feed on FB from time to time. It doesn’t matter; he’s my cousin, and more to the point, he’s a human being, an American citizen, with rights to believe and discuss whatever he likes.
My dad’s side of the family has reunions every other year, so we’re very connected. I know more about these cousins as grown ups. I happen to know that some are staunch conservatives while others are very liberal thinkers. When the moonshine starts making its way through the garage, no one asks who you’ll vote for.
No, I don’t drink moonshine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching–and listening to–those who do.
Sober or loose-lipped, we love each other. As strong willed as we all are, I can assure you there is no lack of opinions in our gathering, but we never lose sight of each other’s humanity: that the person on the other side of the table is more important than the position we’d like to argue. Rotarians and church deacons, artists and Harley enthusiasts, blacks and whites–yes, that’s possible in the Bible belt–we’ve learned to value each other.
I wish society at large could peek into our little gatherings and see how genuinely thrilled we are to see one another, and just maybe they could all just get along.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.