Big and Crazy is Better Than Small and Estranged
July 7, 2012 | My Jottings
That’s my motto for the month, and it applies to families.
A big and crazy family who loves each other even though they’re sometimes a little nuts, is so much better than a small family who seems to be more outwardly composed (and perhaps “normal”) but hasn’t spoken to each other in years.
Profound, isn’t it?
My husband has a large extended family. His mother Bernadine (Bernie) was the oldest of seven children, and each of those seven had their own children. And now all those children have had their own little ones, so there are probably close to a hundred just on this one side of Michael’s family.
Bernie’s parents (Michael’s maternal grandparents) owned a small cabin on a lovely, tranquil lake, and that cabin became a family gathering place over the next several decades, especially on the 4th of July. Now out of the seven children, only three remain: Rosemary, Donna and Yvonne, who are in their sixties and seventies. Bernadine, Bertine “Dude,” Dick and Keith have all gone home to be with the Lord.
After Bernie’s parents died, Rosemary’s family bought the cabin, and the family get-together on July 4th continued. We drove out to the cabin this year and did what the family always does: sat and chatted, hugged, laughed, ate good food, rejoiced in the beauty and privilege of such a gorgeous setting, and marveled at how quickly the years pass.
Pictured from left, Michael’s sister Pat, his Uncle Frank, his Aunt Yvonne, our Foster Betsy, and Michael:
The day was a little cooler than the 90-degree weather we’ve been having, and a little overcast. Sara took a long swim in the lake, and if Michael’s family had all been blind, I would have joined her.
Michael’s only sibling Pat, on the left. She and her husband Joe just sold their house in the Twin Cities area, moved back north, and are building their retirement home on some beautiful land in Knife River, MN.
We have a cabin culture in Minnesota. In other parts of the country, when people gain some financial margin and can afford to purchase something extra, some buy fancy cars and others begin to travel extensively. I remember my last trip to Southern California, where I grew up. I had never seen so many BMWs, Mercedes Benzes, Porsches and Corvettes on the roads in my life. It was like the whole culture had changed to an expensive car culture. You won’t see that in northern Minnesota, even if people do have money. Here, if people have extra, they buy a cabin on a lake.
I wish I had taken more pictures of Michael’s big and wacky family. I say wacky because they laugh and joke and boss each other around good-naturedly. Like any family, they have disagreements and frustrations between members. But they never let it sever their relationships. They keep on loving, keep on getting together, keep on hugging and praying for each other. If there are hurt feelings, they forgive and get over it. The family bond of love is never cut.
Below, Pat, Michael, and Sara.
I, on the other hand, come from a composed, accomplished and highly regarded family. (Ha.) If any craziness surfaced in us, the unspoken rule of steel was that it was to be squashed, because we didn’t want people to know we had problems.
When I was fourteen years old, that composure cracked and our family of five blew apart. Then the anger and pride and bitterness that had been undealt with all those years, took root and has had its pervasive, decaying way for the last forty years.
There have been no 4th of July family gatherings on my side of the family. No disagreements that end in hugs and stronger bonds. No goofy laughter and compassionate conversations. No humility. When I think of going to a family gathering at a cabin for my side of the family, I can’t figure out whether to laugh hysterically at the idea, or to flee. It would be tense, surfacey, “religious” and sad. It might even end with anger and accusations and more bitterness than before.
I don’t know how my extended family’s situation will ever change, except that the God we all believe in is a resurrecting God. He knows how to bring life where there has been death. And He’s been known to shine brilliant light where there has been suffocating darkness. I don’t know what to do except to ask Him again to have His way with our small, needy and estranged family.
And to please make us more like Michael’s big and crazy family.
I would not be a blessed member of Michael’s big and crazy family if not for this beautiful woman:
Her name is Yvonne, and she’s Michael’s youngest aunt. Do you see how loving, accepting and nurturing she looks? She’s all those things, and more.
In 1976 I was married to my first husband and living on Beale AFB in Northern California. I met Yvonne there when I was 19 and she was 32, because her sweet daughters Celeste and Kathleen (then 9 and 7) came to my back door and we got to know each other. Yvonne took me under her wing and became a patient friend and example to me. It was at this time and because of Yvonne that I first heard about and desired the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
As military families do, we each eventually moved on. My husband, little daughter and I moved to Germany, and I believe Yvonne’s husband Frank got orders to North Dakota. But we continued to exchange letters and call once in a while. Little did I know in 1976 that in a few short years my marriage would suddenly end, and that Yvonne was one of the friends I would turn to for prayer.
It’s a long story, and if you’re interested you can read the poem I wrote about it by clicking here.
Now Yvonne and I are in the same family. Three days ago on July 4th, I looked into her lovely eyes and it hit me afresh. I am married to her nephew and have been for 31 years. I live in Minnesota because of her.
I have experienced life with a small, composed and ultimately estranged family, and life with a big, crazy and loving family. I love them both so much.
But only one has made me feel like I can breathe, be myself, and experience unconditional acceptance and love. God surely knew that I would need a place to heal and grow, and I thank Him for planting me here. When I reach the end of my earthly life, if I could be half as kind and loving as so many in Michael’s extended family are, I would die a happy woman. I’m not there yet, but spending time with folks like these keeps me moving in the right direction.