For the first time in over eight years Bryson and I spent Thanksgiving alone and it was actually quite refreshing. Over the years my home has always been open to friends and loved ones during the holidays but this year, while at the dinner table, I realized for the first time that Bryson and I were actually spending it alone. Because we live so far away from the family, I was beginning to feel a little homesick, but I quickly chose to use it as a time of reflection.
It made me realize just how blessed we really are, and how much we really do have to be thankful for. For instance, the sheer size of my family; my mother is the oldest of nine. My father is one of seven and my stepmother is one of twelve. As a child being raised in a family this size, it’s almost impossible to appreciate the enormity of such a blessing, but then we grow up.
I remember endless days of riding bikes with my oldest sister Allison during the summers, boxing and being a human punching bag for my youngest uncle and the rest of my male cousins, and beating the daylights out of my younger brothers. Because I have a total of eight siblings and several uncles and aunts that were not much older than me, I never wanted any kids. I am the eldest of my mother’s children and second to the oldest in my dad’s clan. Considering I lived with my mother for most of my life, I had more responsibility than the average kid, so as far as I was concerned, having another kid to take care of was completely out of the question. However, when you’re twenty years old, and you mix a little alcohol with careless living things can change dramatically.
The older I get the more I realize how fortunate we really are to have such an overwhelmingly large, but close-knit family; one that prays and parties together. On my mom’s side of the family alone, my grandparents have almost fifty grandchildren and counting and I would venture to say that number may not be too far off on my step-mother’s side. So when I’m home and someone asks what are you doing this weekend, and I say, “Going to the movies with friends or just hanging out with friends”, I usually mean my cousins.
Yes, over the years I have worn a lot of hand-me-downs, changed a lot of diapers, was teased and power driven to the ground by boorish boys who never really wanted my company; but the endless memories of bike riding, birthday parties, crawfish boils, sleepovers and family baseball games on the local school grounds are priceless.
To know and experience the kind of unconditional love that comes from a family of our size is truly a blessing. I only hope that my son will cherish it as much as I do. And for this, I am forever thankful to God.
I pray for all those who have an opportunity to read this – that you will thoroughly enjoy this holiday season and that you won’t focus on what or who isn’t present, but be thankful, for what and/or who is.
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