I am giving thanks today for my Family, specifically my relatives, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and more. I am thankful for the memories I have of growing up with an immediate sense of belonging. I was a member of a close-knit group that celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, child births, and holidays. We weren’t shy about who we were or where we came from, and I was always proud to say I was the daughter of John and Jody, I was Italian, and I was a Christian.
While I had a small immediate family of four, I grew up with a large extended family. We traveled often to visit my paternal grandparents in Houston and my maternal grandparents in Florida. We played with cousins in the pool, at the park, or in the backyard. We visited churches and met people everywhere we traveled who knew our people. My father is Italian, and my family is by its very nature family-oriented. I spent countless hours at the table listening to my Dad’s brothers and sisters re-tell their versions of childhood while my Grandparents commented in Italian.
On the other side, my Mom’s family was Irish/German, and lived in the Sunshine State for all of my life. When we would visit there, which was pretty much every summer, I would be able to listen to my Nana in Florida regale us with tales of her lifetime of experiences from Texas to Maryland to Florida in between visits to Walt Disney World, Sea World, Busch Gardens, and the beach.
I was blessed to be raised with both sets of grandparents, both of whom made an impression, not just on my life, but on my relationship with Christ. They were all active within the church, specifically as pastors. They were not perfect people, but their love for God was a testimony to their family and their mission to preach the gospel, and while we know they are rejoicing together in heaven, it has been hard witness as they passed on to Jesus one by one. I could barely make it through my Grandmother’s funeral the year after I married, and I missed Nana’s funeral because of my child breaking her elbow the day before, but I chose to speak at my Grandfather’s funeral last December, and I remember only thinking about how I hoped I had captured him well and that I had made him proud.
I have one brother, but I have 16 first cousins and, with the birth of the most recent baby boy, I have approximately 32 second cousins. We are a family full of storytellers, singers, artists, teachers, nurses, and more, and there has never been a loss for words or opinions among us. It’s hard to be separated by the miles, but I am thankful that when we are struggling, as we did this year with Mom’s cancer, we have prayer warriors, phone callers, card senders, house visitors, and more who know us, love us, and support us.
I give thanks for my Family, and am so very grateful to have grown up with people that loved, hugged, celebrated, shared, argued, embraced, and that prayed.
Today, and every day….Ti voglio bene la mia famiglia.