I am the second of eight. I grew up surrounded by my cousins, as we all live in the same general area. There are 57 first cousins only, and as some of the older ones have started their families, we have expanded by another 31 kidlets. Right now there is a possibility your brow is furrowed. Let me help you out: we're Catholic. (ohhhhhhh....)
Please take a moment or two to consider being a boyfriend or girlfriend on your first foray into such a family gathering. Heck, I was nervous when Sean introduced me to all 14 of his extended family members. So Sean may have felt a little like Jet Li
marching to his doom.
Sean's first holiday with us was a 4th of July that he decided not to make the trek up the Nor Cal to spend with his family, probably 6 years ago or so. Independence Days get an extra shot of exciting since you add about twenty 5-8 year olds running around with sparklers. We also have some wholesome family traditions like the never-intimidating tug-of-war, and "wagon whomping" which consists of riding a wagon down the flight of stairs from the patio to the lower yard (because we're all so very intelligent). Another favorite of all mothers' blood pressures is the attempts at tipping the bouncy house on its side, one year resulting in its unplugging and rolling end over end down a slope, while 15 screeching kids climbed over one another trying to free themselves from rubber-and-netting suffocation.
You've got the background information. I guided a timid puppy named Sean into my uncle's backyard and watched his large brown eyes widen perceptibly in awe and anxiety and disorientation. The best way to orient Sean is to hand him a Bud Light and I felt I owed him that much so we found the beer cooler.
I assured him it really could be worse. I have a very nice family that completely understands how horrifying it must be to encounter all of them at once, baptism of fire style. Over the years we've welcomed many a boyfriend and girlfriend into the folds, and have only had one notable incident. (My uncle chatting up my cousin's girlfriend about all the reasons why he doesn't understand the concept of tongue rings and thinks they are disgusting, all the while completely unaware that she had one. She didn't make it with us.) And after the initial shock, Sean found his comfort zone within the volleyball tournaments, lighting of illegal firecrackers, and even found some Nor Cal solidarity with one of our more hick traditions:
These days Sean is completely at ease with our gatherings and the chaos that ensues. Once you get used to it, it's all part of the fun. He is always sure to offer his support to a new (and usually cowering) significant other on his/her maiden voyage into the clan. He had to accustom himself to the economy-size family concept anyway: even while just dating I informed him that we'll be having 9 kids minimum. If that doesn't run a guy off then he deserves to be here.
With that, a very happy kickoff of holiday season to you all. I'm just gonna blink a couple times and it'll be Twenty-Thirteen, so I'm trying to savor the flavor of the promise of stuffing that awaits my palate tomorrow. Stuffing only happens once a year, friends. Relish it.