My mom came from a family of three kids. Her mom came from a family of ten kids. My grandpa also came from a large family. Needless to say, we had some pretty good sized family reunions when I was a kid. I can remember having picnics that filled an entire forest preserve. On Meka’s side, her dad comes from a family with four kids and her mom – I think – has eight or so. We’ve gone to a couple of family reunions that are pretty good sized.
Compared to past generations, Meka’s and my generation is pretty small. I only had one brother. Meka only had one brother. Each of my aunts only had two kids a piece. However, with marriages and re-marriages, we ended up with large stepfamilies. For awhile, I was the middle of five kids and stepkids. Now, I think, I’m third out of seven (eight, if you count my brother). That brought up another twist to the family tree. When my brother was killed, his fiancee Amy was “adopted” into our family. So, I lost a brother, gained a sister and a whole new set of relations.
As you can imagine, this creates some confusion. With large generations, there were problems with “blur”; the youngest of one generation melded into the oldest of the next generation. In my generation, we didn’t have that problem as much, but we had all the non-traditional family elements to deal with. When I was a kid, meeting someone at the family picnic for the first time, I had a couple of rules that made it all much easier to manage.
If they were significantly older than me, they were “aunt” or “uncle”.
If they were around my age then they were “cousin”.
While Daniel’s generation is downright sparse, we’ve made sure that he does realize he has a lot of relatives. We travel for Christmas and Easter (sometimes). We’ve gone to the Staff family reunions (Meka’s great great grandparents) in Wisconsin. Last summer we drove to Indiana for my great aunt’s 90th birthday. Daniel met lots of cousins and aunts and uncles… of which none were technically cousins or aunts or uncles. Heck, some of them weren’t even really related; I think they just showed up for a good party.
I got a call last Friday. Generally I don’t answer our home phone during the day (I am technically “at work”). But I saw the caller ID; the call was from Michigan and we were expecting some news. Sure enough, Meka’s brother Mikal and his wife had a beautiful baby girl around noon. My brother died before he had children. Chandra had a little girl when she and Mikal were married, but this was Daniel’s first official cousin. I was happy for them. Meka was ecstatic. When we told Daniel that he finally had a cousin, he was distinctly underwhelmed. He couldn’t understand why we thought it was such a big deal.
“I already have cousins!”