I come from a huge family. Now, when I say “huge” I don’t mean I have a few siblings. I mean, I have 2 siblings and 40 cousins, all in my hometown. Growing up, Sunday dinners and monthly birthday celebrations were a big deal, usually taking up an entire day.
Now, the more people I meet, the more I realize that more often than not, this is a strange concept. It is hard to fully understand what the phrase “I have a big family” really entails (though the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding was pretty spot-on) and often when I’m telling stories of my family, those who listen think I’m joking.
I’m not. To those of you who also come from a massive family, I hope you laugh and enjoy this list of basic shenanigans that go on regularly.
1. Everyone lives with their noses in everyone else’s business. Big families love to know what’s going on in each other’s lives – Dan loves his job but doesn’t really like his boss; Meg says she’s not dating that trainer friend but why not he’s cute and she’s always texting him; Ryan’s graduation is coming up and we’re all so proud; why did Amanda have to learn the biggest instrument there is it won’t even fit in my car; etc. Whenever the family get together, inevitably there will be lots of gossip and catching up.
2. You can pretty much guarantee that all the grandparents will be proud of you and talk about how wonderful your latest achievements are. Whether it’s starting or finishing college, starting a new job, studying abroad, or staying home and having a baby, the grandparents are always so happy to see what you’re doing with your life. You are the legacy they leave behind, so of course they love hearing all about your latest adventures.
3. No matter what your’e failing or struggling or succeeding to do, your family will be there to support you. Now, I’m studying in Italy, and while nobody in my family approves of a single cousin leaving my hometown (there’s a reason there are 40 of us still there), they always love to hear about my studies and what I intend to do in the long-run. Those cousins who are at low points and have no direction? The grandparents still are encouraging and ready to give their full support in whatever is going on.
4. Your family dinners are so much more hilarious than a sitcom. The family has divided into three or four groups located in different rooms. The first group is ganging up on one cousin who had just messaged her trainer/dietitian, insisting that she must be dating him, and if she’s not then she should be. The second group includes the wine experts, all tasting the various red wines and discussing which ones are their favorites. In the bedroom, the third group is watching as two cousins sew eyes onto a pom-pom to create a decoration for the bedroom, while the 84 year old grandmother gets on the ladder to place said creatures on a ledge by the ceiling.
The fourth group is the kids, who are not so interested in the antics of the adults and go off and play games, watch TV, or just hang out. Meanwhile all the family cooks (usually the grandmothers are over by the food, tasting and critiquing and nagging each other with a “whoever made the rice did a bad job it’s way too dry” and “sorry for this bread it’s the worst batch I’ve ever made” and, of course, “do we really need 3 cakes, cupcakes, brownies, and cream puffs? I told you not to make so many desserts!”
5. Story time is when everyone gets out the most embarrassing stories they can muster, and it becomes a contest to see who can make everyone laugh the hardest. Being the younger generation has it’s advantages. You hear about the time your grandfather and his brother went fishing and one’s pole got hooked on the other’s jacket and they both ended up toppling into the water.
Or how your first cousin used to hide toy spiders around your grandparent’s house to scare your grandmother, and ended up marring a woman who would hide toy bugs to scare him. Or that time your first cousins, who were older and wiser than you, decided to sit you on a leather seat cushion and push you down carpeted stairs and you ended up slamming into the wall at high speed. Or the time……
6. It’s all about the food. Every second of every day revolves around food, and if there’s not twice as much food as people everyone starts to panic that there isn’t enough food. The grandparents always say you’re too skinny and need to eat up, while the cousins take a tiny bite and then talk about their latest diet. Those who cook the meal are in a seat of honor, and while the grandmothers complain about each other’s food, they will always compliment anyone else’s, though it doesn’t matter who makes the food because it is always amazing. So you go to someone’s house for “dinner” at 2:00 pm and head home around 8:00pm after eating all afternoon.
7. If it’s an extra special day, or everyone is in a particularly jolly mood, there may be some singing. After all, there are a couple cousins who play music and sing and they play together as if they’re one person, improvising songs about the family with lyrics that have everyone laughing until they can’t breathe.
While you may be overwhelmed by the family, you wouldn’t trade them for the world. Because, who wouldn’t want to live in a sit com?