...Not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at...

The Fam

On Saturday, I went to a surprise party for my grandma's 75th birthday. (It just took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to phrase that without it sounding like she's had 75 surprise parties throughout the course of her life. I am tired.) My aunt and uncle had arranged it in a weird, reverse kind of way where my grandma showed up for a "birthday lunch" BEFORE all the guests arrived and then at 3, the guests started trickling in slowly, much to my grandma's extreme surprise (apparently she's never had a birthday party her whole life). There were tons of folks there, folks that I see rarely, except every decade or so for family reunions. And there were folks there from my more inner-circle of family (grandparents and uncles) that I really should see more often but don't.

You see, my family is a massive mess of people not communicating with other people. My mom doesn't talk with my grandma. And in turn, this means she rarely talks to my uncle or aunt or anyone else on that side of the family. My mom also does not talk to my dad (they're divorced). My mom's family rarely talks to me and my sibs as well (out of disjointedness due to their relationships with my mom). My dad does not talk to my mom. My dad's family also no longer talks to my mom. Me and a couple of my sibs haven't talked to my dad in a really long time. And in turn, my dad hasn't talked to us. Nor have any of the family members on my dad's side. So me, my mom, and my three sibs are our own island. And have been for quite some time. We keep in contact with one another fairly religiously, but the family communication stops there.

Don't get me wrong, I love my immediately family with a ferocity that scares me at times. Things have been a mess and ugly on occasion between all of us, but I feel so goddamned blessed to have each and every one of them in my life, despite these stints of ugliness. As cliche as it is, I truly would not be who I am today without them, ugliness and goodness and all.

And yet, I long for big family gatherings. I think fondly back upon when I was little and hordes of relatives would gather on the holidays at someone's house and lavish their warm and silly and, at-times, annoying company on all of us, decked out in lawn-chairs with heaping plates of Hungarian food and good conversation. I miss my grandma yammering on about serial-murderers or some graphic hospital-related event that she witnessed as a nurse over Easter eggs and kielbasa. I miss goofing around with my cousins while our parents lazed about outdoors, downing beers from nearby coolers and complaining about their jobs. I miss the shit outta all this. And I wish my holidays were pulsing with huge amounts of extended family and these kindsa activities again.

Whenever Ms. Mo invites me to dinner or some other event with her ginormous family, afterwards she always apologizes to me for the chaos of this very large, very beautiful, extended family of hers. And she always finds it amusing when I hastily and energetically wave off her apologies, telling her that I *LOVE* the bump and bustle and chaos and confused conversational threads of tons of family-members gathered lovingly over a meal, or sitting around laughing as we taste-test food at little parties her mom arranges, or any variation on the above theme. I love the noise. I love the warmth that emanates from everyone towards one another. I love the craziness. I love the love at these events.

So when my uncle bustled by my chair Saturday at the party (my uncle who I've seen maybe 3 or 4 times in the past 6-8 years) and spontaneously stopped to plant a big fat kiss on the top of my head and tussle my hair with a grin on his face, it ate my heart all up because in that two seconds, in that brief spontaneous burst of affection, I was slam-dunked back into the purely joyful, purely childish appreciation that I had for these events back when I was little. In that slight gesture, I suddenly was that 8-year old girl again, being swept up into the arms of my extremely tall, extremely handsome Al-Pacino-esque actor of an uncle, his bushy beard tickling my face as he harassed me by nuzzling my face and neck with it and pestering me with kisses and teasing words. Drowning in affection and familial love as I squirmed to free myself from his arms while giggling madly and trying to escape his beard.

It was a moment like I'd not had in a long time. And what made it all the more beautiful is that I think he was there too. That this sudden burst of affection from him came from him stepping back into one of those exact moments from some 20+ years earlier. And that he was kind enough to place this moment in my lap, like a carefully wrapped gift, for me to unfold and cherish for myself. That in that moment, we were not the older and wiser uncle awkwardly trying to figure out how to maneuver and interact with this 28-year old woman who IS in fact a woman now and not the child that he used to lavish these adoring moments on--that instead we were ALIVE in that PAST moment, for a split-second, blissfully the fun-loving uncle and the goofbally little girl, sharing each others' warmth and excitement to be there together with one another, to be there together to share all this with family.

Whether or not he realized how much that meant to me at that moment (and chances are, he did not), it was a beautiful gift and meant a lot to me to feel that sort of love again, and I thank my uncle for it. From the bottom of my left ventricle.



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