Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fam Fam Fam

There are some moments in time that just make you want to smile and say "thank you Jesus!"

My weekend was filled with moments like that.

It all began on Friday when, despite the rain storm that pelted down on the St. Louis area and the evacuation to the basement, the promise was awaiting. My husband and I hosted some out-of-town relatives for Harris-Stowe State University's dinner theatre production of "Having Our Say." It was beyond believable the performance of the two actresses. The evening was made even more special to have my family members and my husband's family and friends join us! We all laughed and cried at the bantering of the "Delaney Sisters." That night was the kickoff for the family celebration.

Friday night filled my heart with anticipation as I went to find my cousins. There were people I hadn't seen since I was a little girl! The metro area was filled with Fosters, Allens, Jameses from all over - Chicago, Louisiana, Ohio, Mississippi, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, California, even London! The suites were filled with every color of the rainbow of this mixed box of chocolates family. I basked in the glow of my beautiful cousin who is one of the new generation elders. Her curly, flowing white hair graced her shoulders with a confidence that comes with being sure of yourself. I watched the admiration of her younger brother and younger sister as she shared her life of remodeling a bed & breakfast. It was glorious.

Saturday met me with a hungry stomach and a lobby full of cousins! One of my "big brother cousins" and I engaged in a deep, political discussion in light of Senator Obama's nomination. We talked about our hopes and dreams from our perspective generations - he is 56 and I am 44. Hope rang out as his 39-year-old nephew offered different scenarios for the future.

We were all somewhat oblivious of the St. Louis heat as we descended in waves on Forest Park. The elder cousins - brothers - were testing out their grilling techniques in this 50-year tradition. It was something to see with the straw hats and the smoke swirling around their tanning faces. The elder brother, the priest, was holding court under the awning as he listened to the sounds gathered in his honor - his jubilee in the priesthood is what brought out young and old.

The party never ends when you have family ranging in age from fresh-out-the-pot to older than sunrise. Every member could mix and mingle with infectious laughter. There were tears of joy and shouts of laughter. Reminisces and reminders filled the day. Then the chatting never ended as an entourage descended on the Central West End to celebrate a cousin's birthday.

Even in the midst of sadness, there was joy. One of the dear aunts is losing her battle with aggressive cancer and the family surrounded her with thoughts of love. A few of the cousins formed a caravan out to her house. A hand reached out to touch the shoulder of her only child, kiss her brow, and gently watch as love filled her space. Three generations of family men embraced as they silently exchanged glances at the woman they all loved. Family connected.

Love is something that has been apparent in all the branches of my family. The tree is massive and I gave up trying to connect everyone. One of my cousins from California told me to just introduce myself as "Dali's little sister" since that's how a lot of the elder ones remember me. It made me laugh a little that at 44, I am still counted among the younger set.

It was the youngsters and the future that really filled me with joy this weekend. I watched my four-year-old daughter connect with a four-year-old cousin. The two were like white and dark chocolate melting in the sun, kicking off their sandals to run in the grass. They held hands and declared their undying affection for "my new cousin."

The teenagers listened to music, sat around and watched the old people act like young people with giggles and gossip. Eyes were sparkling and hugs were unending. The dancing, card playing, badminton, and eating continued until the park closed. Everyone wanted to stay right there in that moment with no worries.

Sunday came too fast as much anticipation filled the hearts. Father Philip Allen was being honored in a special mass to celebrate his Jubilee. The mass with elder and younger brother serving was joyous. This was history being recorded.

This family loves to be together. We jetted to Cardinal Ritter Prep for more festivities including a photo montage and short recollections. I was honored to sit next to Sister Antona Ebo, FSM. She was my mother's friend and I am named for her. We shared laughter and hugs. I was able to just bask in my living legacy.

My heart is filled with the promise of hope. My family has many branches and continues to grow. We learned more about our history and the ties that connect us. No one wanted to leave, the smiles were genuine and the laughter was the melody.

I spent the night hanging out until my eyes threatened to shut on their own. We all descended into the room of a couple cousins and held court for "grand central station" as the door kept opening to bring new faces. The stories of growing up in St. Louis made me laugh until my sides hurt. There is a certain freedom that just lets you put your feet up, take your hair down, and be a kid when you are with siblings and cousins. We were all grown up with kids (and some grandkids) of our own but you'd think the room was filled with a bunch of laughing teenagers!

These are turbulent times with rising gas prices and food becoming impossible to afford. The economy is tanking and the war is raging on...but for this family and this exciting weekend, we didn't think about that. Most of us have been behind Senator Barack Obama from the very beginning and are filled with the possibility of a bright future. We all embraced and perhaps changed a little this weekend. Gas prices and food prices and the war didn't prevent us from loving each other. We had the rarest and most priceless possession - each other.

I cherish my family and am truly home.

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