Friday, March 29, 2013

Scattered Families

I'm always a little sad that whatever kids Ed and I have will never be surrounded by a large family, since everyone is so scattered. Justin and I were lucky when we were growing up; both sets of grandparents lived within a 30 minute drive. We had them for a long time: Two of my grandparents died almost exactly a year apart, when I was in high school; the other two died six weeks apart when I was in my early 30s.

But my father is an only child, and my mother is older than her sister and brother (by nine and 13 years, respectively); my mother married relatively young, and my aunt and uncle were around 30 - the result being that I'm 16 years older than my oldest first cousin, who's now 21. I have two more 19-year-old first cousins now, who were born a month apart: One just graduated from college, and her brother is currently enrolled in college as well.

Because we're all in such different stages of life, my family is scattered: Justin and Cheng are in California (having moved there more than 15 years ago in Justin's case, and an indeterminate number of years for Cheng, who came to San Francisco for grad school); my retired parents are in eastern Pennsylvania, where they've lived for decades; my aunts and uncles live in upstate New York and Virginia due to doctoral studies and careers; my cousins live in Boston or Los Angeles (because of college), and upstate New York. Extended family live in Pennsylvania and Ireland. We're all at different stages in our lives, with folks not being able to travel for holidays because of jobs and the financial cost of traveling - and the time it takes to travel longer distances.

Ed's family is just as scattered: His father lives in Massachusetts; he has cousins and aunts (and an uncle) who live in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, and Greece.

We're hardly centrally located, because there is no centrality.

I was thinking of this earlier this morning while at my tutoring gig, when a (young) tutor asked if I was going to be seeing my family this weekend. There's the assumption that of course I would be celebrating Easter (which I am), but there's a persistent assumption, especially by younger folks who are LDS, who have never lived anywhere else, and who are surrounded by their large family, and the assumption that if I don't have a large family, that I must of course be surrounded by my family.

But, of  course, when I was still in high school and in my early 20s, I assumed the same thing, because I had been surrounded by a large family well; I grew up with large Easter and Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with seemingly dozens of my father's aunts and uncles and cousins around. Those older relatives have died by now; my dad wasn't especially good, or interested, at keeping in touch with cousins who tended to be a bit on the boozy side anyway. And those cousins, who are around my father's age, have their own families with which to spend their holidays. But I still miss being part of a large family that gathers for the holidays - that is able to gather for the holidays.

Folks here tend to travel less, traveling internationally less, and tend not to move out of Utah as much. Utah is nothing if not insular, both geographically and culturally. It leads to seeing your family, but also at the expense of having different experiences, although living elsewhere, for whatever the reason, can come at the expense of spending every single holiday with one's family. One is not necessarily better, and one doesn't always have the choice.

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