A few months ago a save the date from a cousin I hadn’t seen in a decade plus showed up in my mailbox. The wedding was to be in Boston, a city I’d never visited, in June. Andrew and I had been looking for a reason to visit Boston and after a few coordination texts sent to a cousin I have seen in the last decade, we decided to go.
I don’t talk about family much, mostly because mine often feels broken and the lacking relationships I have with my parents are hard to talk about and more times than not, I feel like I don’t have much of a family and so, when that save the date showed up in my mailbox it felt like a ladder, providing a way up and out of the hole I’d dug for myself and labeled The Hole of Shitty Family Shit.
We booked our flights, reserved our rooms, and when the invitation came, we sent off our RSVP card and I jumped on Amazon to buy a Boston guidebook. Andrew schemed with my recently-seen cousin‘s husband to get tickets to a Red Sox game and when we learned they’d be playing the Detroit Tigers (Andrew hails from the Detroit metropolitan area) it all seemed just a little bit perfect.
But then I got nervous. I didn’t want to be the asshole not recognizing my own family and then there was a chance my dad, who I haven’t seen since I got married the first time in 2006, who has never met my husband of four and half years, was going to be there and I was immediately inundated with terrifying images of the most awkward reunion of all time.
I swallowed it down, gulped it away, put on my big girl panties and got myself to Boston on Thursday morning. I was excited, as I always am to see a new city, but under all that the anxiety still loomed. I learned my dad wasn’t coming, which was okay, but that the rest of my dad’s five brothers would be there, including one I hadn’t seen in 20 or so years.
Sunday it was time for the Welcome Breakfast and I got flustered. Andrew and I went in alone and there were a few awkward and terrifying moments when I just could not muster up the energy to introduce myself to my family because I was desperately afraid of screwing up names or making a general ass out of myself and then my aunt, the mother of the bride, introduced herself and then the hugs started and she seemed genuinely happy to see me and started introducing me to everyone and then I realized that – FUCKING DUH – it’s totally okay not to recognize your family if you haven’t seen them in a decade because hey, guess what? They won’t recognize you either you dumb shit.
Andrew and I hit a seafood shack called the Barking Crab for beers, a snack and a few games of Fluxx before getting ready for the wedding and by the time we showed up at the cathedral I felt comfortable enough to introduce myself to the uncle I hadn’t seen since a family reunion that took place when I was 7 and spent a full half of dinner each night hiding under a table with a cousin eating the sugar from sugar packets and we immediately hit it off, sharing stores about our huskies and our general love of dogs.
The ceremony was beautiful, as was my cousin, the bride. By the time we got to the reception all the fear I’d had about reconnecting with my family dissipated as aunts and uncles and cousins came up and introduced themselves and as I made sideways glances at people who look a little like me and as I found myself sharing parts of myself with people I hadn’t seen in a really long time.
And then I said, for the second time in a month, that these are my people.
These people, related to me by blood, are the people I can have long talks about husky dogs with, are the people who I haven’t seen in years but who step up to me and say, quietly, “nice blog,” leaving me momentarily flustered and honored. These people include the aunt who hugged me, told me she’s proud of me and that she thinks about me often, even if it’s been ten years since our last meeting. They’re the people who pull me and my husband, who they’ve never met, into the fold immediately, who congratulate me on a graduation I didn’t even have to mention, who question and congratulate Andrew on his upcoming flight school adventure. These people are my people.
There are heaps of realizations involved in this experience, first and foremost that even when I feel alone, I’m not, that even if I’m out of sight, I’m not out of mind and that while I’m thinking of and missing my family, they’re thinking of and missing me too, that I’m not nearly as forgotten as I assume myself to be and that even when I feel separate from the Gatti clan, I’m still part of it, still a member, no matter how limited my attendance at family events has been over the years.
At the end, it feels good to have found another tribe I belong to and I’m eternally thankful that my cousin slipped that save the date in the mail and invited me not just to her wedding, but back into the fold as well.