I come from a big family. I have 3 sisters and 1 brother. My mom had 9 brothers and sisters and there are 36 first cousins. For the past 17 years we have rented a large 50 person cabin and have enjoyed 4 fun filled days. It is not uncommon to have the Manning blues” when you get back home and away from all the chaos. This year we had one of my mom’s cousins visiting from Italy for the past month and she got the opportunity to come up to Manning this year. A spry mid 70 year old who participated in all family activities, even learning to throw a frisbee.
The significant part of all this, is what she said as she was leaving. She said that she finally got it, she finally understood why her uncle wanted a large family, why he moved to Canada and didn’t care to pursue material wealth. I asked for more of an explanation because I didn’t know much about this Italian relative. I knew that all my relatives in Italy only ever had one child, if any at all, so I knew she came from a small family. My aunt and uncle then told me that she came from a pretty affluent life back in Italy, her father and her husband had spent a lot of time trying to build wealth and security. They had put money before family and now this woman had experienced first hand what she sacrificed when she put career and money before raising a family.
I felt bad for her as she drove away. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that I had the same mindset as her. Even though my immediate family is not very large, I still saw the financial hardships that came with having a lot of kids. I.e we drove and camped when they took us to Disneyland, instead of doing the traditional flight and hotel. As a teenager, I was determined to not make the same mistakes my parents did. I was going to get a good job, have 2.1 kids, live in a nice big house and go on extravagant vacations. It didn’t even cross my mind that perhaps my parents were right and I was so very wrong.
This is the beauty of Manning. I too had the same experience that this cousin from Italy has had. I finally realized that the “highlight of the year” would not have been possible, if my grandparents didn’t have 10 children. I finally was looking through the eyes of someone with the glass half full instead of half empty. My best friends are my siblings and cousins and I am so blessed that we are such a close knit family. Sure, we have our ups and downs, as all families do, but there is no better feeling knowing that I have a ton of people who have my back. That there will always be someone there for me.
My baby sister has a favourite line from a Disney’s Lilo and Stitch that fits in so well here. “Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind.”