But the real destination yesterday was my aunt's house for a dinner with seven of my cousins and their families. Quite the crowd, you might be thinking. But I'll remind you that the eight of us are merely a third of our generation in our large, crazy family. We've been sharing holiday dinners in that house since I was a small child, and I swear there have always--ALWAYS--been a passel of small children running through the rooms. This might have something to do with the fact that there are 24 years between the oldest and youngest cousins in our generation. My cousin Ben (who turns 31 today) is a mere 16 months older than my oldest nephew. And at one point last night, a couple of the little ones, who are second cousins to each other and to my children, ran through the living room, looked straight at my single daughters and said, "Excuse us, parents," which cracked up the room, and gave E and SK scare. I think they felt like they should run to the bathroom to check for gray hairs on the spot!
For me, though, the night was all about the connection I feel with that group of people whom I share genes with. They're 'our people', as one cousin reminded us. My grandmother drilled that phrase firmly into our skulls--that the world was divided neatly and clearly into 'them' and 'us'. When we get together, the old stories come out.
But...it's also true that though we are family, we have many differences. Significant differences. I was shocked last night to realize--again--how deep those differences run. How little they really get me. At one point we were talking about a conversation I had with Grandmomie when I was in college, and I spoke of having been very innocent at that age. There was a loud burst of disavowal in the room, and one cousin even said, "Yeah, and who's the one who went to India with her boyfriend?" Really? REALLY? One of my girls tried to say, "But that was a mission," and nobody seemed to even hear. They see the world from within their own worldview and that colors everything.
What is so funny (as in sad, not even remotely funny) is how long I've been both praying for them and aiming to 'be' Christ in the midst of my cousins. When I was in my teens and a young believer, I tried both the 'in-your-face' method of sharing Christ with them, which didn't reap much harvest, and many more subtle approaches. I remember being at our cabin at Whidbey Island and intentionally reading my Bible late into the night. I was certain one of my relatives would come into the bunk room and ask me about it. However, day after day I awakened with my face pressed into my open Bible. No conversations ever resulted from my machinations. NOT a ONE. At some point along the way I stopped. Stopped the straight on, stopped the sideways, stopped the every-which-way attempts to 'save' my family. I placed them in God's hands and began to enjoy them for who they are. Sure, I miss who they might be, who they could be. See, they're all very smart, well-educated, interesting people...with whom I have these simple things in common. Things like blood and family. Things like 'our people' and 'us' that will only last until the dust settles, after all.
While these days last, I'll enjoy my kith and kin (whatever that means), and be glad that we have what we have together. It's enough. For the rest? Spiritual kith and kin for the meat I need when laughing stops. And prayer that one day 'our people' will be both.