It’s ironic that I am obsessed with shows about big families: The Cosby Show, Parenthood, Brothers & Sisters, etc., but in reality when I get together with my husband’s huge family I am instantly overwhelmed. Growing up, it was always just me, my parents and sister — we rarely hung out with extended family, and almost never in a big group. On vacations, my family’s idea of “together time” was to each read a book in a separate room of the rented cabin. When Joel and I got married, I told him I’d be happy with a 50 person guest list, and he just straight out laughed in my face, and I learned my first (of many!) lesson about joining a Haitian family. Our wedding had close to 180 guests, and I’m so glad I adhered to his list, as it was the most fun I have ever had in my entire life.
Christmas is a big deal in his family, and for the past 3 years we have been unable to attend, as flights to the East Coast skyrocket at this time of the year. It is only by the generousity of his family members that we are here this year, and I am incredibly grateful to be all together, especially since it is the first time in 7 years we have managed to do it. A lot has happened in that time — the children have become amazing young adults, and have been replaced by a new generation of little ones, my daughter the youngest of the bunch. So, it is sweet and special for all of us to experience one another’s company, but it is also so foreign to me that I can only handle about an hour of it at a time before I have to go hide. For instance, right now everyone is watching a movie together, and I am up here, blogging while Olive takes a nap on my chest. I could put her down, but I tried that before and she woke up, totally freaked out to be in a new place all by herself. So here she stays, and I have an excuse to feed my introvert with some alone time.
There are 18 people staying in this house, and in 2 days we are going to meet up with about 16 more in New Jersey, at which point my brain will probably explode. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly excited to see every single person I’m visiting with. But as I do unfathomably better one-on-one, I wish I could have “office hours” with each of them, connecting on an incredibly deep level or just laughing together, as long as the number of people in the room never exceeded 4. In fact, my favorite Christmas moment so far was on the way over, when, once Joel & Olive rightly fell asleep since we caught a very early morning flight, I got to watch the sun rise at 75,000 feet and meditate on the incarnation. Oh, and of course read my Vogue magazine that I’d been saving.
Of course, Olive loves the huge crowd, and that makes every second worth it. She has decided that our 17 year old nephew is her absolute favorite person, and much to his chagrin, she climbs in his lap whenever she can. I don’t think he’d mind except for that fact that everyone then fawns over it and takes a ton of photos. Joel and I often reflect on how funny it is that these two weirdo-introvert-artists had this little sunbeam of an extroverted child. On the flight over, naturally she made friends with every stranger she could, literally inserting herself in family reunion hugs at baggage claim. I guess it beats being the kid everyone is hoping will just get off the damn plane already (there was a howler on the way over, but thank God, it wasn’t Olive), but it means Joel & I have to have a lot of strange small-talk conversations with strangers. I’m actually getting kind of good at it. The trick is to actually let yourself care about the woman who wants to tell you the whole history of the rescue dog she’s taking with her on the plane all the way to Boston, and to get really invested in the story of why another lady chose to wear bell-shaped earrings and bracelets that make her look like a walking Christmas tree. Joel made friends with the nun from the Church of Latter Day Saints (did you know they had Sisters? It was news to me) and it paid off in her being so sweet to all of us the whole way there.
Anyway, we are having a blast, especially since I know when I am reaching my people limit and need to go hide in the bathroom or something. It’s way too damn cold to go for a walk, so sitting on the edge of the tub with a good book (have y’all read Mindy Kaling’s memoir? It’s HI-larious) will have to suffice. Now it is time for me to stuff my face with delicious Carribean-New Englander food. Merry day after Christmas!