Never a Dull Moment
Family is everything, especially on 31st Road. Growing up, I could take a two-minute walk down the street to find someone to help escape the clutches of boredom. My mom and two of her sisters all decided to buy houses on the same street. They also happened to all have kids around the same time. So you can’t even begin to imagine, to the dismay of the neighbors, the shenanigans and mischief my cousins and I got ourselves into growing up. But the one thing I want to make clear is that my cousins, although they are technically extended family, are more like siblings to me. We have always been close and will always be close. We scattered in every direction. A few of us in Chicago, some in California, a couple in Florida, and the rest in Tennessee, but we all make sure that we know what’s going on in our lives. And when we get together, there is never a dull moment. I mean, what trumps family?
My favorite vacations always involve family. Thanksgiving in California when we visited my oldest sister while she was pregnant with her second kid. Going to the Dominican Republic for Abuelita’s 100th birthday party. Visiting family in Chicago as a kid and being taken to all the cool spots in the city. But the greatest of all these hits was Christmas 2012. It takes a lot of planning and mental fortitude to get my mom and her five sisters (The Sisters) and their families in one place. Everyone is always busy. Life can get crazy like that, but this year everyone was on a mission. My Abuelo was sick, and we were scared that this was his last Christmas. The Sisters wanted to make this one as memorable as possible. And they did just that.
On some mountain in Tennessee, (Maybe it was a really big hill. What do I know? I’m from Florida.) in the middle of winter, we crammed all 27 of us into this magical cabin. I remember being worried that I wouldn’t be able to have any fun with my cousin. I had torn my ACL, and when this vacation was over I was getting surgery. But then I remembered that my family, although they enjoy adventure and fun, is a group of bums who like to sit on a super comfy couch and do absolutely nothing. It’s awesome. Also, it was waaaaay too cold to go outside. (Again, I’m from Florida. The second it hits 65 degrees the whole state is in jackets and sweats.) Locked in a cabin with family and no end in sight? To some, this sounds like an especially evil version of hell. But we filled the time with board games, catching up, and food. There was enough food to feed a small army. There was never a dull moment. Someone was always telling a story. Stories that we all have heard a million times but were still funny nonetheless. Like the time I got hit by a car. And finding out later, that it was my oldest sister who was driving the car. Or the time my dad decided he didn’t want to take me to the hospital. So instead he took my cast off himself…with a chainsaw. (Child Services if you are reading this, please disregard the previous statement). Or any of the other crazy stories my family has in their back pocket.
Like every big group, my family has its cliques. The Sisters consists of my mom and her sisters, and they talk about family chisme. It’s usually about some cousin or aunt that I didn’t even know existed. The White Uncles gathered in a corner, fend for themselves in a sea of melanin. The Latin Uncles get together, and either brood in a corner (cause they have some past trauma from a world us 2nd generation kids would never understand) or they talk about the Bible and Church for hours. Then you have the Big Kids, which is where I fall. We are the first group of kids that popped out. There are seven of us. Then there are the Little Kids, at the time they were six strong, but some new ones have popped up over the years. The groups mingle and mesh. But since there are so many of us, there is usually always someone in the kitchen cooking. Which means there is at least one group in the kitchen. And there is, at any given time, at least five different conversations going on. And this is where my family is weird, we all, for some reason, cram into one room. Oh, there’s a group in the kitchen? Well, you can bet that everyone is going to make their way into the kitchen. There’s a table for six? We can fit 10 more people on the table. Who needs elbow room?
But what made this Christmas memorable? It was a chance for all of us to see my Abuelo’s legacy. On top of all that he did in his life, I like to think that his greatest achievement was us. The family he loved, and that loved him. This vacation wasn’t just a destination that we went to and explored. It wasn’t about sight-seeing. It was about drinking hot chocolate in a room filled with people that you love. It was about reminiscing the good times and laughing at all the embarrassing dirt we have on each other. It was a vacation, sure. But more than anything, it was a reminder that family, my family, is never dull. And without them, I don’t know where I would be today. And for that, I will always be grateful.
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Jose-Andres Alegria is an intern at Family Bridges who does whatever the boss tells him to do, but if he can’t be found it usually means that his face is buried in a book somewhere or that he is taking a nap and you should come back later when he’s not “busy”.
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