There were 37 of us in all, five generations emanating from my grandparents, the newest arrival (and only member of the 5th generation) making the scene just 11 days ago. My grandparents, both in their 80s, didn't know we were all going to be there, made to believe only my Mom and Uncle would be making the trek from Southern California. But there we all were, clustered by the door of the church reception room to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary when they arrived. They don't see too well any longer, so only registered our attendance one at a time as they hugged us through their tears. Not a single eye in the room got through the moment without shedding a few.
Family is a curious thing. I didn't grow up with many of my cousins--the two who live in LA being the exception--and rarely see them more than once every couple of years. We live fairly disparate lives, country versus city, hunting and fishing versus poker and writing, but when we get together, it's like we've never been apart, as if we've shared every experience.
Such is the reason you'd have found a handful of us closing down Al Hrabowsky's (The Mad Hungarian!) bar near the new Busch Stadium on Saturday night (and may or may not have found us--reports are still fuzzy--at a certain after-hours Centreville establishment that may or may not feature adult entertainment, but, if pressed, you certainly didn't hear it from me). Such is the reason you'd have found me (age 38), my uncle (age 51) and two cousins (aged 34 and 29) cowering behind the dumpster in the far reaches of the church parking lot, hiding from Grandma who'd be mortified--and none too silent about her displeasure--to see her kin smoking at church. Such is the reason you'd find a crowd of people in the garage of my cousin Dona Sue's (that's right, Dona Sue) house, telling tales on each other and throwing back St. Louis's finest ales (Bud, Bud Select, Busch) as our kids ran around in the snow, laughing and pelting each other with crude snowballs. Such is the reason you'd have found us all in Church on Sunday morning, some of us (cough*Brad*cough) still reeking of the previous evening's revelry, shooting each other knowing, smiling looks when the preacher hit a particularly appropriate note about our current condition and sinful excursions. Such is the reason you'd have found the whole crew, five generations all, crowded around a couple TVs, all of us rooting for the Steelers, simply because it's my cousin Paul's favorite team (and because Mike Vanderjagt is a dick).
Such is the reason that, despite the cold, the rigors of traveling in large groups with small children and time away from the poker machine, I immediately miss them all when I leave.