I have a big family. (That’s Catholicism for you.) Each of my parents has five siblings; I grew up with twenty-five first cousins. Now that most of us are grown and some are married, there are nearly three dozen of us in my generation. There are nine kids in the next generation already, and two current pregnancies.
Every time I talk to my grandmother she says I’ll be next.
Although there are so many of us cousins, and although we all grew up together in a laughing, tumbling mix of birthday parties (it was always someone’s birthday) and embarrassing stories about our aunts and uncles, we’re not really close as adults. A lot of us have moved away from the Ancestral Home, and we’re all busy with our own lives. We’re Facebook friends, we congratulate each other on weddings and the births of children, and we madly send emails before family gatherings so we can keep track of who’s going to show up, but that’s about the extent of it. It feels like a loss — and one of the only things wrong with living where I currently live. But I’m so grateful to have had the growing-up experience I did.
Most of all I’m grateful for my aunts and uncles. Growing up, I felt like I had ten extra sets of slightly cooler parents that I could always go to for anything I needed. I’ve slept on their couches, gone to them for advice about everything from oil changes to sexual harassment, and had heated discussions about literature, relationships, and…the proper composition of three-bean salad.
I always felt like we were a great big close family.
But some things, apparently, were not up for discussion.
Like … oh, just for instance … infertility.