Sunday, June 14, 2009

Alice's Palace - Extended Family Love

Many families today just don't embrace, or know their extended families. I'm always shocked when I hear kids talk about a grandparent they have only met once or twice in their lives, yet their grandparents are still alive and well.

Growing up, events involving extended family were always something I looked forward to, thoroughly enjoyed, and are my most cherished childhood memories.

Gandmother Alice went to great lengths to make sure her children, and her children's children understood and appreciated what an incredible gift we all are to each other. I am the youngest of Alice's 18 grandchildren; ranging in age from 45 to 56. My father's three sisters are all special to me, each for unique reasons. Their children are just as much my friends as they are my cousins.

Alice criss-crossed the country for graduations, weddings, births, tragedies and celebrations.

Alice was happy anytime more than one of her chicks were in her presence. Her gift to us each year was a week at the beach for a family reunion. Those summer days on the ocean's edge were the highlights of my childhood. I even planned my wedding around the date of the reunion so more of my family could be there.

With time, our reunion came to be known as "Alice's Palace" we have t-shirts, jackets and visors, all imprinted with Alice's Palace, and wear them proudly. The block we stay on for that week, knows our group well!

To this day, if anyone mentions Alice Palace, we all know whatever they are referring to has something to do with family presence, food, drink and fun.

Yesterday, I spent the day enjoying a 'satellite' version of Alice's Palace on my cousin's river deck. In Alice's memory, and in celebration of numerous family birthdays, accomplishments and good news, we gathered:

  • All four of Alice's children: aged 76 to 86
  • Eight of Alice's grandchildren (plus spouses)
  • Twelve of Alice's great grandchildren (plus spouses)
  • Three of Alice's great, great grandchildren
  • One great grandchild attending via proxy of his mom: (due in October)

Plus assorted close family friends.

Seeing my children enjoying their cousins company, interacting with my dad's siblings, helping and playing with cousins babies and overall having a good time, all in the company of family had me beaming and grinning all day. It's better than any material thing my children could ever give me.

My teenagers were generous with their time and their presence; they obviously enjoyed being in the presence of their extended family and my family enjoyed their presence.

As I walked down the stairs the melody of happy voices interacting, sparked with laughter and hugs and "oh mys" filled my very being with happiness. Looking down and witnessing all of this, I knew in my heart, so too was Alice's presence among us.

I knew Alice was right there with us, teasing, joking, eating, laughing and loving. The reason we were were all assembled was the same reason we gather annually together on the beach, the same reason we toast Alice at every family event.

Alice, in her wisdom, loved us enough to make certain we knew and appreciated the joys of both giving and receiving..... family love.

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