I realize that there are a LOT of people who thrive on "family." To them, "Family" doesn't just mean "the people you happen to be related to, either by blood, marriage, or other misfortune"... it means apple pie, Patriotism, Jesus, Mom, and spending every waking minute of your life up each other's butts.
Which is FINE, if that's what makes you happy.
To other people (like ME, for instance), family is more loosely interpreted as "people who kind of look like me and share similar DNA." I grew up with a total of 4 cousins, 2 aunts, 2 uncles, 1 grandmother, 1 grandfather, and a Madrinha. ("Madrinha," which translates to "godmother" in Portuguese, was a woman whose relationship to my grandmother I've never been quite sure of; what I DO know is they were both French, both obstinate, both opinionated, and she was at every family gathering and always brought those horrible chocolate and caramel See's suckers for us. I mean, really... if you're going to take the time to go to See's, please bring buttercreams. Am I right?) I thought Madrinha was her name for the first 5 years of my life, but eventually figured out that's just what we called her. To this day, I have no idea why.
Anyway, we saw the relatives on holidays and occasionally for Sunday dinner a few times a year. I adored my grandparents and aunts and uncles, tolerated my cousins, who were somewhat younger than me (and mostly boys), but never actually thought about their presence (or lack of) in my life. It was what it was; holidays meant relatives and the rest of the time we were perfectly content just knowing they were out there somewhere.
After I grew up and got married and moved away (which is what you're SUPPOSED TO DO when you grow up, right???) it was difficult to not see my sister and nieces as much as I wanted and I missed not being able to be a part of all of their milestones, but it didn't seem ODD to me. I mean, family doesn't have to live in your backyard in order to appreciate them and love them and stay close to them... or so I've alway believed. My kids spent summers at grandma's house getting to play with their cousins, we kept in touch and I love my nieces as much as I would if I had seen them every day.
And then I met Dan.
We have what you might call "A Mixed Marriage."
He grew up in a small, small, SMALL town in Northern New York with FIFTY-TWO first cousins, 98% of which lived within 10 miles of him, SIXTEEN aunts and uncles, various great aunts and uncles, second, third, fourth, fifth, seventy-fifth cousins, blah blah blah... and they all spent as much time as possible together and LOVED IT. Every summer they have Annual Reunions, on BOTH sides of the family, and hundreds (THOUSANDS) of relatives show up, bearing casserole dishes and beer, to celebrate the joy of being related and living in the same damn town their entire lives, forever and ever, amen.
This is Dan's perception of "family."
I don't get it.
I don't WANT to spend every waking minute with my relatives. Nothing against them, I think they're awesome and wonderful and interesting and intelligent and creative and I'm very proud of all of their accomplishments. I wish I could see them more often, or even at all, because I truly love being related to these people and miss being a part of their lives. But if I lived in the same town, I'm pretty sure I still wouldn't see them every week, or even every month... because we all have other things to do. Ya know? I mean, heck... I lived NEXT DOOR to my mother for a year with my three kids and my husband and literally saw her maybe once a month.
Dan, on the other hand, has a family who wants him living in their basement for the rest of his life. If we discuss going out to dinner, the FIRST THING HE DOES is pick up the phone and call his mom and invite his parents and their grandkids (who live with them) to come along, too.
One of my favorite things to say to him, when he claims I'm "exaggerating", is "Remember the time we went on our HONEYMOON and you invited your parents?" Because yeah... THAT HAPPENED.
And they came.
My hesitation in including everyone he's related to in every single thing we do is often misconstrued as "You HATE my family!"
No, not at all. I love your family. I love MY family MORE. BUT I DON'T FEEL THE NEED TO BE WITH THEM 24/7 IN ORDER TO EXPRESS MY LOVE AND DEVOTION.
Hell, I don't want to be with my HUSBAND 24/7.
So yeah, now that we live in the same state in the same county, it's like we're all joined at the gd hip.
I want to sever it.
Dan doesn't get it.
Sometimes I think it would be easier if Dan just moved in with his parents and I went and visited once a month or so...