My husband comes from a grand, boisterous family, and I completely love them. One of the litmus tests when gambling your heart on a second marriage is how well your partner can merge with your family—as we get older, we realize how incredibly important a mark this is, and how far-ranging the effects are if we miss it.
Jon is one of seven siblings, and they are close, dramatic, funny, loud, irreverent, sincere and ridiculously welcoming and loving. My children and I were folded in seamlessly, even before our sealing, and in the years since, it’s as though we’ve always been here. It’s kind of awe-inspiring to feel so completely loved and at at home.
Jon’s youngest sister (at 8 months pregnant with #3) and her husband championed the planning of the reunion this summer—a massive undertaking for seven siblings, their spouses, a dozen-plus children, and far flung lives. This was the first time all seven kids and their parents would be together in more than a decade. Everyone was all-in, and despite the herculean effort required to make all the spinning plates of so many lives line up, it was totally worth it.
A cabin was reserved in the wilds of Southeastern Utah, and while the kids wailed initially at the promise of no wifi, no cell signal, and no internet, not a single one of them cried boredom all week. With fifteen cousins, a dog, a reservoir, two ATVs, kayaks, paddle boards, a dozen aunts and uncles, birthday celebrations, fire-pits, s’mores over open flames at midnight, telescopes for seeing the rings around Saturn, tie-dye parties, outdoor cookouts, homemade ice cream, and trips to a wave pool, no one ran out of anything. It was an embarrassment of riches.
I was worried at first about Bean in a house with so many people, but it turned out my fretting was for nothing. He managed with grace and a level of maturity that surprised me. All week, not one meltdown. Jon taught him to ride the ATV, and his obvious joy at having that level of responsibility and also independence was beautiful to witness. He would take off with Jeff through the dirt paths of the mountain and come back bug-bitten and filthy, but radiantly happy.
Each of the kids got one-on-one time with their grandparents, and we had family history lessons, quiet time for visiting and reading, and just enjoyed the conversations that can only naturally happen when the margins of the day are wide, and people are relaxed.
We celebrated my father-in-law’s birthday and the other summer birthdays, but this gleeful rendition of Happy Birthday gives a solid sense of the general tenor of the family:
Throughout the week, I found myself deeply touched at being able to call this extended family my own. My San Francisco family is so much like this; we, too, are big and bold. We, too, laugh loudly and share our opinions with gusto. We, too, are a raucous group who might make more reserved people feel a little shy. For me, it’s truly coming home. These are as much my people as my family of birth.
When Jon and I married our lives forever, we weren’t just joining the two of us, and we knew it. We each came with the people who made us who we are, and it’s truly a gift that those people have become a home for each of us, too. My family. His family. Our family.