I have written about family many times on this site. I have written about my awesome Grandmother who held us together like glue for as long as she was here. Moms. Dads. Brothers. Cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. Great Grandparents. Etc. Etc. Not everyone gets a chance at all these kind of bonds, and I’m blessed to be a part of it. Everyone’s support, wisdom and laughter make me the person I am today.

This past week, one of my cousins experienced the unthinkable: the loss of her teenage son. It wasn’t just my cousin who was affected, of course. It was her husband, her boys, her mom (my Aunt), her sister, her brothers, etc…the list goes on and on because we really are a Family, and the love runs deep and wide. We usually are so full of laughter and lightness that I can’t really comprehend the grief and the pain so many I hold close to my heart must be feeling. Honestly, I wish I could write with some kind of clarity or bring some peace and healing to the situation or make people hurt a little less, but sometimes it’s too close for that kind of thing. Sometimes words don’t work. Instead, I’m taking a step back, adding some “lightness” & writing more generally about what it has meant to me to grow up in this family.

This love of family might seem odd because I don’t live near any of them. I drove away from Texas in my little green Mustang as soon as I finished college and just turned 21. Dad made the road trip with me–all the way up to Seattle, which was basically as far as I could go and still be in the United States. At the time, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Now, it seems like a completely scary thing to do. I was never escaping Texas. I just had this need to explore! And I couldn’t have felt so confident in traveling around if it hadn’t been for how my family always made me feel. I couldn’t have been on my own like that, literally knowing no one, if I didn’t have 50+ (not sure how big the family is anymore) people in my heart–backing me all the way. I can say first hand that you can be miles away, and the way you feel about the people you grew up with never changes. Not one bit. They were the ones so eager to hear what I was doing, wanting pictures (pre-Facebook), laughing with me about my funny jobs or embarrassing stories.

I never came back to Texas. Well, that is completely inaccurate. I make visits every year to Texas, but I never moved back. I miss everyone, and in moments of extreme hometown happiness or grief, I wish nothing more than to be closer to the ones I love, the ones I grew up with. The ones that still read my boring blog! You go to work, you try to “be present,” but sometimes your heart just lives in Texas, and there’s nothing you can do about it. “Going through the motions” as my older brother says. That was me this week. Powerless to make anyone feel any better, yet an extreme need to try to do so.

My favorite memory from childhood: Christmas Eve in Midland. We would go to one side of the family’s Christmas celebration. We would then say goodbye & go to the other side of the family’s Christmas a few miles away–before going home to celebrate with our immediate family as Santa brought our toys Christmas morning. Sometimes we even went caroling on one side of the family to our other family’s house! Because even my Mom’s fam and my Dad’s fam felt like one family. This seems so crazy today –families are spread all over the place, and you’re lucky enough just to make it to ONE celebration. But us kids all LIVED for this day because it was all of our favorite things: way too much food, great presents, games, cousins, and loud laughter. Year after year, I grew up this way. I had no idea the kinds of bonds that were being developed, but I’m sure my parents did.

I went home to Midland this past August, and I got to see several but not all of my relatives. It was just a few hours of bowling, food and of course–laughter, but it is what I needed and what I came for. I will take every minute I can get. There is something really really authentic to that kind of love and support. I live near Hollywood, which is perhaps the LEAST authentic place I know, so my family continues to keep me real from afar. As trite as it sounds, my heart is always where my family is. And we will build each other up in whatever way we can. Always. All my love!