About a year ago I had a series of conversations with my cousin, Kent, that took me on a walk down memory lane. Kent and I sat at the kitchen table and reminisced over our childhoods. We talked about our shared experiences growing up and how very different our family is from others out there. I don’t know that I have ever given much thought to how unique my family is before, but before the conversation was over it had dawned on me that we truly are a group like no other.
One of the more unique aspects of the Sanford family is that we are an overtly emotional group of people (sometimes I worry that I inherited a double dose of this trait). We love each other intensely, we fight with one another passionately, and we defend each member ferociously. Everyone in my family has inherited a nearly irrational set of emotions and it shows in the way we treat each other. It isn’t uncommon for us to sit in one another’s laps, throw one another through porch banisters (you know who you are… hahaha), literally hold hands, knock a deserving drunk uncle out (you know who you are too!), or for any other emotional act (loving or not) to occur when we get together. This insane universal set of Sanford emotions are something that help bond us closely to one another and something that differentiates us from the more conservative types of families that I have had contact with.
Another unique thing that sets our family apart from others would be the strange pattern that seems to form out of our childbirths. I am not sure what the birthing patterns in other families are like, but in my family groups of children are born together. In the early-to-mid 1970s there were four children born in my family: Chris (1971), Keith (1974), Mechelle (1974), Jennifer (1976); in the early 1980s there were four more children born: Kylie (1981), Cassie (1982), Kent (1982), Evan (1982); and so on. This interesting pattern of births has helped to create a natural set of friends for my cousins and I. That may sound sentimental, but it isn’t intended to be – it is simply a fact. If I were forced to list off ten of my closest friends you would find that three of my cousins and my baby sister are all on that list – I’m certain that this would also be the case for all the others.
It isn’t just the birthing pattern that has helped to create tightly knit bonds between all of us, but also that our aunts and uncles have participated intimately in each of our lives. My cousin, Evan, was my very best friend when I was a little girl. I think part of the reason that he and I were so close was because my Aunt Sandy and Uncle Greg treated me like I was one of their children – I went on several family trips with them, spent the night every weekend, and it was not unusual for me to spend my entire summer vacation at their house as I got older. As a teenager it was not uncommon to find Kylie, Kent, Evan, and I all hanging out together – trips to the beach, Jungle Rapids, or watching movies in one of our living rooms. My dad’s house was one of the favorite spots to hang out in high school, because although he didn’t take much crap – he treated us like adults and turned a blind eye when we had a little too much to drink. My Aunt Karen took me under her wing after the death of my father and though I know his death affected her in a way that I will never understand – she was truly my rock. My Aunt Janey was a guiding force while trying to get my baby sister out of foster care – she turned into my shoulder to lean on during the tougher times of my battle. It is in these ways that the aunts and uncles have taught their children through action that each member of our family is to be cherished.
Talking with Kent reminded me of how wonderful it is to have come from such a large, loving, and devoted family – of how really lucky all of us kids were to share in the experiences of “growing up Sanford.”