Having just returned from New England with my family, I have
a new-found love for frosty weather, bare trees and chaos.
It was a meaningful week watching my children and my little
brother navigate the loving traditions of my Burke roots. Getting the seven of us to the east coast on
a red eye flight was ambitious, especially at this time of year, but
Props to me, if I do say so myself, for being the strict mom
and shutting down all electronics so we could experience each other in a true,
connected way. I have tried to tell my
children stories of what the Burkes are like, but to experience them all
together in one house for the holidays was like walking into an episode of
Ryan’s Hope – without all the drama.
Having left Connecticut when I was only 3 with my parents, I
lost physical touch with most of my family.
Geography kept us apart, but love and common characteristics kept
allowing us to pick our spots and find each other as much as possible.
Now that all my cousins are grown with families of their
own, we’re lucky to find the chance to gather together. But when we do, it’s a motley crew and some
of the best of times I know. It fascinates me to see common characteristics woven
throughout my family, including the members who were meeting for the first
time. The bloodline is strong enough to
live even though we’re oceans apart.
It was a full house all week, as we hopped from home to home
to enjoy a meal at everyone’s sacred place.
We skipped Thanksgiving on Thursday so we could travel and re-enacted it
on Saturday, where no traditions were overlooked.
We baked two turkeys (which meant a carve-off
between my husband and Uncle John), cauliflower mash – my Aunty Margo’s specialty, mashed sweet potatoes, sausage stuffing and all the usual holiday
Every candle was lit, every
glass was full (too many times) and every child had a new friend. I even got to
hold my brand new niece Mikenna, who brought me back to 13 years ago when
Neriah was also 5 weeks early and 4.5 lbs.
What warmed my heart the most was knowing that we were all
family, separated by life, but reunited by a connection that we knew ran deep. My brother Fatcat has been staying with me,
but will soon return to his own brood so we have been ringing out every
precious day together.
My husband made a toast to honor my aunt and uncle who
raised four children, who married and have multiple children of their own. David said, “As a French man, I look around
this table and know that you all represent the American dream.”
We were so grateful that day to have that time
together. Our kids played Monopoly on
the floor, my older girls entertained everyone with their songs and hours later
when karaoke broke out, Club Z was on fire! Z is my cousin and just look at
this bar! I felt like I was at Cheers.
My cousin Kellie hosted us all, and I know it’s not easy to
have seven guests for a week, especially when one of them is Fatcat.
Every room was taken, every heart full, and
before the night was over, a contract was being drawn up. A Burke agreement signed by all… a promise
that next Thanksgiving everyone will join me in Malibu for a beach-side
holiday. I’m not sure the ‘Bu is ready
for the Burkes
Chanukah came too soon and many lights were missed in the
Christian house, but we will make up for it by spending the last two nights with
David’s family and my mom. What I’ve
learned is that we don’t get to choose our family. But if we can learn to
accept them in the many different walks of life, and find them wherever they
may be, there is so much to learn. We
learn from our families about ourselves.
We hear stories that can teach us and enlighten us, stories that we can
pass on to our own children and they can continue to share with theirs.
Traditions are as meaningful as you chose to make them. For
us, we will travel the country and know those memories will last until we meet