Yes, that is an actual family photo! it's such a time-warp, right? I wish people still dressed like this...on second though I really like yoga pants. The two on the right are Julia and Ignazio Simone, my great, great grandparents and the reason that my family is here in the US. They came over from Italy to start a new life and I so wish I'd had the chance to know them because I'm sure they must have been incredible people.
I am lucky enough to have a very close family. They're crazy. They're loud. They're Italian. What can I say? They're mine and I love them all. I have many branches and this is just one side of my father's lineage but, as most Italian families know, that branch reaches out to a lot of people. We are spread out in many places throughout the country and once a year we try to get together in a group in order to reconnect. I've only made it to a few of them but these times are the most fun I have all year. This year, those of us are are still around, all headed up to the clan living in Detroit. I've never been up that way before so I was excited to see the place my extended fam calls home. Us out-of-towners got settled into a hotel in a quiet neighborhood outside the city and we spent the next few days laughing out butts of. I wish I could say I literally, that would have been nice but unfortunately I left with the same amount of booty as when I arrived. Sigh...
First stop was to my cousins ADORABLE little house to greet all the out-of-towners (myself included) and stuff our faces. I'm not kidding. After I I walked into the house and gave a round of hugs, I was greeted with an 8-foot long submarine, pizza, pastas, salad, sides and a 100-count bulk box of White Castle burgers. That literally made my day.
Once we'd all gorged on as much food awesomeness as we could, someone—still not sure who—broke out bags of old photographs. There were hundreds and hundreds of them. We passed them around while laughing at funny old moments, most of which I wasn't yet born for. I spent most of the time asking who each person was. I haven't had the chance to see many photos of family that came before me so this was so wonderful for me!!
This is a photo of my great, great grandmother, Julia Simone, and her children. Julia and her husband, Ignazio, are the ones that brought our family over from the old country. She was an amazing lady, so I'm told. That handsome fella third from the right is my great grandpa, Jimmy, or Papa, as we called him. Ain't he something?
And don't even get me started. This guy right here? That's my dad when he was in his early teens. I'm not sure I'd ever seen a photo of him that young. He looks exactly the same and of course completely different! Can you guess who that beautiful lady on the right is? My grandma. I've always called her Tiny because she's 4'10' (possibly less now) so it was an easy way to differentiate the grandmas for me as a child. I had never seen photos of her this young, either. The shocker? I LOOK JUST LIKE HER! That's where I get my bushy eyebrows and wide-set nose...otherwise known as my killer good looks! She is such a beautiful woman and I am so, so grateful I now have these photos! Isn't my grandma adorable?? She ordered ice cream for lunch one day. Love her.
The next day we met the entire extended family for a big 'ol picnic at a beautiful lake just a few minutes away. The weather and scenery could not have been more perfect! I mean seriously, look at this beautiful setting! Of course, there was more food on hand. But also more laughter, more hugs, and did I mention laughter? My family can get into some shenanigans but it is all worth the embarrassment in the end. My sides always hurt after spending time with them. Good ab workout, right?
The entire weekend was filled with so much love and joy and connection. It's easy to forget things like that when you're drudging through daily life. Family feels like it's always there so you say "It's ok, I'll call tomorrow" and tomorrow turns into Wednesday and Wednesday turns into September. It happens and that's alright. But, doing things like this, reuniting with those you care about but rarely get to see even just once a year can give you a jolt and remind you how many people out there are on your side. Not everyone's family is the same. Maybe your family is not made up of those you're related to but have chosen over the years. No matter what your tree looks like these are the people that are always your champions. They're the ones that remind you to be grounded, to be real, to remember where you come from and remember what matters. That doesn't mean they won't get on your last damn nerve now and then, but that's what they're there for!
We are simple people. Midwestern down to our little small town toes. As you may know being from a small town means we love big, we eat big and we laugh big. At the end of the day that's what family all about.