Added: Sun. Nov 18, 2012 2:16pm
We each have different experiences with families in part because the makeups of families differ. I am an only child, therefore my view of family life is very much different than those whose families include siblings. While others may argue otherwise, I am quite content in having been an only child. Maybe in part that's because as a small child I grew up in a neighborhood of extended family. I was surrounding by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, many cousins around my age.
Yet that doesn't mean I am completely ignorant of large families that often include both parents and several children. And I guess because that kind of family is different from my own experiences, I find them very interesting. Clearly the dynamics in that kind of family vary for many reasons. The bonding and relationships among its members differ.
The reason I mention this is because my wife comes from a family experience that is just about the exact opposite of mine. Bonnie is the oldest of seven children (two boys and five girls). All of them are still alive as are her two parents who are still together after more than 50 years of marriage. Based on my observations of many friends' and acquaintances' families, I know enough to know that Bonnie’s family is not one of a kind, but it is somewhat unique.
The unique thing about them is that after all these years (Bonnie is the oldest at 57, and the youngest sibling is 42), they still are a loving and cohesive family. All the siblings maintain close contact with one another and they all have very close ties with their parents. Given the size of the family and given this day and age, that is very unique to me.
I know of so many other families where there are several siblings and at least one of them doesn't talk to the others or maintain any kind of civil communications. Invariably there seems to be at least one black sheep in the family, if not a whole flock. Anger and animosity reigns supreme in those families. Bickering among themselves about spouses, children, parents seem to be the order of the day. How sad.
Yet in Bonnie’s family, often called the Walton’s of Malone, NY, the phone calls never cease, the emails flow back and forth, the lines of communications remain wide open. One only needs to be in a room with them at a family gathering to see the love, caring and respect they have for each other. Stories and jokes about living together as children are always a major topic for discussion. Maybe they learned to get along so well together because as children they learned how to share a single bathroom among nine people. Maybe it's because they came from a small town in upper New York and were sheltered from city life. Maybe it is because of their strict but loving parents. I don't know why.
Equally interesting, the siblings' children seem to have formed this same strong bond among them. There are about a dozen of them, and they always look forward to and cherish those times when the families gather and they get to visit with each other. What a great legacy to leave to your children - the concept of family.
The point is I don't have to know why they are a very special family in these trying, modern days. All I know is that were I ever to be born in a large family, I would have wanted it to be in a family just like theirs. The next best thing to that is to be married to one of them and be part of the family in some small way.