August 21, 2012


Sometimes I envy The Honey and many of his cousins. You see, he comes from a large family. I may have mentioned his large family before and when we mention it to friends and family, they often forget how big it actually is. My Polish teacher laughs whenever I mention family events because she knows that a small Thanksgiving still involves 30 people. His extended family is huge, and on his father’s side cousins always joke how big it is and apologise before saying your name in fear that they won’t get it right. To this day I still have fears about sending wrong thank you cards after our wedding.

I envy him because mine is very small and we aren’t very close. Both my parents come from small families and my mom, sister and I have estranged ourselves from my mother’s side (an agreement we three had no reservations about), and my dad wasn’t close with his younger sisters due to an age gap and different interests. He was closer to his older sister, who was only a year older, but they lived further away. I had grown up knowing I had cousins, aunts and uncles, but not knowing who they were or what they looked like. There are stories of me responding to someone’s hello then walking away, and getting in trouble for it afterwards because they were a cousin I didn’t know or recognize. Although my Nana and Grandad lived in Thunder Bay during my childhood, their picture was pinned up on my bulletin board next to my skating badges and ribbons and I would look up at it while I wrote them a letter.

I usually look forward to The Honey’s family events. I quickly find myself overwhelmed by the sheer number of people (it’s been over 15 years and it still gets me). The Honey’s mother comes from a family of 6 siblings, and his father from 8 (and his father from 10+, and his father from10+). I think you get the idea. No matter how I feel driving up in the car their friendliness soon envelops me. We see his mother’s side a number of times a year so everyone knows what everyone is doing. His father’s side is spread out a bit more, in age and interests so we don’t see them as often. A cousin lives in our neighbourhood and toots his horn whenever he drives by. I don’t even need to look to know who it is; my hand automatically goes up. But I find I always have to be on the lookout if someone gives me a shout or a wave (a cousin or two have jokingly chased after us because we didn’t respond not knowing who they were). 

I also envy their history. My small immigrant family didn’t talk about the past for a variety of reasons. The Honey’s family on the other hand, has been in the Ottawa area for generations. Both his mother and his father’s ancestors came during the Potato Famine in Ireland and have stuck around. To me, that’s pretty cool.

While The Honey was growing up in the Soo, his little group would venture down for a holiday and spend one week at one farm and another week at the other. It was really easy too since the two farms eventually meet. Being part of the elders in one group, The Honey and his brother helped strike terror in the farm animals and had to help with chores. They were part of the youngins’ on the other side so they were often left to their own devices (still having a blast in the barn I’ve heard). They grew up hearing stories about every family member, dead or alive, and have many stories of their own. I too, have heard many of these stories. Some seem adventurous, some are commonplace, and some just seem too crazy to be true. The stories continue with the present generations which helps get to know people who you don’t really know as they get married and have their own children.

This summer we helped take part in celebrating the 100th Anniversary of The Honey’s family farm. It has been in the family for three generations, and The Honey’s grandfather had worked on it before purchasing it. A cousin is now caretaker, after buying it from an uncle, and works the land with his family. To celebrate there was a big gathering of friends and family, from near and far to enjoy some food from the land and of course, some great music courtesy of Irish Bastards.

The party started early in the afternoon where people could chat, catch up, and relax. Kids played in the fields on the rounds of hay and chasing some cows. Inside there were pictures that went way back, people guessing who was who. A few looked like The Honey so it was a little easier to make a connection to a past relative. There were also many showing the more recent times at the farm; cousins, friends, skidooing, and parties.

The barn’s been turned into a large party area (that the cousin rents out) complete with room to dance, picnic tables and a bar. Somehow a big green hat even made its way into the rafters. I have a feeling the family’s blood will still be running green with Irishness with the next 3-4 generations.

As the evening wore on, the party moved inside. Some people moved faster than others depending on how much the mosquitos liked them. But wherever you were, you were with family and friends and good times followed.


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