19. It’s not the number of my old soccer jersey. 19 isn’t my house address. It’s not my lucky number. 19 is how many grandchildren my grandparents Gino and Millie had. They had six children, all of whom got married and created 19 total grandchildren. Those grandchildren have created 41 great grand children (two more on the way). We all still get together for holidays and special events at each other’s homes. It’s crazy, loud and overcrowded but I love it.
We lost our grandparents in 1992, my senior year of high school. It was pretty devastating for me. Luckily they visit me in my dreams a lot. When things get really hard I will ask them (in my head) to visit me. Sometimes it takes days or even weeks but they always show up. The dreams are always happy and usually have a very clear message. I’ve been begging for a visit for the last week or so. It hasn’t happened yet but I know they will show up soon. Our family lost someone in late February for the first time since 1992. We lost my uncle Paul, who was also my God Father. His passing hit all of us very hard. He was too young, only in his 60’s, and a great man but it was more than that. We will miss him dearly but it was also a dose of reality. We are going to lose family members and that sucks.
But this post isn’t really about loss as much as it is about what we have. 19. Although there is probably at least a 15 year age difference between the oldest grand kid and the youngest, we all grew up together. I spent hours and hours playing with the cousins closer to my age and hours on end babysitting the others.
I’ve been dragged by my ponytail down a hallway, locked in a closet while babysitting and witnessed the collapse of an 8,000 gallon above ground pool with probably 15 kids in it and another 10 nearby (a whole other blog post). There’s been broken bones, trashed houses, heads slammed in windows over Kool-Aid and so much more. It might sound crazy to you but I wouldn’t change a thing!
There has also been a lot of play dates, sleepovers, weddings, birthdays and holidays that were absolutely amazing. The 19 of us aren’t just cousins, we are friends. The girls, who are greatly outnumber, have done girl trips and fun nights out. We get together the first Saturday in December every year for what we call “Ravioli Night.” Sixty to seventy of us gather at my aunt and uncle’s home to make homemade ravioli, a family tradition. We make some to eat that night and freeze the rest to eat on Christmas Eve when we all come together again. The adults are definitely outnumbered by all the great grand kids ranging from only a few weeks old to 22. It’s complete and utter chaos… and fantastic!
We celebrate each other every chance we get. Two of the 19 have moved away for jobs but the rest of us live within about a 10 minute radius. We take care of each other’s kids and each other when needed. And really, it’s not just the 19 of us. In our family, there seems to be no generation gap once you hit a certain age. The adult cousins are on the same level as the 60 something old aunts and uncles, which is awesome because we have all become friends as well. Our spouses were all in for a shock when they first started coming around but they are integrated into the madness of a large family now as well. All of us always have each other’s backs.
I was reminded just how much we take care of each other when my uncle got sick in February and then after he passed. I wouldn’t change my big, loud, crazy Italian family for anything in the world. The 19 of us are so lucky to have each other and we are lucky to have so many loving children, aunts, uncles and of course our parents.