Tag Archive | "family gatherings"

La Famiglia

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Earth from Space 2

The Holiday Season, in the midst of which we find ourselves, is a time of giving, sharing, and reflection.  As we gather together to enjoy or endure (in whatever situation you may find yourself this year) the blessings of the season and conclusion of another calendar year, many of us will pause to remember Holidays past.  For me, what made those occasions special were not the gifts given or received (most of which I can barely recall) or the food and drink consumed, but the people with whom those times were shared.  If you were fortunate enough to have grown up within a close extended family, you have a sense for that about which I am speaking.  The offspring of members of two tightly-knit Italian-American families, I – of course – shared those joyous times with parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, and cousins!


And, during my childhood and adolescence, our family gatherings were not reserved simply for Holidays, but were a regular part of life.  Every Sunday was like a mini-Holiday!  For, on that particular day of the week, my mom, dad, brother, and I all traveled from our home in New Jersey for a day with our families in Philadelphia.  We began with dinner at the home of my paternal grandparents in the early afternoon.  Later in the day and evening, we joined my mom’s side of the family at her parents’ home.  Why and how that particular schedule was established, I do not know.  But, what I do know is that for the ten-plus years that I remember our Sunday pilgrimages to the City, the dinners and family gatherings were attended, with extremely rare exception, by each and every aunt, uncle, and cousin.  Regardless of what was happening in our individual lives and nuclear families, we all made it a priority to join with our extended family for that one day out of the week.


My father was one of three brothers and my mother one of five sisters.  And so, our Sunday dinner with my father’s family was usually shared among fifteen adults and children, and the evening gathering of my mom’s clan customarily totaled twenty-one.  As Americans of Italian heritage, we always viewed our families as being more loving and closer-knit than those of our non-Italian friends and neighbors.  And indeed, I, to this day, know of no other non-Italian-American families who were more in each other’s presence or whose lives were more closely intertwined than were those of my mother or my father.


Imagine experiencing Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter on a weekly basis!  That is what my childhood was like.  The incredible food was just a small part of the equation.  The truly amazing aspect of those days was the overwhelming sense of love and fulfillment that was enjoyed by all on those occasions.  Now, I do not mean to suggest that my mom’s and dad’s families did not have their share of disagreements and even animosities, as most people do.  But, in the presence of each other, those feelings faded away, as the snow melts on a mild spring day.  Harmony reestablished, we were liberated to enjoy the reverie, camaraderie, and peace that one can only experience in the presence of those whom he or she truly loves.


It occurs to me now that there was one other individual who, although unseen, must have attended our weekly gatherings.  If Heaven is the presence of God, then He must have been there among us.  And, if His presence can create harmony and joy among biological family members, then why not among all his children?


The day is fast approaching when all of us must come to the realization that our peace, harmony, and very survival are interwoven with those of our brothers and sisters inhabiting this planet.  Fuel, food, and clean air and water, in diminishing supply, are among the commodities that we must equitably share.  The root causes of hatred and violence must be illuminated and eradicated.  And, we must all learn to tolerate and even celebrate our cultural and religious differences.


Perhaps, as naive as it sounds, we should begin by acknowledging ourselves as members of the same family, relatives not by place of origin but by common Creator.  Then, perhaps, we may feel inspired to gather together and discover the enriching power of sharing a meal or companionship with our brothers and sisters of every race, culture, nationality, and religious persuasion.  In the presence of each other and our Heavenly Father, we will surely see our differences melt away and be left with a sense of peace and fulfillment, as well as a blueprint for resolving the difficult problems that we share.

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