My Giant German American Family and the Values I Learned
Who’s from the Midwest? Do you come from a gigantic family? What American values have you learned from your family?
In the true fashion of Midwestern farming families, I come from a very large one. My immediate family consists of my parents, my two brothers and me, I’m in the middle. It’s the extended family where things get interesting.
Including both my maternal & paternal sides, I have 27 aunts & uncles (including married in) and my cousin count is 37. Now that most of my cousins have married and had kids, that makes for one big extended family. While growing up, many of my cousins lived in my community or in towns nearby. We had a ton of family gatherings (and still do!). I love it. We’re loud, love to eat and drink and welcome anyone in.
A large family has been my norm and I know nothing different. In fact, when I went to college and one of my friends told me she had 4 cousins total, two of whom she’d never met, I was flabbergasted. Isn’t it normal to have 37 cousins and hang out all the time?
At these family gatherings, I’m pegged to take the group photos. This means trying to wrangle everyone, group them where they belong and get everyone to stop chatting long enough to look at me. Can you see why family portraits at weddings don’t stress me out?!? (For an example of how they usually go, scroll to the bottom of the post.)
I wouldn’t trade my huge, loud extended family for anything.
5 Things I’ve Learned
- Being kind and welcoming is always the best choice. A friend or new significant other are always warmly welcomed in and likely hugged by each person the first time they meet. Because why be any other way in this world?
- Rally around those who are having a hard time. If you’re sick, hurting, or in need, you best believe the family rumor train will be in full effect and you’ll have 85 new people praying for you by the end of the day.
- Adventure. Travel is important to my family and we tend to travel together. A lot. Tropical vacations, warmer southern states, New York City, Duluth, Jamaica – why go alone when you can travel with between 2 – 20 of your favorite family members? Houseboat anyone?
- Be silly. Speaking of traveling, we do this thing on the Martodam side called synchronized swimming anytime there’s a pool…yep, it’s exactly how it sounds. In Jamaica, the pool DJ played the Olympic song for us while we entered and did our routine for a packed pool of vacationers, all while decked out in pool caps and goggles. I’m not sure if people thought we were part of the resort entertainment or not, but man, did we nail that lift!
- Don’t give a damn about what anyone thinks. This one’s for my mom & her sisters. When they get together, the noise level doubles and they don’t care who’s looking . Life’s too short.
So here’s the hilarious catastrophe of the aunt/uncle group shot. This one was a particularly funny one a few summers ago. The people below are my beautiful grandmother, Rose, and my dad with his brothers and sisters.