I Guess You’re Next

All this trouble started  back when my cousin Steph announced that she was pregnant. I congratulated her because I was very excited to have another baby in the family but secretly I prayed to the saints that I wouldn’t catch whatever disease was in the water back home. Still, Steph delivered kiss of death by saying, “I guess you’re next.”

At this point, Steph’s older brother, Brandon, had two kids already. Our oldest cousin, Carissa, just had a son the year before. Carissa’s little brother Bryan was about to become a dad too. All four kids were and still are the most adorable fresh humans you’ve ever met in your life. I swear there’s no bias here. I love kids. You know what I love more? Giving them back to their parents.

My mom is the oldest of seven kids. She had five sisters and two brothers. They all had kids too and nobody really moved away from the neighborhood. I grew up living within a mile of all twelve of my cousins on moms side. My dad was the oldest of three brothers. Even though we didn’t live right next to them, we still managed to get together at Gramma’s house for football Sunday’s and all the major holidays.  Basically, I was an only child with the biggest family in the world.

My gramma and her well behaved children.

I mention this because everything I’ve learned about raising kids and babies, I learned from this large support group of amazing people. For example, they taught me tough love. For years, I was known as the one who cries.  Actually, they still know me by that name. It’s embarrassing. I don’t like to talk about it. But ask Bex. She thinks it’s hilarious and will gladly bring it up to anyone who wants to hear. But they are also a Musketeer type family, all for one and one for all. If there was a baby crying at a family party, it didn’t matter whose kid it was, the closest adult would pick them up and take care of it. If someone was in a school band concert, a local play, cheer leading, football games, swim meets, we would all show up and support each other.

We didn’t need matching shirts. People would see us coming from a mile away. Here comes the Zimmerman kids. Better save them a whole row at the movie theater. Restaurants always needed plenty of advance warning. Put four tables , here comes the Zimmerman clan and their kids! Hide the good china. Have you seen their kids? Paper and plastic is fine for them. Looking back, I wonder why we never started our own basketball team.

There were family trips too. Someone called it the traveling circus. I feel like that’s pretty accurate. They took us all over east coast from Massachusetts to  Florida.  Every year we would take four car loads of us three hours south to Grove City, Pennsylvania’s Outlet Mall for back to school shopping. Why? Because it was a trip that brought us all together with shopping, delivery pizza in the hotel room at night, and swimming in the hotel pool. Of course the real reason we went was because there was no sales tax in PA. No, no, it was for the sake of family. Togetherness.

All of that disappeared for a few years. The cousins grew up. We went to college. We got married. One of us went to work at an alpaca farm. And I went and moved across the country. Now that we’re starting to grow families of our own, our not-so-little tribe is slowly moving back to the old neighborhood. Thankfully our parents, aunts, and uncles have kept it exactly the same for us. I mean it, nothing has changed . . . nothing at all.

I haven’t asked my cousins but I think it’s happening because we all secretly want our kids to grow up with that same strong sense of family that our parents instilled in us. But don’t tell our parents that. We invested too many years in complaining about family obligations to dive head deep in them now.

So everybody back home is getting baby fever and I’m out in California soaking up the sun, happy to enjoy the baby petting zoo through the lens of Facetime. But Steph had to go and jinx us. Now that Bex is pregnant, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we move back to the old neighborhood too. At least we’ll be in good company.  Don’t worry, I’m sure the strong sense of déjà vu will pass. Just give it time.


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