Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Journey to All Things Colby - Tribute #29

It is currently 2:00 A.M. and my mind seems to be protesting my body's need for some rejuvenating sleep. So while I lay and listened to my sweet husband breathe and watched as the lights on our internet modem flickered randomly, I decided to put my non-sleeping hours to good use and write something that has been mulling over in my mind for years on the subject of the family I married into.  

When I began to date John, I'll admit, the possibility of his family becoming my in-laws frightened me. I was intimidated by most people at that age but especially by them. However, regardless of my very new relationship with John, I was counted as family. I was in the Christmas family picture, I was given gifts from the family members, and I was talked to like I needed to catch up on the last 21 years so I could keep up with the next. Admittedly, it felt nice to feel involved in his family as I had no actual connection to it at the time, but I had major reservations in terms of the fit in regards to their personalities and mine. Let me explain: John's family was not even remotely like my family. In fact, they seemed to be in many ways polar opposites.

Here's a quick glimpse to give you an idea of what I mean:

In John's family, when we celebrated a birthday, his 4 siblings would show up with a card or gift and would sit in their assigned seating place at the table set much like something one sees pinned on pin-interest, lavished with the type of food one learns how to make in culinary school. The birthday person, whom all gathered to celebrate, was honored with a special birthday plate and a decadent birthday dessert of their choice (the first time I attended a birthday celebration, the dessert was Crème brûlée glazed perfectly with the help of a blow torch). Dinner was full of laughter and jokes that were way above my head or way under the opposite end of you-know-what-I-mean. All who were there seemed to have a good time exchanging movie quotes, memories, and over-done puns. When dinner was finished, most everyone got up from the table and helped with the clean-up. Systematically picking up the dinnerware and doing whatever was usually volunteered by them. After divvying the left-overs in personally labeled bags, the evening was usually spent rubbing full tummies and laughing hysterically as the family dog excitedly chased a laser light. Hugs and kisses were exchanged and then exchanged again and again and everyone left content they got to spend the night together.

Now juxtapose that orderly picture to this one:

In my family of 8 children and 19 grandchildren, there isn't one person who is treated specifically special because every month is filled with multiple birthdays. The multiple birthday celebration gatherings usually begin with an email sent to all the kids in which begins the conversation on the date and time of the family party. Usually after about a week trying to figure out when everyone can meet up, a pot luck sign-up sheet is sent out. After spending about 10 minutes to gather everyone for prayer, the food is devoured on paper plates in about three different rooms in the house and on most surfaces: including but not limited to, tables, stools, couches, floors, piano benches, and sometimes even toilets (yes I've seen my nephews go to the bathroom with food in hand before). The picture is sheer chaos and I love most every minute of it except for when I go to dish up and find the guacamole eaten up (unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence). Most of the time clean-up is left to 4-5 of the family members while everyone else lounges and tries to talk over the cute and rambunctious kids who excitedly chase each other in circles. Everyone usually leaves at different times and waves good-bye to everyone at the door (at this point I make sure to hang around the front room so I can get a big hug from each of my beloved nieces and nephews).

Two completely different pictures, right? Neither one of them were bad, just different. So as you can see, attending John's family outings brought me a lot of anxiety (to be fair, my family parties brought John anxiety as well). I wasn't exactly trained in etiquette and when I was asked to help out in the kitchen or set the table, I was absolutely clueless. I'm sure my in-laws, at the time, thought on more than one occasion that I had some sort of mental retardation as they had to repeat a simple direction to me three times and then correct me when I still got it wrong (I admit I had no idea how to opperate a lemon juicer as well as countless other kitchen utensils). 

After John and I married, I remember nights where I would stay up trying to figure out how to connect with my in-laws and how to actually feel like family instead of some quiet, alien outsider. Some nights, after family gatherings, I would go home and cry in John's arms. I felt like my inability to understand their quick wit, movie quotes, and the inability to use my ab muscles to laugh 2-hours straight, left me feeling, well, left-out. Also, admittedly I felt disconnected, like there was something wrong with me.

Then, gradually through the years a transformation occurred; I found myself becoming more and more like a Colby. I began to crack jokes and even laugh at the ones that were made (even if they had some literary blow and were meant to get a rise out of me). The infamous dog, Jack Jack, became an obsession of mine as well (probably because I learned to laugh more at the hysterics of John's family and their reactions to his sheer canine stupidity). I began to relax and be able to take in the moment and use it all up without worry. Lastly, I began to feel what it meant to be a Colby and realized that I missed the whole picture all along and that there was more depth underneath the decadent dinners and constant laughter and it all had to do with the word, "love."

I realized being a Colby means you'll show up when you say you will show up; that you'll help out without being asked; that you will find joy in all of life and find laughter in, well, just about everything (even canine entities); that you will show respect and love for those around you; that you will choose service over selfishness; that you will choose family first, not only because you love to be with them, but because you are proud to be one of them. 

I have been blessed with a wild and wonderful family of origin, to which I am grateful for. Now, in my adult years, I have been equally blessed with wild and wonderful in-laws whom I adore with all my heart too. I now find myself looking forward to seeing them and finding excuses to drop by. Probably because I am now Colby through-in-through. 


  1. What a wonderful message from a wonderful daughter. The Colby’s are often loud, rambunctious and at times overwhelming. At the same time fiercely loyal, supportive and loving. I am so happy to call you daughter and love that you feel safe enough to find your voice and participate even with the Helen Keller jokes. I thought I would die laughing from your amazing “Flipper is totally legit” card. You get it, you play well and love deeply, what an amazing woman you are and lucky we are that you and John chose each other and chose marriage. We are blessed to have you as part of our family and I love you. Dad Colby

  2. I loved reading your post. It was difficult for me to adjust into the family too, but for different reasons. The main one was that my family is so small. I would get anxiety just being around so many people and remembering everyone's names. But you are right, it is something to look forward to. I do enjoy how much bigger the family has gotten. It is amazing to me how everyone gets along so well. I love it.