While driving home from my overly large family gathering on Christmas Eve I was filled with such joy, such knowing, and such belonging… a very rooted feeling.

I started thinking about our history. About where my gigantic family started and about the amazing humans that really hold it all together.

My Grandmother raised 14 kids. Mainly in the hills of West Virginia in a small coal mining town that you’ve probably never heard of, which is a shame because it is hands down one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. There’s a reason they say “Almost heaven, West Virginia”.

My Grandma moved the younger of the bunch to St. Louis when my mom was 7 years old (she’s the youngest). Somehow she managed to raise all of these kiddos in a very small, 3 bedroom house (which was huge compared to their place in WV) with very little income and no help. You see, my grandfather passed away only 18 months after my mom, their baby, was born. So needless to say, my Grandmother is hands down one of the strongest women I know, even though I never got the chance to meet her, I know her strength is running through my veins.

Her heart and soul went into raising her family and it shows. She raised some of the most rebellious kids in town. The radical ones, the rule breakers, the loudest people in every room, the most outspoken, but also the most loving, the most loyal, the most caring, with the biggest hearts you’ll ever find. And I’ve been lucky enough to be loved and supported by this crazy, loving crew my entire life.

I have always felt a special connection with my mom’s siblings. Even though we didn’t see them every weekend growing up, maybe not even more than a few times a year actually, it was always different. Their love for their family is so pure, so big. There’s no pressure or fake-ness. They’re all insanely genuine.

And the best part, they’re not perfect. Not even freaking close. Nor do they ever pretend to be.

They’ve all battle things and made mistakes, at least once in their lives. BUT they’ve always prevailed. They’ve always stood back up every time they’ve been knocked down. Maybe it’s something about the way they all started their lives, with barely anything except each other, I don’t know but I’ll tell you that I am more grateful for the way each and every one of them has chosen to live their lives than I could ever explain. Because they’ve all, in their own ways shown me what it means to LIVE.

To truly LIVE.
Not to just get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, and repeat the next day.
They’ve all LIVED, not just existed. They’ve lived and experienced and adventured. They’re all creative. They’ve all built lives that I admire, done things that I admire, but most importantly to me they’ve done it on their own terms. They don’t complain, they figure it out. They are resilient and because of those examples, I am resilient.

So as I was driving home from our one night each year that everyone shows up, after sorting through a house filled with close to 60 people I realized that the reason I always feel so connected to them is because of where they came from, where we all came from. The roots in the dirt of that holler, where LOVE and FAMILY were always most important. And where you “figured it out”.

The love that this crazy bunch exudes is unlike anything I could begin to describe and for that, I am eternally grateful to be a part of it all.

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