Big, Loud, and Southern

Hey, y’all!

So it’s Monday afternoon after Easter.  I’m back at work in the real world (which is the last place I want to be today!), and really missing yesterday’s festivities.

On the way home from Charleston yesterday, I realized just how much I miss my family.  We’re scattered all across the world now, but when we get together it always feels like time hasn’t passed at all.  We manage to pick up right where we left off and keep going like we’re still kids.  I love that.

I come from a big, loud, southern family full of big, loud, southern women.  My grandmother (bless her heart!) gave birth to and raised twelve children on her own.  My grandfather died when my mom was eleven, and left her with this whole brood of young’uns.

Those twelve kids spawned a total of twenty grandchildren (of which I am one), and so far the twenty grandchildren have produced twenty-five great-grandchildren.  And that doesn’t take into consideration husbands, wives, and step-kids.

And we all turned out okay.

Yes, there is a passel of us (and that is directly related to a metric shit-ton… two passels to one shit-ton is the conversion, I believe).  The majority of us are women (nine girls and three boys in the original dozen and 14-6 in the second generation).  We’re all loud, bossy, opinionated, and crazy as hell.  And we like it that way.

The family gatherings usually take place at my parents’ house, too.

My mom is the one that everyone thinks of with a smile.  They always know that when she’s around, so is good, southern food.  Aunt Diane is the one everybody comes to when they need a hug, or a meal, or someone to listen.  She offers a hug and a kiss to everybody that walks through the door.  No matter how frustrated she gets with the whole lot of us, she still loves us all, and will always take care of us.

My mom is amazing.  She cooks.  She bakes.  She cleans.  She fixes the world’s problems all by herself.

Well, sometimes there’s cake.

Mom is my personal hero, and I spend every, single day of my life trying to be more like her.  I know there are days when she doesn’t think she’s appreciated, but she is.  I can tell you that whenever I talk to any of my cousins, the first thing they tell me is how much they miss my mom, and how they wish they lived closer so they could have dinner at her house more often.

It’s the macaroni and cheese, I believe.

My mom’s mac & cheese is the stuff dreams (and heart attacks!) are made of.  It’s thick, creamy, cheesy, and you need a fork and knife to eat it. And servings come in three sizes:  a slice, a wedge, and a clump.

Sitting at the table yesterday, Bobbi lifted her fork and started laughing.  Stuck on the end of it was this glob of mac & cheese, and it was the funniest thing we’ve seen in years.  This stuff holds its own shape, and we have decided that fairs need to start deep-frying and selling it on lollipop sticks.  They would make a killing.

It’s moments like this that make me remember just how much I love my big, dysfunctional family.  We’re all nutty, and it makes for fun times. Something crazy is always going on, and outsiders tend to get scared.

I don’t blame them.

But I realized something on my way home… I have this amazing cast of characters in my head all the time, all screaming and yelling at once, and it’s because I grew up around so many people.  All of those voices are just a holdover from all of the family parties and holidays and birthdays and everything in between.  My mind doesn’t know how to process silence, so it fills the void on its own.

In some way or another, members of my family show up in my writing.   I emulate the people I love because…well…I love them.  It won’t surprise me at all if, a week from now, Sara and Caity show up  as my heroine’s support system, or if my brother, Brian (another of my personal heroes), becomes the basis for my next male lead.  I won’t realize I’m doing it until I go back and read it, but those personality quirks are the things that make my people real.

I’ve always heard that the best writing comes when you write what you know.  Well, what I know is family.  Happiness, silliness, friends, and love.  I’m optimistic and romantic, and I am that way because I can walk into a room filled with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and receive a dozen hugs.  I write my family into my stories because they are what I know, and what I love.

No, we didn’t always get along when we were growing up.  No, we don’t always get along now.  Yes, we still drive each other batty.  But that’s part of being family.  We’re all stuck with each other, no matter what.

So I suppose my point here is really a warning to my humongous family:

NONE OF YOU ARE SAFE.  I will use you shamelessly, twist you around into something grand or monstrous, build you up or tear you down, duplicate you, kill you, resurrect you, give you special powers, make you deities and demons, or just write you into a happy-ever-after.

I do it because I love you all, and I hope that in time, you’ll forgive me.

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