My Big Fat Cajun Family
Or, you thought YOUR family partied hard…
In honor of our dear Sydney turning 26 this week, we all thought it might be fun to discuss the celebrations in our lives that mean something to us. Fortunately for me, I’ve been blessed since day one with the most outrageous, generous, and gregarious group of celebrators there ever was: the Smith family.
My mom, Celeste Smith Heath, is the oldest of seven children. My grandma is an old school Catholic, so you can connect the dots there. Those seven Smiths went on to have a total of 21 kids between them, and now there’s even a new generation of little Smiths — six of them and counting. In addition to being a large family, we’re also an extremely close family. It’s so weird to me when people barely have a relationship with their first cousins; mine have always felt more like siblings to me. Even though we all grew up in various parts of the country (from Houston all the way up to Boston), we maintain a close bond which mostly involves us constantly ragging on each other (for fun). We also — well, I won’t sugarcoat it — have some money. My grandparents have been able to provide us with more gifts, checks, and experiences than I could have ever dreamed of. And it’s because of that we’re able to go super hard for family celebrations.
In the interest of brevity, I’ll focus on just a few notable Smith family celebrations. The first that came to mind was the surprise 70th birthday party my mom and her siblings threw for their parents in 2005. We rented out a restaurant, seemingly invited everyone my grandparents knew, and danced and drank all night long. Well, many of us were (very) underage at this point, so we stuck to Shirley Temples. As a matter of fact, we ordered so many “Shirley Temples, on the rocks” that the bartender ran out of grenadine AND maraschino cherries. Oops! I’m still not really sure how we maintained the surprise. Remember, they were dealing with 21 kids who, at the time, ranged from the age of 0–24. We all definitely knew what was happening — we each had to get fancy new outfits to wear to the party, and we all had to be in Louisiana for Easter (which isn’t always the case). I guess that’s just a testament to how much we adore and appreciate our grandparents. How could we ruin their special night when they’ve given us so much?!
On that note, I think just about all of us would say the gift/experience from our grandparents we’re most grateful for are our Disney trips. Every three years, our entire family goes to Walt Disney World for a week at Thanksgiving. The very first “Disney Cajun Invasion” happened in November 1994 (which my immediate family obviously didn’t attend…as I was born one week before the trip!), and the most recent trip happened in November 2018. I’ll spare you the math and tell you that that’s NINE week-long trips to Disney World. On this most recent trip, there were 39 of us in attendance. We mostly keep to smaller groups, but there are always one or two days where we do a big lunch altogether. And yes, since we’re extra, we rent out a private space and a photographer for the occasion.
Aaaaaand we get matching t-shirts made. If you look closely, you can see that the 2018 t-shirts featured caricatures of my grandparents (who are seated in the center in the photo above). I don’t know how much more I can say about our Disney trips without sounding preposterously affluent…so you’ll just have to trust me when I say they’re incredible. But putting aside the rides, the hotels, the shows, the food, the drinks, and the shopping, the very best part of each Disney trip are the moments we share together. My family would definitely roast me for saying something that corny, but I don’t care. I meant every word!
Lastly, I want to talk a little about Smith weddings. Only three of the grandkids have gotten married so far, but there are now seven of us who are adults and in relationships. I’m sure everyone besides the seven of us are just itching for the next wedding, but none of us seem to be chomping at the bit to be the next. As I’ve mentioned before, our family weddings are basically just excuses for everyone to get together and party without it being Christmas or a Disney trip. The three weddings so far were all pretty large and tons of fun, with — you guessed it — lots and lots of drinking and dancing. But…the pressure. Everyone has the best time ever at the wedding except for the bride and groom. I mean, obviously they have a great time, but it’s different. They’re spending most of the reception thanking the 150+ guests for coming, while the rest of the family gorges on catfish and champagne. Somehow, I wind up with a microphone in my hand, my cousin Landon winds up with his shirt ripped off, and we all wind up singing “Shake a Tail Feather” in a massive circle. Ahh, just thinking about it does make me want another Smith wedding to happen…but who knows. With the pandemic still going strong, a big crazy wedding like that isn’t really a possibility. Also, I know that not everyone in the family wants to have that kind of a wedding, regardless of the pandemic. Worry not — I’m not in that camp. You’ll catch me having a soirée of epic proportions when it’s safe and when Mike and I are ready.
Originally published on August 26, 2020