An Ever-Expanding Holiday Celebrating Thanksgiving the Only Way the Russo Family Knows How
I f you marry into the Russo family, your family immediately becomes ours as well. That might be why our holiday celebrations keep growing and are brimming with more people every year. With the addition of my twins, this year is no different. Luckily for us, my wife and I never argue about where we are going to spend the holiday. Instead, her Portuguese family — who also has strong family values — joins mine at our annual Thanksgiving celebration, along with my cousins’ and siblings’ in-laws, too. Russo family holidays are sometimes pushing 60 people, all celebrating and soaking in memories together. This holiday, along with so many others, is bittersweet for us, however. My family and I are still mourning the loss of my mom in February 2017, and this Thanksgiving will be the first without my cousin Michael, whom readers will remember from our August memorial cover story. My family has been put through the ringer these past few years, but we’ve been lucky to have each other to lean on. When my mom first became sick, I took over her role at Thanksgiving, rallying our troops and preparing our meal. But last year, on our first Thanksgiving without my mom, we went against Russo family tradition. My brother Nicky took over the Thanksgiving preparations, and instead of making the event a big celebration, we scaled it back. Last year was just for us. We reflected on the loss of my mom, made sure my dad was doing okay, and took time to heal together in our little cohort. That was a restorative gathering for us. But in true Russo fashion, there’s no way we could completely halt the large multifamily celebration. We can’t help it; once you marry a Russo, you and your family are Russos for life. An example of this is my brother Anthony’s in-laws, whose Puerto Rican heritage emphasizes the same strong familial values. Sometimes they join us at family events and celebrations, but another addition isn’t weird for us, especially with this family. They also have a shore house next door to ours, so they’re family and neighbors!
My wife and I firmly believe that a marriage brings family together, so why would we all celebrate the holidays apart? If there’s anything the losses of my mom and my cousin have reaffirmed for me,
it’s the significance of family. Growing up, my cousins were like another set of siblings for me, and it’s pretty neat that my kids now get to know those same cousins of mine and the family they brought into the fold.
This year will certainly be less emotional than last year, as time is helping us all heal, but it will also bring up plenty of feelings. It will be devastating without some integral parts of our family, but as I introduce Michael and Michele to our family celebrations, and more and more family members filter through Nicky’s door, I’ll smile knowing this Russo clan — with all the support it offers — just keeps on growing.
–Dr. Michael Russo
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