2023 and me: Time to reconnect with family


In December, I went to a much-anticipated family wedding. It was a chance for relatives of all ages on my mother’s side to reconnect. For some, it had been years since we had seen one another.

What a gift this gathering was!

My extended family is scattered across the United States. From roots in Pittsburgh, where my grandmother and her two sisters and two brothers lived just blocks from each other, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren went on to scatter across the Midwest, the South, and up and down the East Coast.

My grandmother was the prime mover for keeping in touch. She brought everyone back to Pittsburgh for her yearly birthday celebration, but those ended in the early 2000s, and she passed away in 2010 (at the age of 104).

I had always hoped to see my cousins again. But after so many years, there was never a good time or an easy way to accomplish this. But the wedding created an opportunity!

The last few years have been difficult for everyone, as I’m sure you know. So there was no hesitancy about attending this wedding, even though it involved hours spent on logistics and a flight to Ohio. What a wonderful treat to be able to gather together!

Yes, we all look a little different now. Time does that. But with family, no matter how much time has passed, conversation still flows easily and naturally. In our case, we talked about how our grandmother brought us together, and we reminisced about her wonderful birthday gatherings. I was even comfortable enough to be guilty of that embarrassing “I knew you when you were this big,” aimed at a 16-year-old I hadn’t seen since he was a baby.

There is just no replacing that sense of belonging.

But I will have to wait a little longer to see that first cousin who is closest in age to me; COVID-19 struck his family just before the wedding, and the whole crew was absent for the weekend. I was disappointed, naturally, but pretty much took it in stride – after three years of the pandemic, most of us have become adept in “managing our expectations.”

For years, I’ve wanted to look into our family background. As the oldest grandchild, I’ve wondered about the details of where we are from and our ancestors.

My husband’s sister has done extensive research into his family background, and the results are fascinating. She’s encouraged me to jump on the search for our roots. But the business of daily life has always given me an excuse to put it off.

My mother has been helpful in relating family stories that offer insights into her childhood. But I have been lax in recording these moments.

During the wedding weekend, I learned that one relative has already started the search for our roots, so there is a foundation from which to work. This might have given me the nudge and inspiration I need to get started.

And there is one thing I definitely took away from the weekend: the inspiration to keep family connections going in the new year.

Here’s to reconnecting in the new year. And starting new projects. And following through with those projects (you heard it here).

Wishing you a happy, healthy and inspirational 2023!


Fran Ostendorf