I come from an astonishingly large family: large in size and large in love. Since we are a big family from a relatively small place, whenever I go home to visit I have this wonderful feeling of familiarity. It is as if I can see myself in my mind’s eye in all my growing up stages. In the span of a mile, I see flashes of memory and find myself thinking: oh, that’s where I went to pre-school. Look, isn’t that where I scraped my knee when we were running after the dog? Remember the time we picked all those oranges? That’s where dad pitched his first no-hitter!
I was born in Orlando, Florida. Growing up, my brothers and I were very close. We spent all our time together. We climbed the big Magnolia tree in our front yard and ran around the neighborhood gathering kids for games of kick the can. If we were lucky we got invited to swim in somebody’s pool. In summer we had barbeques and churned ice cream and camped in the woods. We grew up on lakes and under oak trees and riding along brick roads that rattled anything on wheels.
On Sundays we went to church and we all did chores around the house. Dinner was a sacred time in our family. We took turns reading aloud around the dinner table, a tradition I adored and would love to carry on with my own children.
We had other traditions too. Dad passed down his knowledge of the outdoors and his love of athletics. It is one of the things we have held onto as adults that has kept us close. We travel together—my brothers and I--every summer to different destinations and our trips always involve some physical pursuit. We paddleboard, hike, camp, fish and ski.
On holidays, which we spend at home in Florida, we play volleyball or badminton or ping-pong or, most recently, we bowl. (We have even added a trophy for first place.) I love Christmastime, which has always been a special holiday in my family, and look forward to keeping up our traditions with my own children.
When I was little, my mother’s eleven brothers and sisters and all my cousins would come to our house, along with my grandparents from both sides, for a huge Christmas Eve party. Santa sometimes made a special appearance.
One Christmas, we got a white puppy who we named Nancy. We always had dogs. I remember one named Britain and a black one we called Nikki. Dogs are pure love and a joyful addition to any family. They are a child’s best companion. My brothers and I passed so much time brushing amd feeding the dogs and even more time snuggling with them. I want to have one of my own in the future.
I think my Dad helped give me an appreciation for tradition. We camped in the summers on our road trips and I like to imagine continuing that with my children. There was always a sense of adventure on those trips; it was just the parents and the kids and the wild woods or the open road. My parents, Dad especially, were great adventurers. Dad loved hugging me—his only little girl—and made me feel safe. He made me proud of where I came from and gave me deep roots.
When I was twelve I needlepointed a popular saying onto a white linen cloth: “There are two things you can hope to give a child: one is roots, the other is wings.” And if my father gave me roots, then my mother gave me wings. Her choices made me who I am today. She sent me to a fantastic summer camp where I met kids from all over the world; it was amazing. When I became bored in my local school, she searched for a place that would be interesting for me. She found the perfect high school and let me go even though it was far from our home. There I gained a whole new kind of confidence and discovered my passion for writing. The experiences she gave me set me on the path to myself, my life in New York and my career as a writer.
Family has always been the most important thing in my life. We are there for each other, all one hundred of us. I was given my mother’s maiden name as a middle name at birth though many of my family members have Francis or Mary in their names, a nod to our Catholic faith.
I was raised Catholic, baptized and confirmed. My great grandparents and grandparents built churches, and much of my family received a Catholic education. Growing up, the church gave me a sense of belonging.
Throughout the years, I have never lost sight of my desire to be a mother. Along the way, I’ve had loves and tried to start a family but I now know that my route is adoption.
My family and friends all feel it’s about time I became a mom. I am a born caretaker. I am always trying to look out for my brothers. I have nurtured and “brought up” many young journalists in my work. I would do anything for my family and friends--and they know that. I believe that the most important thing in life is that the people around you know that you love them and that you work hard to be the best person you can be. Above all else: you must treat others the way you wish to be treated.
My family is already full of wisdom, support, advice and encouragement and the desire to help in everyway. In fact, my mother has knitted half a dozen baby blankets one in nearly every color!