We were young. Our original family expanding.

Like Christmas morning we waited with anticipation to see who would be our next to love. My sister gave us our first girl. She would end up being our only girl. One out of twelve, she has been called the rose among the thorns and more recently the pearl among the muscles. The boys in the family are fond of the muscle comparison (naturally) and not so much the thorns.

So life progressed and we got to love. We got to love them all – what I always call the ‘twelve great loves of my life.’

And were they loved! They were loved beyond, backwards and back again!

We are a big Irish, Catholic, Clan as my uncle was always so proud to say. That’s code for overly loving, overly involved, overly caring and overly complicated. It’s also code for speaking a love language that’s ridiculously simple to decipher – meaning it is impossible to grow up not feeling anything except that each and every one of us are somehow greater than we possibly are.

For a year we have been building. We have been getting ready. We have excitedly awaited our ‘one and only’ (niece) getting married.

To her ‘one and only.’

The day finally came. It was bright and warm and sunny. The perfect kind of day for a ‘one and only’ – to join their other ‘one and only.’ It was one fine day.

I know people talk of the day of getting married – of joining two families. I don’t think of it that way. I wanted to make sure we were passing the baton. I wanted to make sure they would love her as we do and in turn, that we would love their “one and only” as they have.

Shouldn’t every wedding have that responsibility?

When the honeymoon is over and the first argument happens (as they inevitably do), shouldn’t each of them (rather than carry the physical dowry of yesteryear, carry the emotional dowry that brings the responsiblity of “LOVE”) and take themselves out of the argument. Shouldn’t they remember that they promised each other and each other’s family that would love them beyond, backwards and back again?

I watched my niece. Our ‘one and only’ with her ‘one and only.’

All I could see was love. The two great loves in each other’s lives. I could only feel joy. Love is beautiful. It is even more beautiful when you can see it.

I know that it will stay that way as long as they realize love is our greatest gift and when unwrapped it becomes not only our most precious gift – it also becomes so exposed that it demands even more care.

They are young. Our family is once again expanding.

Like Christmas morning, I wait with anticipation to see how many more will be our next to love.

For the twelve great loves of my life ( my very own “one and only’s” are growing up) and will soon introduce to us the rest of their “one and only’s.”

I will take this obligation seriously.

I will grab the baton and love them beyond, backwards and back again. Just as I have done since the twelve best Christmas mornings of my life…

When the love in our family expanded.

My gorgeous niece Bridgett with her very handsome ‘one and only’ Tyler

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