Moms, Dads, Uncles, Aunts...

My husband and I with my cousin and her fiance at another cousin's wedding
I have so many relatives, and often its hard to keep straight. Mama bilong mi has 4 susa and a brata, and my dad has two sisters and a brother and most of them are married and have pikininis - that's a lot of family relations! (I shouldn't complain too much - I know that there are other who have WAY more than that!) Now that I'm married, there are even more to keep track of, and I can't even put numbers down because I don't know!
When my husband and I got married, we wanted to have a liklik wedding - somewhere around 150 people. As we started doing the guest list and after we had written down all our immediate family members, we realized 150 was not going to work. Family alone was over 100. So, we ended up inviting 350 people, and out of those, 280 came. It was a great day.

I married into a beautiful and wonderful family!

In Papua New Guinea, extended families are super close. Many times, everyone will live together in one unyak. The labeling process is different as well. I will use myself as an example so things don't get too confusing. My mom has 4 sisters and one brother. Because my mom has four sisters, I actually have 5 moms. My mom, and her four sisters. Her brother is my uncle. All of my mom's sister's kids are my brothers and sisters, but my mom's brother's kids are my cousins. Now, my dad has 2 sisters and one brother. So, I actually have two dads, my dad's brother, and my dad. My dad's 2 sister's are my aunts, and their kids are my cousins while my dad's brother's kids are my siblings. Confused yet? It is complicated, but actually pretty easy to understand once you get the concept, and SO much more less confusing than labeling in the US.
Because I didn't have any of my aunts and uncles(according to traditional US labeling), I only had one mom and one dad, and my three siblings. The difference came when other moms in the village would adopt my mom as their susa, or other dad's would adopt my dad as their brata, and then I would become their pikinini, calling them Wakamik or Wakatik. In reality, I never truly considered them my moms and dads, where as the other Papua New Guinea kids truly considered their parents' brothers and sisters their moms and dads.Confusing, huh...
 But the point is, I never experienced the closeness between calling my mom's sister my mom, or her brother my dad because I hardly even know who those people were. I will explain a bit more...
One side of my husband's family during the Christmas season
I love my family, and I have begun to realize how special family is. I'm not just talking about immediate family, although they are definitely important. I am talking about full extended cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas family. Growing up, I didn't really have a concept of extended family. I knew I had grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, but I didn't really call them my family. They were my parents' siblings, and they had kids, but that was about it. I always felt pretty distant and uncomfortable when we would spend time with them. There were a couple aunts, uncles and cousins that we would spend more time with because they lived in great places that we would pass every time mipela i kam to and from Papua New Guinea. Even these relatives were still distant, because I only interacted with them once every three or four years, and at the most five or six times for those who lived nearby us.
My definition of relatives when something like, "Ol man husat are related to me somehow, but they live forever away, and I don't see them very much, but they always hug me, and give me yummy things to eat, and they are fun to be around, so I like them." I bet the last bit is pretty common among kids - I get stuff, so I like them. But, as I was shocked to learn one furlough, many people had relatives that lived right down the street from them, or even lived with them! What?!
In a sense, I didn't grow up having aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. I grew up knowing of them, and memorizing their faces based on ol piksa on our fridge, and saying hi to them on videos that my dad would make for them. After moving back to the US, and spending more time with family and getting to know them, my definition has completely changed. Relatives are those people who love me unconditionally, are always there for me no matter what, who I love unconditionally and who I am always there for no matter what.. oh, and I am related to them. I LOVE my relatives! Relatives sounds so formal and silly, probably because I grew up defining relatives as something different, so it sounds distant and unfriendly even saying that someone is my relative.
A couple of my cousins and us preparing for my Grandpa's 80th birthday celebration

 I am finally at a point, where I am looking back on my childhood, and being sad for the girl I see who didn't get to grow up around her "relatives." It's sad, and it's something that I want my kids to have, because I know what it's like to not have. I also know that God has plans for our (immediate) family and maybe He will call us overseas like He called my immediate family. Then, we will have to struggle through and pray about how to involve our children into our extended family. Maybe we'll just end up putting pictures on the fridge and telling our kids, "This is Grandpa, Grandma, Cousin and Auntie." I don't know what we will do if God puts us in that situation - just trust Him and trust our kids to Him, and know that He has a purpose and a plan in everything He asks us to do. Trust can be a very hard thing to do, so right now, I am praying for complete reliance upon and the ability to be able to trust Him in every situation to do what's best for our family.

In Wapombeng tasol,
Avi Mu

Mama bilong mi - My mom
Susa -Sisters
Brata - Brother 
Pikininis - Children
liklik - small
unyak - Male (another language I grew up around) for house
Wakamik - Male for Dad
Wakatik - Male for Mom
mipela i kam - we came
Ol man husat - People who
Ol piksa - pictures
Wapombeng tasol - God alone (I mixed Male and Tok Pisin here. Wapombeng is in Male and tasol is in Tok Pisin. Just wanted to confuse you a bit more...)