The Finnertys take over

We just got back from my cousin Jen’s wedding in Chicagoland. As always, the Finnertys took over: at the Fairfield Inn where almost all of us were staying, at my aunt Colleen’s for pizza after the reception, at Graham’s ice cream in downtown Geneva, where we took up at least half the patio, and so on.

The Finnertys are my mom’s family, and the takeover that occurs wherever we go is always my favorite part of getting together with them. The Finnertys are a force to be reckoned with: there are 10 siblings in the family, 26 grandchildren (of which I am one), and 17 great-grandchildren. Never do all of us make it to every family event, but, for example, 20 of us, representing all three of those just-mentioned generations, took over the patio at the ice cream parlor. The wedding reception included another 11 relatives, if you count the bride and groom, so out of the 140 or so guests, 31 were on the Finnerty side.

The best part is that we’re an Irish clan, and so by nature and heritage are a family of storytellers. When we take over a place, it’s to trade “remember the time when …” stories. I always loved, as a kid, sitting there listening to my uncle Dan and my uncle Tom swap stories of getting in trouble, followed by my mom’s correction of events, because she’s got the best memory of the bunch, and then punctuated by my uncle Joe’s and my aunt Therese’s very distinctive laughs. When we really get rolling, you can expect Bailey’s to be involved, like when we took over the guest lounge of another Fairfield Inn after my grandmother’s funeral five years ago and held our own Irish wake. This time we got no crazier than Krispy Kremes, complete with the paper hats to make us look silly.

Just sitting and listening is the best part of these gatherings, and we cousins know that we have to be sponges, because sooner or later the time will come when we will have to be the tellers instead of the listeners. My cousin Kate has been working on family genealogy to capture some of the important stuff before it gets lost, and we’re working on a family Google group, so that we can stay in touch between these big events.

We indoctrinate people through marriage, too, so Dan now has seven years under his belt. Paul, Jen’s new husband, sat down on Saturday night over pizza and said, “I better soak up as much as I can,” which means he’s already got the right attitude.

So if you see that the Finnertys are in town, realize that we move en masse and prepare for the lounge of your local Fairfield Inn — or the ice cream parlor or a pizza joint or some hotel bar or local pub — to be taken over. Also realize, though, that we’re a lot of fun. If you can scrounge an invitation by birth, marriage, or friendship, you should come join us. Or just bring a bottle of Bailey’s, and we’re sure to welcome you.

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