I grew up in New Orleans, LA. My mom is the oldest of five siblings all of whom lived within about 30 minutes driving distance of each other. Every weekend all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and assorted family friends would gather at my grandparents house to watch the Saints play football and eat my Pa-pa's Cajun cooking. It was boisterous, crowded, and loud but we were family. It was fun. To this day we are all close even though we are significantly more spread out around the country. My closeness with my extended family is a big part of who I am as a person and of the values I hold as important.
I am blessed to live only about five minutes away from my parents. We have them over for dinner once a week, and one of the kids spends the night at their house every weekend. It's wonderful for my children to have such a close relationship with their grandparents. It is a gift to the children and to my parents and watching those relationships develop and deepen is incredibly important to me.
It makes me sad though, that my children rarely get to experience the huge extended family gathering that I grew up with on a weekly basis. They don't know what it is like to be in a room crowded with family all talking at once. They haven't had the opportunity to become close to our extended relatives simply due to distance.
We prioritize visits. Many of my Louisiana relatives travel to us once a year and we go to them once a year as well. As the children get a little older, they remember those visits and begin to anticipate the next one. We also visit my dad's family in Arkansas once a year and my husband's family in Oklahoma once a year. My husband's parents are wonderful and come to us several times a year. They're here for both kids' birthdays and often for at least one bonus visit.
So we try to find different ways to stay close to family. And it works. But if I could only convince everyone I love to move into my neighborhood - that would be perfect. Weekend gatherings would be so much fun.