Given that, chief amongst our priorities is our family, there’s nothing we like better here in Saunderstown than a good old-fashioned get-together.
The more the merrier, that’s our mantra; the bigger the better, our belief.
It’s true that larger numbers present greater challenges – logistical, in the main – but the chance to see our nearest and dearest all gathered under one roof makes all the hard work worthwhile.
That in mind, we have nothing but admiration, and no little awe, for the Caez clan, a Phoenix family, reunited, remarkably, earlier this month in Arizona.
You might wonder what it is that makes this family so remarkable and so interesting to us, here in Rhode Island, almost 2,280 miles away.
The answer is this: The Caez family, in the Phoenix area alone, can boast some 1,500 members, their numbers spanning five generations and growing all the time.
Taking logistics into account, it’s little wonder that this was but their third such gathering, their first in 14 years.
But what a gathering it was.
You see, on October 2, around 1,000 Phoenicians – for that, we’re told, is the correct collective term – gathered in Kiwanis Park in Tempe for a day-long celebration.
Most had never met, but all shared something special.
Genes, blood, heritage.
For fantastical as their tale might sound, all in attendance share the most profound connection.
It’s a connection that can be traced back to rural Mexico, to 1875, to an industrious rancher, eight children and a familial line that just keeps on growing.
It started in San Miguel, where Juan Bautista Caez was born and raised, marrying Maria Luisa Duran in 1898, starting a dynasty, still going strong, bigger than ever, now, today, all those years on.
The aforementioned children – Silverio, Carmela, Juan, Adrian, Armando, Francisco, Jose and Miguel – followed, each a significant strand in a tale that celebrates all that is held dear to us here in our studio.
Thriving ranchers in Mexico, Juan and Maria headed north in 1926, crossing the border, trying their luck and starting new lives as agricultural workers in the United States.
The children grew, as children do, just one, Adrian, returning to Mexico.
The rest remained in Phoenix, marrying, starting their own families, adding countless offshoots to a fast-growing family tree, one that soon began to spread beyond control.
The rest is history, one that can prove difficult to untangle, even for those enmeshed in it.
“We’ve had people go out on dates and then learn that they were related,” admitted Maria Caez, 48, the youngest of Jose’s eight children, Juan and Maria’s granddaughter, the first Caez child of her generation to be born in the United States.
Much connects the Caez clan – an inspiring story, a shared heritage and, according to Maria, at least, the distinctive ‘Caez ears’.
It’s clear that another thing is shared, a value, a long-held belief that family, over everything else in life, must always take precedence.
It’s a belief that is shared here in Saunderstown – in our studio, in our home – and one that brought Caez after Caez after Caez all together again for the first time since 1997, a little over a week ago, in a park, no roof in Phoenix big enough to house the assembled masses.
Juan Bautista Caez wasn’t in their number, not this time, the man responsible for creating the ultimate in connection having died in 2005. There’s little doubt that, had he been present, he’d have approved.
You see, just before he died, he gathered his nearest and dearest and told them something important, something they’ll never forget.
“He said, ‘I don’t want you guys to ever stay away from each other, I want you to stay close,’” recalled Maria.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Here’s to families. Here’s to staying close. Here’s to the amazing Caez clan.
We are all connected.