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The Zuniga Family

Closing in on 50 years of marriage, we have periodically been asked, “Do you folks know you have a big family?"

I was an only child. My father passed away when I was 4 years old and I never thought about having a large family until I met my wife, Marcelle. We’ve always been open to the transmission of life.

In 1972, Marcelle and I welcomed our first child. From then on, until 1999, we had eight children total. Yes, that is a lot of children, but “big family” is my point of view. Marcelle has a vision for what she wants in heaven. She wants to be sitting in a rocking chair circled by all of her eight children at the same age.

We traveled to St. Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula once because child No. 4 was exploring her educational opportunities. We met with the financial aid counselor. Hoping for assistance. We explained that there were eight children in our family. We were caught off guard by the response: “Well, eight children is on the small side for many of the families who send their kids here.”

We never thought that someone would construe our family as on “the small side.”

As a one-income family, money was always an issue for us. No, it’s not that we had too much. However, looking back, we can see how God was always there providing for our needs, not our wants. Marcelle has been a constant reminder to me that things will work out. She’s also been a source of amazement through the years. We had two home births and home-schooled our children.

Marcelle and I knew they were going to grow up and move away. Some of our children have moved on to Wisconsin, Texas, Oregon and Virginia over the past years, but our nest has never been empty. Three of our 14 grandchildren and our youngest daughter live in Bakersfield. Having a big family comes with a natural dynamic that our nest will never be empty. We always had children in our home. Our family of eight just happened.

Seeing our kids move on came naturally to us. Through our entire married life, Marcelle and I had two weeks alone at home. Our lives were always changing and busy, so Marcelle and I were spared the bittersweet moments.

Looking back at raising the kids, it wasn’t easy but it was really fun. We all got to be together at the same time, so we can’t wait for heaven. 

Basil Zuniga grew up in Wasco, and after spending six years serving the U.S. Coast Guard, he moved to Bakersfield in 1979. He is a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views expressed are his own.

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