In an age when reaching out to family is as simple as Facetiming loved ones on an iPhone, for Ben “Gabe” Esposito that is simply not enough.
The 76-year-old recently explained family is everything, and for the past 50 years, he and his siblings have arranged an Esposito picnic at Merrill Park in Woodbridge Township.
He said it is not enough to just talk on the telephone, family needs to interact together in person.
The children of the late Pasquale and Carmina Esposito, who coincidentally would have been married 100 years this September, held a golden anniversary picnic on May 26.
“My mother said everything is about family,” Esposito said.
This year, about 200 members of his very large family and some friends attended the picnic.
The Esposito picnics began after Ben and his wife, Marilyn Brenner, attended her family’s picnic in Iowa and the couple thought it was a great idea. They then brought the idea back to New Jersey.
Esposito is one of 15 children – five of the children died when they were infants. He said from the 10 siblings came three more generations of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. At the 2018 picnic, there were 172 family members; today there are 193.
“Our family is like the branches of a tree,” Esposito said. “We may grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one. Each of us will always be a part of the other.”
While the Espositos originally hailed from Jersey City, eventually the brothers and sisters relocated throughout the Garden State. They reside in Lyndhurst, Rutherford, Edison, Woodbridge, Jackson, Colts Neck, Wall and Brick.
But, the miles down the Garden State Parkway never separated the siblings. To this day, every Tuesday, the siblings meet to discuss politics, sports, and the annual picnic, and of course, eat macaroni with gravy, he said.
Food to the big Italian family is important, so the picnic always includes typical barbecue fare and desserts as well as meatballs. There are always competitive games and a t-shirt created by family members.
“The picnic gives our kids the opportunity to interact with one another,” Esposito said. “In the beginning they couldn’t bring any friends – only Espositos – and the picnic was wildly successfully. Then at the third picnic, we said only one friend and family.”
Like a well-oiled machine, the family sets up at 8 a.m. on the morning of the picnic, complete with two tents, equipment for games, and of course, food – lots of it.
The picnic celebration continues for pizza at a sister’s house in Edison and breakfast at the Menlo Park Diner in Edison the next day.
When asked to explain why the annual picnic is so important to him, Esposito said, “That’s easy, one word: family.”
This article was submitted by Lori Luicci on behalf of the Esposito family.