This 25th blog is dedicated to those who make up the roots, branches, and nuts on my family tree (you know who you are). So what makes us family? Shared genes? Legally changing your name? Fostering or adoption? Dying Easter eggs together (not sure if it was Mom or Dad who took this photo)? Or is family something more ephemeral?
In my view, extended family are the ones we deeply care about and look out for, whether related through blood or legalities or mutual choice. Extended family includes those friends who stick by you through thick and thin, then send a card that say “We’ll always be friends. You know too much!” It includes those we love and those they love: kids, parents, siblings, and pets. Hopefully, meeting our family doesn’t scare them off.
When I got married, it was in large part for his family. They were a cross between The Walton’s and The Cleavers. The first time I met the parents, his Dad pulled out the school yearbooks to see what I looked like then, but mostly to show me what his long-haired hippy son looked like back in the day. His Mom served us “Snicker Snacks” – nuts and pretzels and such. And my date rolled on the floor with his young niece and nephew who, swear to God, looked just like the two rosy-cheeked Campbell Soup Kids.
When we vacationed together each summer – all 22 of us in a large rental house on the beach, there was a mandatory talent night. Every family member, from the youngest toddler to the elder Granddad performed a routine – a song, a dance, a skit, what have you. It was hokey but loads of fun, and formed lasting memories. At bedtime on those hot summer nights, this refrain warmed hearts in the darkness “Goodnight John Boy. Goodnight Lisa . . .“ When I divorced years later, the loss of this family hit me hard. But my son’s life is woven into the fabric of both sides of his family.
Our families of origin, the ones who raised us up or came along for us to raise, are the ones who have roots entwined within our hearts. This week I connected with each of them in some way – talked via Skype, mailed a birthday card, paid bills for some, listened some, and got some good things back. At times we get stuck in a tangle of emotions, shared history and role-playing, but ultimately we love each other fiercely. During a recent family crisis I took charge (as the oldest daughter usually does), but everyone came together to share their strengths and gifts. I’m so proud of how we each worked through our personal expressions of fear and loss to bond together with humor, compassion, and support. Compared to those TV families, we may look unpolished, but each is a family jewel.
Think: How would you describe your current family? Your family of origin? Your extended family?
Say: Make contact with each of your family members this week. If they’re gone, write a letter or talk to them from the heart.
Do: Organize a reunion – small or large. Make a date to connect with your best friends, the ones who “know too much”.