Family in the true sense of the word has always meant a great deal to me. As a kid growing up with one little brother who was six and half years younger than me, it made for a lonely existence. The age difference made me feel like an only child for much of my life and quite honestly, that was the last thing I wanted to be. I had a rich imagination though and I used to dream of being a part of a big family where I had siblings close to my age and where my parents were together and everyone sat around a huge dinner table with lots of glorious noise and fun and all the other stuff that my young imagination thought was big family norm.
My loneliness would ebb some when we went to family gatherings or reunions on my mothers side. I was one of 45+ grand kids and at the youngish end at that. At those gatherings I was one of many and I felt apart of something much bigger than just myself. There was always someone to talk to, play with and there wasn't a second of loneliness. I always dreaded the end of those wonderful times and did my best to stay in touch with members of my huge family tree. This is probably why I became so involved in genealogy. I had a desperate need to be apart of a family with deep roots and huge branches.
In high school (and still to this day) one of my closest friends was part of family that boasted 12 kids. There were a half a dozen boys and a half a dozen girls. My friend was third to the youngest. From the first moment I stepped into her house of constant happenings.......I was smitten. There was always someone there, some kind of activity and I never wanted to leave. It was the family that I had always dreamed of. When things went south at my house, which they tended to do from time to time...I took refuge at her house. I am sure there were times they wondered if I would ever leave or possibly I just got lost in the shuffle of all the activity. Over the years, these people actually did become like family to me and I gained two of my closest life long friends from this family. Many members of this family attended both the happy and sad major events in my life...which was more than some of my immediate bloodline family did. It was the beginning.
I believe it was about the time I hit my mid to late twenties that I was starting to realize something that a lot of us learn with time. Family doesn't always have to be chosen for us. Sometimes we get to choose. Blood does not always equal family. Sometimes friends become family because they are closer to us, know more about us and are there for us when blood family can't or wont be. Sadly it was a concept lost on my own immediate family.
One time I was talking to my mother about a couple of my friends being as close (if not closer) than some members of my immediate family. Mom I think was offended even though she knew it was not her I was referring to. In my moms head, family was family and friends were friends. You drew a line in the sand with a double standard marking the spot. Family could be friends....HOWEVER....friends could NOT be family. This came from my mothers reclusive tenancy's and pride in family I am sure,
After both my mother and my husband died....two huge holes were left in my immediate family tree. It was at this time that I started learning a lot more about the friends as family dynamic and just how it pertained to my life. In the last few years my family has grown to include many wonderful friends. I have had friends travel great distances so I would not be alone in a strange hospital with a sick child. I have had friends travel distances to help me out with David after his surgery. I have had people come in and cook for me, clean my house and make sure the rest of my family was cared for while I cared for David. None of these people were my immediate blood family. They were all friends....who were fast becoming family.
Now don't get me wrong....I love my family and I still adore all my cousins, aunts and uncles. I love getting together with them when life and circumstance allows. I have gained nieces and nephews and inlaws over the years that also have my heart. However, right here in my own little world.....my family has grown exponentially as those who have been friends crossed over the threshold into family. Apparently too, I am not the only one whose family has grown as I know that I have had the honor in a couple of families to stand in as sister, niece, grand daughter and even mom. I guess the family tree continues......
Okay.....so now you know a little more about me and my childhood longings and adult revelations. Another Thursday down. I tell you....these about me blogs are hard and don't seem to be getting any easier. Sigh. So one final thought. I know just how blessed I am to have the people in my life that I have, both blood and friends. I hope too that I always remain worthy of keeping these people close. Remember though, when the family/friend lines seem to get a little blurred........ family is who has your heart....not just your blood.
****Dedicated to Berty, Thiry, Marni, Chris, Steve, Kevin....and all the rest who have become part of my wonderful extended family. I hope you know what you all mean to me.