Monday, July 26, 2010

Just what makes a family?

What makes a family?  I’ve pondered this question ever since we discovered we could not bear children of our own.  What is the mysterious essence that makes family?  Our culture tells us family is everything… that no other success will make up for its failure.  We spend hours researching family trees, telling stories, and reading books all to strengthen “the family”. 
 If shared eye color or a reoccurring crooked toe are all it takes to make a family, Briz and I were sentenced by nature to a family less existence.   We decided to take a gamble… a leap of sorts to see if we could create a family without tree lines, or a super close genetic pool.   We theorized that love would pull us together into a family unit.  I wanted to experiment on the idea that love didn’t automatically brew in the blood or womb, but was consciously decided in the brain. 
The five of us couldn’t be more different.  We like different things, we have different temperaments, and we don’t look alike, yet the decision to love binds us together strong enough to inspire sleepless nights, and exhausted days. 
We drove through God’s country to the secluded farmhouse late at night.  We let ourselves in and walked into the kitchen.  The men sat around the T.V.  and silently stared at us for an uncomfortably long time.  “Can you take us to our trailer?”  I ask.  The white haired gentleman in overalls rose and silently walked us outside.   On the way out, Jeni and Doreen met us at the door.  Ladybug, this is Jeni.  Recognition filled her face with a slow smile.  She offered a long hug.  After tucking the children, I sat awake and hoped we were doing the right thing joining in Ladybug’s birth family reunion.  How would the next 2 days go?  How could we spend 48 hours with people we’d never even met?  I remembered that family has thus far been a conscious decision for us.  It would be so again.  Where there is love there is no fear.
We woke to family… family… and more family.  11 children, spouses, grandchildren, many married with children of their own converged on the yard the next morning.   
A quick walk through the hay field and we were hiking in the national forest.  Conversations with the teen boys showed them to be bright, kind, and sensitive.  We found we all shared a love of fossil hunting.  Within the next few hours, each little girl was clustered into a group of “cousins” their age.  
Water games, crafts, cooking lessons, ping pong, bike rides, and the coveted raffles kept them busy without so much as a peep for 2 days.  
I dove into the family reunion reserving nothing of myself for safety.  I anxiously engaged each person who crossed my path.  Not surprisingly, I didn’t meet a soul I didn’t like.  I sorrowed for those with difficulties such as cancer or harder things; I celebrated with the newly engaged.   
I warmed at the sight of Grandpa Rex in his farmer’s hat as he smiled his slow sweet smile.   I learned the secrets of candy success from Grandma Doreen. We were inducted into the family secrets of 2 year old dried marshmallows. 
I not only allowed Ladybug contact with Jeni and her new husband, I tried to create opportunities for it.  “After all” I told myself, “I am in the parenting business for the good of these little ones, not for my own glorification.”  Ladybug had many questions, for me… and for her.  I warmed at the joy with which her blood “family” greeted her and all associated with her.  

Our two days ended too soon.  “You’re just a part of the family.” Doreen told us.  “Please come to our next one,” said some teen aged girls, “You’re one of us now.”  Many E-mails and phone numbers were exchanged along with promises to meet for lunch.  We drove off amid tears and hugs. 
Family seems to be more than chance.  Added to the shared experience and similarities is an acceptance, a stretching and growing that stresses inclusion.  I can’t help but notice…in permitting Ladybug’s family circle to grow, we expanded our own.  Love is always the right choice.


  1. I didn't know that was what you were doing. How brave, how honorable, how wise. I love you and even though it wasn't initially a choice... it is a choice now, and I couldn't be prouder to be a sister. Tears and sniffles and lots and lots of love.

  2. I love your statement "love is always the right choice." So profound. Your posts, as always, are beautiful. Thanks.