I did not bring a family picture you asked for into class today because I found it very troublesome to pick one picture that I consider a photo of my family. This is simply because the many people that I consider to be family have never, nor would they ever, come together for a ‘family’ picture. So I have chosen a picture of my ‘original’ family; the immediate family that I started with, even though it has evolved since this picture was taken.
The photo is a picture of my mother, father, sister and I. This was one of our last years together as a family. My parents divorced when both my sister and I were very young causing, of course, the inevitable separation and breakup of a family unit I once knew. But this does not mean my family ended. In fact it meant the exact opposite. My family expanded, grew and changed to become the beautiful complicated group it is today.
Today both my parents are remarried to people whom I wholeheartedly consider to be family. And with the remarriage and stepparents came additional family members whom, again, I wholeheartedly consider to be family. This enlargement of family includes, step grandparents, step aunts and uncles whom have become as important to me as my ‘original’ or ‘blood’ extended family.
My father and stepmother also brought in the addition of a new child, my baby brother James. And though in proper terms he would be considered my half brother, my family and I never use that term because to us, the term ‘half’ seems derogatory and lacking. Therefore I refer to both my brother and sister as exactly that, without the need to add the terms ‘full’ or ‘half’ before either of their names. My love for them is not for one ‘half’ and the other ‘full’ but equal and unconditional regardless of their age and whether we share one or two biological parents.
Really you asking us to bring in a picture of our family, caused a lot of self reflection, and for that I thank you, because I began to realize a lot about what family is and came to some great conclusions that I’m about to share with you.
I believe in the cliché that states that family is who you chose as much as it is who you are biologically related to. I have some friends who I would consider family, based on the length, dedication and unconditional love within our relationship and some blood relatives who I do not consider family because of the lacking of all those previously listed qualities. Family to me is anyone whom you unconditionally love and whom unconditionally loves you. Family does not always have correlation to living situations or biological ties but rather exists and is created through the types of relationships someone has with a person.
Family is not immune to time. Family will inevitably change as a person grows and as time passes, with something as understandable as the death, addition of a child or a marriage. So to speak about family as if it is this concrete never evolving unit of people is not only incorrect but also ignorant.
Family is really indefinable. It is much less tangible than people are lead to believe. Family is a feeling you get with certain people in your life, much like home is never actually a place. Family is whatever you choose it to be and is to be felt more than seen. It is wherever you feel loved and secure and is a very subjective and personal experience to each and every person. Family is something that requires work and time but from that work and time comes the sweetest most rewarding results. Family is beautiful and such an important part of people’s lives. But most of all family is something that should never be taken for granted, not even for one second of any given day.