Yesterday at Thanksgiving, a guest at the dinner table asked me how I was related to the family who was hosting the event. “I’m Chuck’s step-daughter,” I replied. The gentleman gave me a funny luck, so I elaborated.
“Chuck was married to my mother years ago but they divorced. The man then turned to Tiffany who is Chuck’s biological daughter.
“And you’re her daughter?” he said nodding towards me. Tiffany and I smiled.
“No,” I replied.
“Although technically speaking, she could be,” Tiffany quipped. We smiled at each other as Tiffany is in her early twenties and I’m in my early forties, so I am old enough to be her mother. The man looked confused.
“I’m Chuck’s biological daughter,” Tiffany piped in. “After my dad divorced Lise’s mother, he married my mother and had me. And then he divorced again and now he is married to Cindy.”
The man now understood, shook his head and said, “I’ve never been married. It’s easier that way!”
As the popular television show “Modern Family” attests, we are living in a time of complicated family dynamics. We have step-parents and step-step parents. Half siblings and long lost siblings. Some of us have no children (other than our pets) and some of us have never married. Some are estranged from our parents while others no longer have parents. And then there are those of us who have been close to particular families for so long that we think of them as our blood family.
When I lived on the East coast, I was geographically closer to my biological relatives, so for holidays, I would often take the train from NYC to Virginia to spend time with extended family. I loved those times and they reminded me of my roots. However, I can’t always get to the East coast for holidays now that I’m on the West coast, and I learned long ago that I had to somehow create family around me. Otherwise I was going to feel like Little Orphan Annie.
This holiday I am grateful for many things, but in particular, I am thankful that I am loved by so many people who are not necessarily my family of origin. I am appreciative of people who have insisted I be a part of things even when I’ve wanted to recede and who haven’t got caught up in having one more person at the dinner table despite the fact that I don’t share the same DNA.
For all the looming reports that family values are dead and no one cares about anyone anymore in this society, I actually think love is alive and well. And that is the true spirit of the season.