What makes a family? I'd love to just give you examples of "Hallmark" moments and say that is simply what family is, but that wouldn't be fair. I'm sure you and I both know, there is no perfect family. Do our families have Hallmark moments-sure, but is there "reality" woven in there? Absolutely.
Family Isn't Forever
In the last 15 years, I've learned one big lesson family doesn't mean forever. Sounds harsh? Maybe, but honestly it's what I've experienced and whether I like it or not, it's the truth.
I have great childhood memories growing up with extended family that I haven't seen in about 10 years. We used to drive to my grandmas to see family from out of town during the summer. We would spend afternoons running errands, shopping and having lunch at the cutest cafes. We'd then finish the day off at a local coffee shop. I remember vividly driving home in the dark with my sister and mom listening to the oldies music in her mustang. Little did I know that these cherished moments were numbered and if anyone would have tried to tell me any different...I would have told them they were crazy.
I'd love to say I have only lost part of my extended family over the past 10 years, but that statement would be untrue as well. I could share story after story of how our extended family broke apart over time but I think it's more important to share where our extended family has been found.
Finding our 'Ohana
Throughout the phases in our lives, you sometimes don't understand the reason for things when your in the moment. If you're a person of faith, you may pray about the situation, ask for understanding or acceptance and sometimes things come to fruition quickly and sometimes you don't understand what happened for years.
When my husband and I got married we thought we were only gaining each other's family. Little did we know we were about to gain a street full of family at our new house who we still refer lovingly to as our "Marydell Family." This new family of ours helped with late night calls for help with a broken toilet, celebrated festivals and parades together, gathered for pub crawls to support causes, bowled together in a league in town, and grieved together when we lost a fellow neighbor. Looking back though,some of my most favorite times together were our end of the day conversations in the middle of the street. One-by-one our neighbors would arrive home from work and the group and conversation grew bigger-this was a huge blessing to us both then and now.
Our Marydell family taught us that family comes together-whether it is for one another or for someone who they care for. They taught us to stop and take the time out of our busy days to catch up which in turn strengthened those relationships-even if it was a conversation of wild tales and jokes.
While my husband and I no longer live on Marydell, we have found additional family where we live now. I wholeheartedly believe had it not been for our Marydell family, my husband and I would not have the relationship we have now with our neighbors. Our small chit chat turned into sidewalk conversations that lasted past dark. They are the ones that will run into your house and take care of your child while you're taking care of the other. They get your kids off the bus so you're not in the heat with the baby and they don't judge you when you're having an off day. Their children have become your children and you just can't imagine doing life without them.
"What is family?" From the mouths of babes.
I asked our children at dinner the other week who their family is. Their responses were very telling. It is amazing to me how five-year-olds can have things figured out when as adults it can take so much to see the truth in something. I suppose it's because children don't have the extra clutter in their mind keeping them from realizing the truth.
If it wasn't for the loss of our extended family years ago, I don't know if I would appreciate or understand what family really is. In the past 10 years I have learned that family communicates. Family covers for you. Family makes time. Family listens.Family doesn't judge.Family makes effort. Family stops and makes time. Family comes together.
At the end of the day, family takes work from both sides. Had our Marydell family not yelled out at my husband and I every time we got out of our cars, conversation would have never happened and relationships wouldn't have been formed. Which means we would have missed out on some of the best memories of our first years married and we wouldn't be enjoying the neighbors that have turned into family now.
So having experienced the loss of "actual" extended family, my own family and I have gained family that are irreplaceable. I think sometimes we need to be careful not to dwell on what we don't understand because we may miss the opportunity of seeing something much better that has come our way.