Late year holidays are always my favorite time of year, Thanksgiving, Christmas; I am giddy with child-like excitement for family, fellowship and togetherness. Adult life, however, exposes the harsh reality of the holiday season, family dynamics and beautiful let downs. Togetherness with family is not always about togetherness, connection, love; the events lack joy, communion and are more of a collective obligatory duty.
Thanksgiving this year was far from a normal Thanksgiving. Really, the event felt more like a normal Thursday night dinner with a turkey. No prayer. No giving thanks. No feeling of togetherness. As I take a moment to judge, there were no proper hors d’oeuvres, no cheeseball, no veggie snacks, no laughs and no pie. What the hell….the day is not Thanksgiving without a proper pie! I digress in sarcasm. The whole event seemed like a high school lunch gathering with each couple huddled to each other and only huddling around those they knew. No welcoming feeling, no camaraderie, the gathering felt very cliquish and awkward – albeit obligatory.
I do not handle obligatory well. Facades of assimilation when I have to attend an obligatory event, that way I have no expectation of others and I am not let down based on my own ideals. Thanksgiving I did not treat as obligatory, but I welcomed the new event, new people, new surroundings, excited to experience a new way of giving thanks. So when the day was not as I had normally experienced (expected) I just quietly gave thanks in my own way. Saying a small prayer by myself while surrounded by my kids and husband at the kids table in a room full of strangers. I was overflowing with thanks to experience the day with them, to be with them, thankful for the food and hospitality of my host, despite the broken expectations I had set for a traditional “family” holiday. The days event made me reflect upon my own siblings and family.
Family is everything to me and in my life. Loyalty to a fault. Nothing with family is obligatory, regardless if they are my blood relation, marital relation, long time friend or recently acquainted friend. Family is family. Yet, I am finding and experiencing more that family is not always about family, but the compulsion to be present, a social requirement, an unwritten rule of “because that is what you do,” not because of the loving draw to support, be a part of one another and foster the primordial bond. Perception is that family has become the likes of a Facebook connection – you piss me off and I’ll unfriend/block you mentality, as opposed to working through the difficult time towards resolve because we love one another, the old idiom of through thick and thin does not seem to apply nowadays.
So I contemplated what exactly the definition of family means, what exactly does the word family mean to me, what is my perception and expectation. Logically I investigated the dictionary definition which expounded even the scientific meanings:
1. a. A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children.
b. The children of one of these groups: She raised a large family.
c. A group of persons related by descent or marriage: My whole family, including my cousins, gets together once a year.
2. People in the same line of descent; lineage.
3. A locally independent organized crime unit, as of the Cosa Nostra.
4. a. A group of like things; a class: the family of brass instruments.
b. A group of individuals derived from a common stock: the family of human beings.
5. Biology A taxonomic category of related organisms ranking below an order and above a genus. A family usually consists of several genera.
6. Linguistics A group of languages descended from the same parent language, such as the Indo-European language family.
7. Mathematics A set of functions or surfaces that can be generated by varying the parameters of a general equation.
a. A group of elements with similar chemical properties.
b. A vertical column in the periodic table of elements.
(American HeritageÂ® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright Â© 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.)
I saw something in the scientific definitions that truly caught my eye, all but mathematics had a similar correlation. “A set of functions…by varying the parameters…” Family’s these days have become a function of varying parameters as opposed to a collection of similar groupings and or properties, hell even organized crime is more of a family; through thick and thin. When did family become more about a societal obligation than unconditional loyalty, unabashed love and allegiance?
Maybe I am old school that family is number one; as I mentioned loyalty to a fault I suppose. I remember being very close to my siblings growing up, in spite of our normal bickering, we knew we always had one another. Considering they were the only people I knew who would have my back and fend off the rest of the world with me. I always had my brother(s) and sister(s) growing up, when our parents were divorcing, divorced, and the adult world was all a mess. Knowing that later in life we would only have each other when our parents have left this world and we have become adult orphans.
“CV” was my best-friend, we did everything together and spent many days together even into our teen and young adult years, holding secrets among ourselves. Britt was my closest friend and enemy, always battling because that is what two sisters did in the same house, we knew each others untold secrets. Neither one of us had to tell the story, the other already knew, we held these truths close. A & T were a solid decade younger than myself, I loved them all the same and made every human attempt to continue to forge those relationships even when I was starting my own family and they were just learning to drive.
Today we are scattered, beyond the standard growing apart, call it estranged of sorts. Each of us grown and with our own family units to care for, unable to recall the last time we touched base and talked with one another just because; no obligation or need, but because we wanted to speak to each other. Of late, I have grown very close to one of my sisters despite our significant age difference and I adore that we can text, email or call one another randomly. My father and I have grown rather close too, regardless of any past history. Somehow we learn to forgive the past in order to cherish the future and the present, a gift. Yet my siblings seem so close and so far. Pondering if they feel the same, in light of spectating recent events with my affinitive family.
I cannot be the only one who thinks that family is everything. Siblings taught me about constancy in family, how to deal with extremely difficult people (because let’s face it, siblings can be difficult), and above all else loyalty. My aunts and uncles, both maternal and paternal, have been extraordinary examples of loyalty and the nuclear family. Despite all the dysfunction over the generations of our families, as siblings, they have always come together in one way or another. Connecting, bonding, relying on one another and still learning from one another how to manage and cultivate meaningful relationships despite difficult situations. Above all else, they still love and adore one another and they know it, I know it, others know and see the affection in spite of, sometimes petty, minutiae.
What happens when the love is fractured and completely detached? We do move away because we have to find our own identity as individuals and individual families, but we find a way to come together. Or do we? Do we just learn to cope that around the holidays where family is obligatory? Do we spend the remaining three hundred and sixty some odd days are figuring out a way to be in the world without family love? Do we just chalk up our family to you don’t know what you don’t know – if you were never close you never really miss it?