Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Unconventional Family

My mom is going to see the title of this post and I'm going to get a phone call where she tells me once again that I share too much on my blog. Or she'll tell me when I see her tomorrow for Thanksgiving.

But I got to thinking about the holidays and especially Thanksgiving, which made me think about my family. This post is really about how thankful I am for my family, in all of it's manifestations...and there have been a lot...and loving people who are your real family, your adopted family, and your chosen family.

I don't think that I have a picture of everyone who falls into all of those categories together, nor do I think that everyone would fit into one frame. That's why there are a bunch of pictures scattered throughout. And note that they are all good pictures of me, no matter what the other people look like. It's all about quality control up in here. :oP

First, my story:

My parents marriage ended (for all intensive purposes) when I was eight because my dad is gay. It was the 90s, we lived in a small town (read: everyone knows everything about everyone - so that probably came as a shock, not just to me), and the way I remember it, I was the only kid who had divorced parents, much less a parent who was something that other kids made fun of on the playground. And that is where my family became unconventional.

Shortly after they divorced, my dad moved to California, spreading the entirety of my family, literally, from sea to shining sea. I learned American geography simply by visiting the various members of our extended family, of which every one lives in a different state. Sometimes we would travel to see one or another for a holiday or two, but that wasn't practical with the closest relative being 14 hours away by car, or always possible as we got to be teenagers and involved in various school activities that required participation even during holiday breaks. So my mom, sister and I started our own family traditions, with other friends who were also far from their "real" families.

We became each other's adopted family. These were the people who invited us over for holiday meals, or even just weekly get-togethers, looked after us when we were kids, or we looked after their kids. We shared all of the things that typical families share - laughter, fights, mischief, toys, germs, stories, phone calls, vacations, money, shopping trips, gifts, food, holidays, cars, schools, daycare, homes, and friends.

And then my mom remarried. We had, what I thought was, a normal family for a few years. There were step-siblings, step-parents, step-pets, and step-problems. Although we were a societal norm, a blended family, there was nothing normal about our blend. It didn't work out. But we tried. And there were moments and vacations that I will never forget. We shared many of the experiences of a family, so I still have not figured out how to label these people when I talk about them now. But because of everything we shared, I still consider them part of my family.

Even today, the ever-rotating cast of family characters continues to change as we unite ourselves with the special chosen few who we elect to become members of this madness (why are these people choosing to be a part of all of this and not running the other way???). My dad found a partner who he wanted to spend his life with, and we love him to death. He is loving and caring and so very understanding of my dad. My sister is getting married next year, and I will officially have my first and only brother-in-law, who probably has no idea what he's getting into. And then there's Ben, who has probably been the longest running member of our family besides the original four. I'm pretty sure he's just here for the drama. Because he's certainly seen a lot of it and continues to stick around.

I swear up and down every day that I am the only normal person in my family. We all have some pretty sweet quirks. I have over-ambitiousness and over-emotionalness. My mom, who is a nurse, is obsessed with cleanliness and can't stand any type of bug. But, I know that I can eat off the floors at her house, so I have no complaints. And maybe a little bit of it rubbed off on me. My sister picks her nose. Yeah, that was the best quirk I could come up with on the fly, but if you met her, you'd understand - she has a special sense of humor. And my dad announced last week that he's changing his name from Tim to Jean Pierre de Reynal. He also has a special sense of humor, but the name change is not a part of it.

But in spite of everything that has happened, or will happen, between us, I love my weird family more than anything in the world. And, by today's standard, weird is the new normal. It's become a cliche that families come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and relations. Mine is truly all of those things, and yet, we are anything but cliche. We are unique. And that is something that I am incredibly proud of, and proud to be a part of.

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