In fragile folding chairs we sit watching the fire, listening to the music of the surf. We form a circle of people bound by blood somewhat, but in reality bound by that strongest of cements—love. Some are children of my body, given to me as gifts from the universe. Others are the children of my heart, given to me when I married their father.
All are my children—mine, do you hear me? Each one is my precious, my dearest earthly treasure, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love them with all the meddling, coddling love a Cancerian brings to motherhood.
I think about how it hurt to see these people grow to adulthood and leave the nest, but over and above the sense of loss at their fledging I was proud that I was a part of their lives. They are who they are, separate from me, better, and unique.
As it should be.
We are blessed to have a family where love is thicker than blood, and if you cut one of us, we all bleed red. It is the friendship, the camaraderie, the need to be with each other that forges this blended family.
Our genetics may differ but we are the unit of us—a family united widely by marriage, closely by adoption, yes, some by birth. We are a melange of “inlaws and outlaws,” and that is okay. New spouses enter the group under duress and with trepidation, but soon find themselves at ease, and we all make new memories.
There are many passports into this family, and blood is only a small part of it. Sometimes we go a while apart but memories of lazy summer vacations and stressed-out Christmases, and the challenge of making Thanksgiving menus work for everyone (even the vegan) draw us back together. Dietary dramas fade when unconditional love is applied to the injury.
That connection, these traditions, this path that leads us to each other is the core of a state of being that is hard to define, a concept we call family.
We are not all around this fire tonight. In low voices we talk about how we miss those who couldn’t make the journey this year. We laugh about their youthful antics and how we miss them. We understand well how being an adult means you can’t get time off when you want it, even for a traditional week of family rest and renewal.
Beneath the Oregon stars, my grandchildren run wild and the dunes echo with their laughter. Tonight I am contented, blessed in a way everyone should be.