The best families are made, created out of a sense of concern, appreciation, and love for one another. Blood ties mean nothing unless the others in the family actually act like a family.
Because my husband had to work a midnight Black Friday shift at his department store, we couldn't go back home to see his parents and sister. They couldn't make their way up here, because of his sister's school schedule, and because we're saving up money to all go to Florida together in about a month. And clearly my parents were not invited over to our place. No freaking way. (My little siblings are another story. <3 ) Other relatives lived farther away than the in-laws.
Enter our church family. After Mass one day, a friend came up to invite us over to his and his partner's house; they have a big Thanksgiving with about 20 people. Should we bring anything? "Just yourselves!" he said. We brought Frangos ($9 sale for the win!).
I'm always slightly anxious about being in a roomful of strangers, since I didn't know who else was invited. Will it be noisy? Will I be able to hear and understand them? Who are these people anyway? Will we have anything to talk about? This was the first Thanksgiving, to the best of my memory, that I didn't spend with family.
As soon as we came in, the turkey aroma was drifting lazily out of the kitchen, and many people were talking. Some were other friends from church. Others...I didn't recognize any of them until our friend came out of the kitchen to greet us with a hug. He introduced us to several people; I didn't catch their names as I shook their hands. He then poured us a glass of wine and described the wines to us (he's a wine salesman). Did you know that the alcohol percentage listed on the wines can vary by 4 % in each direction to account for variations that occur during shipping? So a 13% wine could be only 9% or as high as 17%.
We milled around until I found out that one person was a school librarian. Another was on the library board. Librarians! We talked shop for a long time until dinner was served. Budgets, volunteers, and library organization. ILS (integrated library systems), library websites, and catalogs you could access from home. So. Much. Fun. No awkwardness so far! Not even when we talked about LD (learning disabilities) and I talked about being deaf and having a cochlear implant. Children librarians are awesome. Let me say that much. And I love librarians who, even as they get older, manage to stay technologically fluent. I want to grow up to be like them.
Just before dinner was served, they have a tradition of going around the room and saying what we're thankful for.
Our friend said that he was thankful for having an understanding family that accepted him for who he is, and accepted his partner, too.
One person was thankful for having a wonderful adopted family with her daughters.
Another was thankful for this adopted family. They've gathered every year, in some form or another, for Thanksgiving at this friend's house. And even though some of us didn't know each other, she was thankful that we became an instant family.
Others concurred. We were thankful for this adopted family. Especially those who were older and lived alone, with no relatives nearby--the family that was made up of friends were their adopted family. We cared about each other. We welcomed each other. We accepted each other.
Maybe it was the wine, but I got teary. Adopted family. Our church family. I have a family.
I mean, I already have a family. My husband, cats, and in-laws. My relatives who all live far away, and who supported me even when they found out about the whole disowning thing. My friends, many of whom live in my old town. And school friends, who live all over (consequence of an online school).
But I have an extended Chicago family. ChicagoNow blogging friends. Friends who are also recent Chicago transplants. And church friends who cared enough to invite us over for Thanksgiving. *sniff*
I arrived carrying mild social anxiety and PTSD fear of people going off the deep end like my dad did around the holidays.
I went home feeling loved.
I'm getting the hang of this family thing.