Family. It has a different meaning for everybody. Sometimes it’s the traditional “people who are genetically related to you”. Sometimes it’s your friends that feel like family. Sometimes it’s a group of people randomly thrown together who slowly grow roots and become family.
The fourth Merriam-Webster definition is: a group of things related by common characteristics. This definition relates to Scientific families, but I think it’s a great open-ended and objective definition of what family is.
For me, I think I have related to family in the traditional sense…my mom, my dad, my sisters, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, and most importantly, my grandparents. With them, I feel mostly like I can be “myself”. I don’t feel like I have to be a certain way necessarily…to varying degrees. If I think about it, the people that I love the most are the people who have stuck by me the most throughout my life. Who haven’t ditched me when the going gets tough.
I think that’s one of the reasons why my grandparents are the most important people in the world for me. Since I was born (when my mom was 16…a wee bit unplanned, I was), my grandparents have loved me, no matter what. I have made various decisions in my life that they do not agree with but they have steadfastly always been there for me. Always. This is priceless. I realize that I am very fortunate to have them.
It’s interesting to think about…I think one of the things that I appreciate is the idea of being there for others and them being there for me. Like, even kind of random people: my ex-boyfriend’s best friend. If he were to call me at 4am and say he needed me to pick him up or something, I’d do it. He was always supportive with me when I dated my ex and I feel that loyalty toward him.
I also have people who I call my second families: one is another ex-boyfriend’s family (who I dated when I was 18-19) and the other is a couple and their (now-grown) kids, who took me in when my parents weren’t able to be there for me.
My ex-boyfriend’s family were also there when my family wasn’t (well, most specifically, my parents). They are the traditional, close-knit, highly intelligent, and very warm family. Even to this day, they have helped me so much and welcomed me into their home. I will be eternally grateful to them.
The other family (the couple and their kids) took me in when I was 13. We lived in a different country and I had attended their home school. Then when my mom had to leave and my dad returned with my then 3 year old sisters, I stayed with this family. They welcomed me, especially the dad, who was (and still is) very kind to me.
I think I felt unwanted for most of my life…I still do sometimes. The people that I consider family have overall been there for me (and me for them, to whatever capacity that may be), no matter what. I know that with my family, I can not talk to them for a long time, and we’ll pick up where we left off.
I’m not someone who has a lot of friends. Even right now, being in a foreign country, there are no friends that I talk to on a regular basis.
Except my grandma, text messaging every day. And my mom occasionally. And my dad, via email. To them, I am grateful. Because they message me and check in with me and are supportive of me.
I am fortunate enough to have blood family be the people closest to me, but I know people whose family are their group of friends. I think that support defines those close interactions. “Love”, whatever that means. I think “love” is so hard to define, but the feeling that I get when I think about my grandparents feels like the fiercest thing I’ve ever experienced.
A la famiglia! xo
PS The cover picture cuts it off, but what it says is “Famiglia: dove la vita inizia e l’amore non finisce mai”. ❤