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A Christmas Encounter

December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas! It’s time again to encounter family. Because I have been reading The Nest by Cynthia Sweeney, I’ve spent some time considering family. In this novel four siblings await the distribution of a nest- egg, money from their father. When I encountered my financial advisor, carrying the book in case I had to wait, he had much to say about expected inheritances, mostly negative. Fortunately my family had little to distribute after funerals and burials.

What makes a family? Is it DNA, that magical stuff that makes us resemble someone related? Perhaps, but it could be shared experiences, a history, and a set of ancestors that go back generations. It could be proximity or shared interests that embellish my life and keep me entertained. My neighbor’s teen age daughter has been calling me “Aunt” since she was three. I am happy to include her in family. My niece, divorced, calls her ex’s daughter “Daughter” and her children call my niece “Grandmom,” all part of her etended family.

Across the 3,000 miles, my sister and I discuss our childhoods. “We had a dysfunctional family,” she says.

“No,” I reply. “We had unfortunate circumstances.” Our family was disturbed by the early death of our father when I was five and she was only three years old. I don’t believe our mother came out of her grief. Her sadness was palpable.

“Remember Aunt Agnes,” she asks. “Wasn’t she a pistol?”

Aunt Agnes has been gone for many years, but she remains because we have memories that we can share. My nephew shares her red hair from somewhere in his DNA.

But a family is not only related by biology. It is related to love and caring. When we are happy to be around people, they become “family.” We can call people “family” if we feel connected to those who are not related by blood.

I hope my family  of readers enjoys each member of an extensive family this year. Caring for others is a blessing. Merry Christmas.

Encounters will continue with presidential ladies — stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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