No one would be who they are without them. Some families are big. Some are small. Some are complicated or troubled. I could reflect for hours on how amazing families are as a social institution or how even the worst of families can still have astoundingly positive ramifications…
Today isn’t about all families though. Today is a moment for me to try to put into words what makes my heart swell with pride and warmth when I think about my family.
I was fortunate enough to be born into a happy, well-to-do home with two parents who never made any secret of their love for me. I enjoy saying that I’m the direct result of a musical actress-teacher and a New York ex-hippie English major. I feel that describes a lot, actually.
As it is with most people, the pair that created me have long, fascinating histories of their own and I’ll need to reign myself in here to avoid my usual verbosity. In a nutshell, they were both, at their core teachers. Teachers, in my eyes, are special breed of people. Teachers are people with passion and a generous nature that wants to share that passion with others. My dad loves Shakespeare, old science fiction, civil war history, and all manner of comedies. My mother loved music, performance, and art in general. They both showed me what it was to have firm beliefs, but open minds and hearts. They both showed me all the joy in life and all the wonder of imagination. They taught me strength in every single way the word can be interpreted.
And that’s in a nutshell.
I have an older sister and although we grew close at an older age than most, there’s no doubt that we’re blood. We have the same laugh and a scarily (awesome) sense of humor. Simone has a kind heart and more talent in a variety of areas then most would know what to do with! Like most little sisters, I look up to her and hold her as my inspiration. She never gives up, always seems upbeat, and always puts her loved ones first, even when it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day.
Both my mother and father have sisters, and that means that I have aunts, uncles, and nephews.
The Soderstroms on my mother’s side have always been extremely close. Their oldest son, Henrik, is like a brother to me. We grew up together and share a lot of similar tastes in art and comedy to this day. Aunt Bonnie has been a second mother to me even before mom was lost to us and my Uncle Chris was as wise and kind as his wit was dry. My younger cousins, Didrik and Ulrik, came later and as time has passed, I’ve grown closer to botrh as well. It’s incredible how much talent, optimism, and humor this family has. They suffered an enormous loss when Uncle Chris passed away, but demonstrated to everyone the strength of their faith and the power of their love.
The Straubs on my father’s side have taught me so much as well. In addition to sharing the “Waddell” humor, they have lived through so many struggles without losing spirit, hope, or optimism. Aunt Anne solidily demonstrates what it means to turn a tough situation into something that’s not only positive, but that benefits others as well. I can’t remember a time when Uncle David or my cousins, Matthew and Andrew, didn’t light the room up with laughter.
When we lost my mother to cancer, the world imploded for a little while. My father led me through loss and showed me how to grieve with hope.
I will tangent a moment and say that while many friends become family over time, there is a specific feeling of total acceptance, love, warmth, and belonging that I have always associated with my immediate family. It’s the same principal as old friends sharing so much of their memories and history that letting go or walking away isn’t even an option. Family, to me, is binding and immortal.
So when I say that years later my father introduced me to a member of our family that I couldn’t possibly imagine not having in my life, I mean just that. I have often struggled with what to call her in the third person because, to me “stepmother” heralds in awful Cinderallic thoughts and just seems…cold. Instead I’ve resolved within myself to call her my “mother-in-law,” if the need for titles arises– even if I need to give a few extra lines of explaination. Words matter to me, and there is nothing ‘step’ about our relationship or the level of regard I hold her in.
In a nutshell, Marjory is the epitome of compassion, loyalty, and justice. If that sounds like some superhero tag line, it might as well be. In a world where many nod their heads solemnly at the mention of the underprivileged and beleaguered yet do nothing, a great portion of her life has been dedicated to setting such things right. I have learned, laughed, and loved with her in the years we’ve known each other and am always left in awe of her amazing balance of strength and warmth.
I have more family then that as well! Simone brought Sue into the fold; Marjory brought Judy, Mark, and their kids as well as her son’s family; Henrik is bringing Dottie;Didrik is bringing Ashley; and Matthew has gotten engaged~! It’s exciting to gain sisters, brothers, and nephews as the years go by…but going further will have to wait for another day.
Afterall, this is the abridged version of my family and there’s still so much more that I want to say. What words can thank a group of people for a legacy of laughter and optimism and a lifetime of love and support? How do you phrase a gratitude when those you’re thanking are the same ones who gave you the disposition to appreciate everything good in the world?
I love my family. I wouldn’t be me without them. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I wouldn’t be.
More than that, I’m proud of my family and feel blessed to know them. Individually, they are all amazing, inspiring people, and together there is no greater feeling of homecoming, welcome, and joy.
So today, and everyday, I’m grateful for my family.
~all the love~