Friday, March 24, 2006

The origin of family

I wasn't going to blog today.

Work has been crazy-busy, and I've been feeling utterly uninspired for the last few days (as total and complete exhaustion tends to suck the creative juices dry).

But then I found myself lost in a daydream about having lunch with my surrogate mum.

Hannah is my Mom's best friend, and Mike is her husband. They are two of my favourite people on this planet, and probably two of the best people I have ever met. When I was a kid in Dartmouth, our families lived next door to one another- and my child-size memories tell me that we were all but inseparable- their middle child, Chris, was my BEST friend growing up, their daughter and my younger sister were very close. At times is seemed that all four parents were basically raising the five kids together:

When one set of parents went away for the weekend, the other set would take the kids; we had interwoven Christmas and Halloween rituals, not to mention frequent summer field-trips.

I remember Hannah sitting with me in my closet, talking me out of "running away" when I was six.

And then there was Chris and me being hauled off of the roof of Hannah and Mike's BRAND NEW Volvo by Mike and my Mom when I was seven and he was six... apparently we had thought it was a good place to hold a dance...

Or the time that we broke the neighbour's window playing baseball and Mike marched us over to apologize.

And then there were the family dinners- a huge vat of Hannah's famous Mac and Cheese, my Mom's Apple Pie and good times all 'round.

And then things changed, as things are wont to do.

We moved to a new house a few blocks away. And then they moved to a new house a few provinces away. Over the years, both families have moved around ad nauseum, we've all had our trials, and gone months and months without really speaking, but somehow we've managed to maintain that closeness. I guess that's just how it works with true friends, isn't it?

Last summer, feeling an uncontrollable urge to get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge and to wrap myself in the warm blanket of people-who-love-me-no-matter-what, I fled to Ottawa and set up a temporary camp in their spare bedroom.

It was a wonderful three or four days that consisted of good wine, good food, and great conversation. You could not ask for better company. One day, Hannah and I went to the Glebe, which, for those of you who don't know Ottawa, is an area marked by it's historical architecture, fun little independent shops, tiny bistros, used-clothing stores, and a general lower-middle-class-bohemian feeling by day, and a serious party/pub vibe by night. My kind of place.

We ate lunch at a little place called Von's and window shopped. As we prowled from one kitchen-gadget store to the next (Hannah and I share a weakness for culinary tools of all shapes and sizes... I ended up with a tea-ball, a wasabi grater, and a couple of spoons... she with a bowl, and some really great glasses), Hannah told me stories. I love her stories. She told me about when she was younger- fresh out of nursing school, living with her sister and scrounging to make ends meet, and I saw my own struggles to etch out a place in this world. She told me about the ill-fated turnip cookie incident, and I laughed until I couldn't breathe.

I think it was then that I realized that family has very little to do with DNA or blood. It's the relationships that really matter. (I mean, unless you need a kidney or bone marrow transplant, who cares if you are actually "related"??)

I felt the utter and complete acceptance and comfort of spending time with someone who knows me better than I know myself: someone who knows every little scar, who remembers the laughter, the tears, and all the stories behind them. Someone who has watched me grow up from a bossy little know-it-all snot (a source of no small amount of mortification to me in later years) into what I really really really really hope is a human being who she is proud of. I felt the comfort of being in the presence of a well-loved member of the family.

I am extremely fortunate to have both a biological and chosen family that I wouldn't trade for the world- who love and accept and support me no matter what I do. They have made me the person I am today, and I'm starting to think that this is a fairly good thing. I only hope I can someday return the favour.

I wish everyone the contentment and security of having such a family as I do whether you were born into it, or had the pleasure of constructing it member by member.


At 11:29 AM, Blogger Thérèse said...

You just warmed my heart with that, Jenn.

I have one such family, blood, and one such family, constructed.

It's something you really can't put a price on. Especially the no-matter-what.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger jenn said...

I'm glad ;) At least I could return the favour for once!

you're right- the no-matter-what is the best part. Thank god for the no-matter-what!!!!

At 2:11 AM, Blogger Jay said...

It's really great that you actually appreciate the people in your life. Of course, you've also made me homesick for Ottawa

At 7:08 AM, Blogger jenn said...

Indeed- Ottawa is an easy place to be homesick for...


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