I grew up in a house with two parents and one brother. And two dogs and a bird and a hamster and a rabbit and a cat every now and then. But it was the people that mattered most. I had a mother. And a father. And a brother. It was simple. Not always easy. But simple.
Now my family is much larger. A husband and step parents and in-laws and kids. It is not as simple. But it is so very easy. These are my people. The people that know just exactly who I am and love me anyway.
I can breathe when I am with my family. I can yell and scream at my mother like an ungrateful teenager and she forgives me. I can cry as I tell my brother just how very much I miss him and I know that he will wrap his arms around me and far above my head where his head is he will be smirking. I know that when my dad says “I love the haircut but can you still put it in pigtails?” he means “I love you just as much now as I did when you were a little girl and I am proud of you.”
But it is not just that simple family of four that is easy. I know how lucky I am. I have a step-father and a step-mother and a sister-in-law that take me as I am. I’m not very good at being on, at behaving. And Heaven help you if I am your family. I am even less good at it when you are Family.
My mom and I are an unstoppable two-some. Its probably not very comfortable to be the other adult in the room. And yet my step-father lets my mom and I carry on like teenagers and he even joins in our ridiculousness. The relatively small gap in our ages might have made it awkward for him to love me like a child or for me to graciously accept his kindness and yet we have navigated these waters. We are friends. And we are family. He is Grandpa David with a baby face.
My step-mother has a tough spot. Communication is not exactly a cornerstone in my relationship with my dad. A little girl has never loved her father as much or as blindly as I love mine. He is my hero. Cathy was there to help this melodramatic (and pregnant) girl understand my dad’s cancer diagnosis all those many years ago. And she was there to hold his hand as he beat it when I could not be there. She has been caught in the cross fire of my difficulties with admitting how very much I need my dad’s acceptance. She marched me back inside and suggested that I (gasp) talk to my father as I tearfully picked up the pieces after my divorce. She probably has the toughest spot in my family and yet, when we are together, face to face, it is easy. She held my hand this weekend and said how very good it was for us to all be together. She’s right. I need to see more of my dad and Cathy.
When I was in my early twenties I used to say that I would marry my brother if it wasn’t such a weird thing to do. He gets me. The summer after his senior year of high school he had his first really serious girlfriend. When she walked in the side door of our kitchen I thought “wow, she is beautiful. And tall. They sure would make pretty babies.” Some fourteen years later they have been married for seven years (I think? I was pregnant with Emily, that was seven years ago, right?) and they have one incredibly cute little girl. I can’t imagine Scott with anyone but Lauren. I like to watch Scott be a husband. It is a Scott I don’t know, I know only what I can witness from the outside. And I love watching him be a father.
I used to wonder if Lauren liked me. She is classy and I am loud and brazen. But I remind myself that there has never been a louder asshole than my brother and she loves him. I didn’t have a sister until my brother married Lauren. They are in it to win it. I will grow old with Lauren. And for that I am grateful.
This summer I went to the beach. And I went to Arlington. And I went to the Ritz. And I went to a baseball game. But mostly I went home. I saw my mom and my dad and my brother. And the people that they love and the people that became my family, too. Because while blood is thicker than water, love is thicker than blood.
It has been years and years since I have been home and seen my whole side of the family in one weekend. I went home. To my mom and my dad and my brother and my step-parents and my sister in law. To see my family. And there just aren’t words to describe it. I went home. And it was so easy. To be me.