This is a family time of year, we are told, as if the nostalgic rosy-eyed view of family could be sold along with the tinsel and this year’s must-have electronic gadget. But what is family? A family is fluid, a river you can’t step in twice. Family dynamics are like skating on thin ice. Family is history and baggage and years of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole (or the other way around). Family is one slippery word; from Norman Rockwell to Mommy Dearest, it carries a boat-load of expectations too easily shipwrecked on the shoals of life.
Christmas can be a difficult time, family wise. We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my parents. After staying away for so many years, I am delighted to be home again, but now my brothers are staying away instead. This is family. Over the past four days, my partner’s son and his long-time girlfriend have been visiting us from Montreal. Spending time with this young couple who are so obviously in love reminds me of the magic that happens when people truly care for each other. This, too, is family.
Those who no longer have family find this time of year difficult as well. In a family-centric society, what could be worse than spending the holidays alone? Yet being alone may be better than spending time with a family that does not love you. That’s why we have friends. My friends have been there for me when I really needed them. And isn’t that, after all, what family is all about?
Photo taken on December 29, 2010