Monday, August 9, 2010

Family Matters, Part II

As I wrote tonight to M, my brother's mother-in-law, I was reminded how fortunate I am to belong to not only my blood family, but the extended family I have been privileged to inherit.

(My brother) became your son-in-law and you embraced his whole clan--mom, dad, sister, sister's husband and stepson too. It really feels good when to gather for Christmas or whenever as a big family.

Early on in The Letter Jar Project I wrote to M's brother, who shares his sister's welcoming spirit. I recounted to him how I will never forget a special Christmas spent at his house, and the way he reached out to my stepson.

It really meant a lot to me when you sat with (my stepson) at the piano ... I think the trip stressed him out a little because he didn't know any of my extended family, but he really enjoyed playing the piano and really enjoyed as you sat with him and taught him a little about playing. It meant a lot to me to see him relax and have a good time doing that.

I feel grateful that our holiday gatherings are filled with such warmth and love, and it doesn't matter who is directly related to whom.

A few days ago I wrote about my blood family, and how they make me feel rooted no matter how far I roam--they are my place to come home to. Writing tonight I realized that family, that welcoming place, is defined less by genes and more by the bonds we form and the care we show each other.

M, for example, was incredibly supportive and interested during my pregnancy last year. I was terrible at giving updates, but M still checked in regularly by e-mail and Facebook to see how I was doing.

And the blankets you and N (M's daughter, my brother's wife) made--so beautiful. I was so touched. Sometimes when I'm rocking my son to sleep at night I'll have one draped over him, and he likes to run it through his fingers while he falls asleep. Thank you again for such a loving gift.

I ended my letter to M by noting how I've come to understand that my son and stepson are parts of an ongoing story--my husband and I are building our family so that we can be roots for the boys and their families someday. And more than ever, I understand that it is not only our duty, but it is also our privilege.

A SURPRISE COMBINATION OF TWO OF MY PASSIONS: I've always loved discovering new music, and was intrigued to read recently that the new Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs, was inspired by love letters that frontman Win Butler wrote to a sweetheart in high school. He explained the song "We Used to Wait" to Britain's NME magazine:

"In high school I had a letter-writing romance with a girl. I was trying to remember that time... waiting an entire summer, pretty much half a year, the anxiousness of waiting for letters to arrive. All day every day there's almost this cloud of feeling hanging over everything. We'd (his family) be in Maine, I'd walk down to the post office and come back… the whole day was consumed by that feeling."

A song about the "anxiousness of waiting for letters to arrive." How completely cool--I must check out the song and the album. In the meanwhile, you can check out more of the NME  interview here.

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