by Emilia Diamant
My biological extended family has always been spread out — we were in Boston while my mother’s family was in South Carolina and Georgia; my father’s mostly in Florida. I saw my grandparents once or twice a year when I was younger, but as they aged and I grew up that dwindled. While this might sound sad, it wasn’t all bad. It was nice to see my family for large gatherings, we enjoyed each company and had less of a chance to drive each other crazy.
But what I always did have was an extensive network of “aunties” and “uncles”, pseudo-siblings and adult friends. Every Christmas we went to Auntie Renee’s to decorate her tree. The first time my parents went away for a weekend without me, I stayed with EJ and Madeline. Noa, Michael, Zack, and Lev were always my big sibs. These were people we spent Shabbat with, who taught me how to take a shot (at the Passover seder), and who have given me some of my most treasured gifts.
These are people my parents chose–for themselves, and for me. They are in my life because they were carefully selected. Many people have these elective families, and it’s easier to get along with them because they are just that–selected.
As I grow older, I see my own created family beginning to take shape. Ben and Chad are my brothers. Annette, Bryan, Jay, and Pam are other sets of parents/older cousins…. their kids my sibs. Lorel and Arnie are another set of aunt and uncle. Renee is still my auntie, and she brought along Bert and Mike, who are now part of the clan.
What a beautiful gift from my parents.
I look forward to passing along a strong family, in all senses, to my own children one day. v