As the Thanksgiving season arrived and quickly ushered in the Christmas season right alongside it, I stopped for a moment to reflect on how many times I heard the word "family" used this week.
Why is it that the arrival of a holiday like Thanksgiving seems to always conjure up emotions and sentiments related to the concept of FAMILY in human beings?
You think that in the animal kingdom packs and herds and flocks all wait to talk to each other (or God forbid, care for each other) until a magical day in November arrives? Of course they don't, so what on earth is wrong with the human race?
Family is not a novelty that we pull out with our harvest-themed tchotchke or that we don along with our stockings and the lights that hang from our rooftops.
Family is a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year commitment.
Family is not holiday-themed.
It not something you can renew with the purchase of a Hallmark greeting card. It is not something you can reclaim with your contribution of a crystal bowl of cranberry sauce. And it is not something you can even begin to understand if you truly think it's merely something associated with a day that the banks and post offices are closed.
So what is family?
Well, to start, it is laced with love and compassion.
It is frothed with worry and burden.
It is shrouded in unwavering commitment to be there no matter what.
It is a conscious choice that you make every single day to SHOW UP.
It is a crazy kind of love that allows you to love those that at times are incredibly unlovable.
It is what allows you to persevere through heartbreak and pain and really, really bad days.
It is not something you remember as that holiday favorite plays on the radio.
It is not something you rekindle as you walk into a house to see people that you have not communicated with in months.
And it is not something you get the privilege of celebrating just because Macy's flies a few balloons and the Cowboys put on their helmets to face the Redskins.
Family is not something you DO.
Rather, it is something you ARE.
Maybe I am naive or perhaps, a little bit cynical (or maybe a combination of both), but I refuse to stand by and let others claim the notion of "family" because they remembered to call someone on November 24th. What about the calls or connections that needed to be made on November 3rd or even back in the summer?
What about the kid or the parent or the sibling that needed you on a day that Hallmark does not officially commemorate?
I know all about physical separation; I know what it's like to live THOUSANDS of miles from your daughter, your sister, your mom...
I know all about not letting those miles become anything more than a physical separation between you and the people you love. Because family does not have anything with the place where you get your mail.
My family has evolved a lot over the last three years.
We've lost an irreplaceable mom.
We've added a very unique 😛son-in-law.
We've been blessed with a precious granddaughter.
And most recently, we've added two incredible sons.
And while I LOVE, hear me.... ABSOLUTELY LOVE... gathering around our Thanksgiving table, passing the turkey, dressing, and gravy with these 11 people, I love even more the fact that each and every one of them knows that on all the "days that are not Thanksgiving", I will be there for them.
For whatever they need.
Because I understand the meaning of family.
I claim it every morning when I awaken and place that first foot on the floor.
I live it every second of the day, to the point that sometimes they like me and sometimes, they just shake their heads at me.
But as they place those same heads on their pillows at night, they know.
In a world where most everything else is tenuous at best, they know I will always show up for them... on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the other 353 days that don't get them a day off from work and school.
Because that, my friends, is what families do.
PS: And they don't require anything related to DNA.