Families and Friendilies

Holiday with both

This time of year we spend a great deal of time with “family.” We hear a lot about the changes in family throughout our culture and our nation. Each of us experiences these changes personally. They are bound by our particular histories, but overlaid with the realities of our society. Wow, we are carrying a lot of “stuff” into our family gatherings these days!

We used to think of family as only those related to us by blood or marriage, and we spent all our holidays with them. The length of the visit, the conversation, and the presence or lack of arguing varied year to year. We continue to be steadfast in the tradition regardless.

 I personally have had the joy and privilege of experiencing holidays with my “friendily” as opposed to family. The urban dictionary defines it this way. “A friend or a bunch of friends who have become more like family to you. They are the people who you can call in the middle of the night and they won’t get mad and the people who know your whole story, past, present, and what you want for the future. If you have a friendily, consider yourself lucky because not everybody does.”

When we lived in DC we didn’t travel to biological family for some holidays, and we would host a menagerie of friends and neighbors who were also in town and looking for a joyful place to spend a few hours. It has stayed with me and reminded me each year that family has less to do with blood and more to do with the heart of it.

Families today take different forms and different names. Some of us look to our spiritual community as family. Our faith community becomes our family supporting us as we make our way through the challenges of life. Others refer to our “village,” and the same faces that are there to support us in times of trouble, talk us through times of confusion, or rejoice with us in times of joy, these are the faces we call family.

For some of us family means history. Stories that we have told since the first family dinner come out again each year. And each year new ones are added, when each of us does something, says something, or achieves something that is shared in a way that becomes etched in our collective memories.

The first important lesson I learned about Lifespan in my work here is that Lifespan is itself a family. It isn’t just classes, it isn’t just rides to the doctor, it isn’t just celebrations and auctions. It’s a group of people who have chosen to call themselves family. And we look out for each other. That is a rare and true gift. Thank you for letting me be a part of the family.

In that spirit, the drawings in the headline of the Spotlight this season come from the talented hands of Steve Walton. Some of you saw his caricatures of high school teachers on his Facebook page (yes some of us are on Facebook). I asked him if he would grace us with some that we could use to represent the Lifespan family. It is still a work in progress, but we thought his drawings were awesome. Don’t get excited and try to figure out who it is. These don’t represent any specific person in our family. Steve used some regular people’s photos for his models. They are none of us, and yet all of us. So smile and enjoy and be grateful that Steve is in our family.

Happy Holidays with your families and friendilies.

Peggy Palmiter