As a cloud cover settles over Switzerland and the old North winds blow across the Midwest of my birth land, it is time to hunker down and draw warm comfort from the gift of family. I am grateful for the people who shaped my life and stuck by me during transitions along the way.
I am thankful for my husband and children, my parents, grandparents, siblings, in-laws and outlaws, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins in my extended Olson-McKinzie-Elie-Lechault family.
Families come in all shapes, sizes and combinations: traditional, mixed race, same sex, single parent, blended, or cross cultural like mine. No magic formula exists as to what works. What matters is not one’s religion, nationality or ethnicity, but one’s capacity to invest in another. The love binds us – a love that is tolerant, that forgives mistakes, overlooks shortcomings, endures over time, and stands strong in the face of hardships. Families stick with you during the tough times like unemployment, illnesses, deaths and celebrates the good times like weddings, birthdays and milestones.
Like a patchwork quilt, my family is an eclectic mix of athletically inclined, musically gifted, hard-working American, French, German, Norwegian and Scottish, stitched together with old-fashioned values – loyalty, dependability, and integrity.
We spread across different countries, yet remain connected. We travel thousands of miles to share 48 hours of holiday magic. No matter how great the distance between us, our annual family reunion at our cabin in the Wisconsin Northwoods remains sacred.
Like this priceless lake property – a gift from my ancestors – family values have been passed down through generations. My parents showed us respect for our elders making sure they were a part of every event, and shared stories of the past, so I grew up valuing my heritage. My grandparents were such an integral part of my life that classmates still remember my Grandma’s oatmeal cookies and my Grandpa’s (Coach Mac) grumbling over bad passes at my ball games.
Families learn to accommodate different schedules, so we celebrate whenever we can get together instead of on the actual holidays. We make the traditional pork roasts, bake favorite cookies, and cater to gluten free, low fat, no sugar, healthy heart diets.
When members stumble due to bad diagnoses, professional setbacks or personal disappointments, someone else catches them before they fall.
Families share a sixth sense. My sisters know when I am at the breaking point and call out of the blue when I most need to hear their voices. My husband reads my face like an open book and knows when we need to leave the party or restaurant ASAP, so I can crash in quiet, dark room.
By hand holding, card writing, email sending, text messaging, and phone calling, families find little ways to stay connected. They sustain us through heart surgeries, cancer treatments, broken engagements, painful miscarriages, job losses, challenging relocations and unexpected emergencies.
Families help pack boxes, plan parties, support dreams and give us hope. They stand in the rain to watch marathons and marching band performances. They sit on hard bleachers to see countless baseball, basketball, football, soccer and rugby games. They attend concerts, recitals and graduations. They support mission trips, help fund college education, offer opportunities to learn and grow and share each other’s talents with the world.
They drive us to doctors’ offices, listen to a million complaints, wipe away oceans of tears, but most of all, they believe in us even when we doubt ourselves.
Good families got your back. Always.
And I am, oh so, grateful.
Oh this one is a real tear-jerker! 🙂 beautifully crafted Pat, and when I am this far away from family I relate to this article so much with even more head nodding and heart warming… The choices we make to start a life away from family are never easy, but the energies keep us connected forever. Love to you oh far away friend 🙂 xx
Rach, I know you know. Sometimes the distance can make the bond grow even stroner. Without family close by, you never take them for granted, instead you learn to appreciate even more those precious moments together. Love back at you dear long distance friend.
Beautiful post. Like you I have been blessed with a loving family and am thankful. I think it’s not until we get to a certain age that we can fully appreciated that not everyone has a strong family connection. I hope you have a wonderful holiday connection with all those you love and who love you back.
Connie, we are blessed. And yes, only as we get older due we realize that great fortune we had being born into a good family. Thanksgiving, the oh so American holiday, is always a tough time for me because I feel so far removed from my loved ones and no matter how hard I might try that big ol’ bird just never tastes as fine without family gathered round for the feast.
Thank you for this precious reminder to treasure what we have and try to repair what has been lost in the name of family and all the blessings that come with it – warts and all!
Gotta love ’em warts and all. Sometimes those warts are what makes family so special. Even though family ties can tear, as you know, forgiveness goes along way in mending the bonds.
Sure am lucky to have TWO wonderful families!!! Thanks for this reminder and can’t wait to see all the McKinzies in a few weeks!
And here is love coming right back at you Hanners. All the Carlson McKinzies feel blessed to have YOU as part of our clan.
As usual, you captured the essence of family with your words, Sis. How blessed we are to be part of such a loving, loyal, supportive family. Gratitude fills my heart too.
And every family should have a Sue! You, the ultra gift giver, schedule coordinator, party planner, are the glue that keeps us all connected.
What a beautiful post, Pat. You have definitely captured the miracle that is family, even if they’re not blood. My dad used to say “Family is everything,” but he didn’t trust friendship. Instead, I have learned, like you, that family can be an eclectic blend. For example, my son’s half-sister just texted me that her new baby will be a girl. I was so excited and happy for her I about cried, and we signed off with affirmations of love. She grew up calling me Mama Lynne, and I couldn’t love her more. I’m still friends with her dad (my ex) and his wife (she and I are like sisters; we used to joke that between the two of us we made one perfect mother.) Family is what you make of it.
Well said, Lynne. Family is what you make it. Sounds like you will soon have a wonderful, new grand baby to add to the mix. Even though we aren’t related by blood, I consider you part of my sisterhood.
HI Pat, once again you have captured the essence of what family means. I love “one’s capacity to invest in one another.” Like you, I have a loving, supportive family but I also have been blessed throughout my life with friends who have felt like family. Beautiful post! Enjoy your Thanksgiving. I know the miles do not hamper the bonds you have with your dear family.
Family begins with love and blossoms with forgiveness. During this holiday season, I know there will be a lot of love served up “à table” with all your ol’ Italian family recipes .
Hi Pat! This is such a lovely tribute to your family. You are truly fortunate. May you connect to each and every one of them throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays!
Thanks, Kathy. Yes, in spite of the distance separating us, during the season of giving, I will especially try to connect to each and everyone of them and celebrate the gift of family.
Well said, Pat! The lucky ones are those who have loving, supportive families. Sadly, not everyone is so fortunate. In some families, members know just which buttons to press to send one another over the edge; in other families, “love” means incest, abuse, neglect, or other hurtful things. Blessings to you for reminding us that “Good families got your back. Always.”
Sadly, this is so true, Debbie. Though one may choose friends, families are a crapshoot, since we have no say in the matter. We don’t get to pick our parents or siblings or blood relatives. In times of crisis, my mom used to tell me that family was there to help fill up my love bucket, so that I could share with others who are less fortunate. I know I certainly would not have been able to withstand the losses, illnesses, and setbacks I have had to face without a strong family to lift me up in moments of despair.
This whole post makes me smile, but especially the sixth sense of sisters and other family members. True for me, too. Lovely post!
Thanks, Lori. Isn’t is amazing how in sync we can be to sisters even when we live so far apart?
Beautifully said, Pat. Like you, I consider myself infinitely blessed because of the loving, supportive family I have. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Thanks, Helene. Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. I am grateful for your friendship and hope we meet in person one day.