Family…. by SJV
As someone who grew up without aunties or uncles, cousins or the full complement of grandparents, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that you are absolutely at liberty to call whatever group of people you want Family, and it’s absolutely valid even if it’s not, strictly speaking, absolute fact. Blood may be thicker than water but we’ve all seen Jeremy Kylie enough times to know how well relying on that old proverb can work out.
Both my parents were only children, and all but one of their parents had passed away before I was born. My sister and I therefore grew up calling neighbours and our parents’ friends Aunty and Uncle, and that early experience of ‘making up’ family members has stuck with us both over the years.
My parents had a very close, rather unnaturally large circle of chums – mostly couples, mostly with kids – and we all hung out together regularly. Birthdays, holidays, Christmas, weekends – standard ‘family’ times. There was a particular group that would take school holidays together, 10 caravans booked right next to one another in Hayling Island, 22 feral kids running riot, playing Knock Down Ginger and getting up to all manner of mischiefs, whilst the Grownups got utterly hammered playing charades and whist every Easter. God, the 70s were hilarious…
As we got older, us kids – The Pack – worked out who we were, and whether those childhood bonds would sustain us through adulthood. I still exchange Christmas cards with some of them; see a handful of them at obligatory births, deaths and wedding functions; would call a couple of them friends and absolutely consider two of them (who happen to be brothers) Family. I still call their parents Auntie and Uncle, I adore both of their wives, and every year buy Christmas PJs for their kids – who call my Sister and I ‘Aunty’. We don’t catch up in person as much as I’d like (one lives in Ireland, the other in Devon) but I know I could call either, at any time of the day or night, and they’d pick up. If I needed an escape, I’d run to them. If I needed a really, REALLY, good laugh, they’d be at the top of my list. If the chips were down, they’d step up. If I ever need a reality check, a reminder of who I really am and where I came from, they’d fix me up a treat.
And then there are other chaps I’ve hand selected to join my ‘family’. Work friends, gym friends, friends of friends… they may not all consider ME to be THEIR family – but to me, they are truly precious and make up the higgledy piggledy patchwork of my squad.
And finally – there are Book People, who, it has to be said, are, in the main, the very BEST of people. They tend to be smarter than your average Joe. They tend to be funnier than your average Joe. They tend to be able to hold their drink better than your average Joe.
I’m massively lucky to have a small family of Book People – some authors whose books I loved, long before I loved them, and a handful of ‘industry’ folk who I would gladly give up my bed for. They all make me laugh, make me want to be a better person, challenge me, give great hugs and, AND, get me.
So listen, what I’m trying to say is this – choose your choice. Build and nurture your own squad. Surround yourself with people who truly want the best for you and love you regardless of your foibles. It really does warm the cockles…and we all need our cockles warmed right now, right?