adventures in family

March 5, 2011

my birth family is a big, noisy, midwestern, italian-american/irish-american extended family. i have seven siblings (i’m the second oldest; that’s how i derived my desire for being a mama hen), innumerable cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts and great-uncles, a nonni and nonno (italian for grandma and grandpa) and grew up with an irish grandma and grandpa and a bisnonno and bisnonna (great grandma and great grandpa) all living in and around Chicago, IL. my parents never got divorced and don’t seem at all likely to do so… they even have little kids roughly the same ages as my own children!

i live clear across the country from all of that, and i miss the noise, the embrace of an extended family that was willing to either struggle with understanding or (in some cases where understanding was a pipe dream) ignore my being queer and trans… these people are amazing and i feel blessed to have come from them. family is incredibly important to me, and i want my children to be part of a loud, chaotic mess of love, care, creativity, and cooking.

my children’s family includes all of those people back in Illinois, and they love them and are loved by them.  their family also includes my former partner and her family, a decidedly smaller and quieter but no less loving affair, who mostly live in Northern California. i’m also seeking to grow my family through adoption so that my own household can ring with the joyful noise of a large brood of cute little apprentice humans. i want my family to be part of maintaining and growing the tradition of the huge, beautiful extended family chaos, though we are far from my roots (although, of course, my extended family sprung up in Chicago after leaving behind Ireland and Lucca, in Tuscany, Italy, so there is precedent for this, although my nonni had all her siblings for company).

but family means more to us than all that, even. our family is larger than the ties of blood or formal adoption.

my partner has three wonderful daughters (ages 8, 10, and 13, while my own children are 4 and 8). our families have been together several days a week for the past two years (and then some). we even all lived together in the house that i am renting for several months, and figured out sharing space and toys and schedules and rules and came out of it alive and still with deep caring, love, and respect for each other, as well as a foundation of understanding and negotiation that could serve us well should we live together again in the future.

these children inspire me all the time, with their creativity and resilience and interesting life stories that i have come to know and treasure over these two years.

and the five children are close, very close. if they are not quite siblings, they are more than friends and more, even, than cousins. they lie together in bed like kittens in a soft, flannel-lined basket; they romp and play like puppies together. they have classic sibling-style conflicts, the ones where the proverbial punches are not pulled as they would be with children whose connection to the family is not so assured. there is a link there that should not ever be broken. my youngest child doesn’t remember a time in his life before they were a part of it.

we are family, and we will need to be family whether we live together again or not (we’re currently trying to move closer to them).

we are family and they are fully part of our blissful, wild, explosive, noisy adventures in living.

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