On Families and Christmas

by shewastheyoungamerican

Christmas seems to be the time of year people complain about their families the most. It’s also the time of year we’re supposed to gather, drink egg nog and be all cozy by the fireplace with one another. People send those “family happenings” newsletters to tell everyone in their universe not only are they okay, they’re doing just swell. Mailboxes are filled to the brim with smiling kids and teenagers too old to be posing in matching family sweaters. No matter how many fruit cakes are sent (do people still send those?), it doesn’t change the fact that families aren’t always okay. They fight. They lose touch. They lose someone. They are difficult. They are exhausting. They just…are. And no one in the world can understand the very specific neuroses of your family. That is, unless of course, they are that family. Which to me, is really what makes love. A shared insanity. An acceptance and a willingness to still love and care despite it all.

Families are also wonderful. A source of warmth, strength, and support. But it’s not just the people you’re born into. We make families of our own – with friends, lovers, and everyone in between. They have their own neuroses and systems of operation too. Me? Well I’ve got a lot of families – my friends’ families who have always treated me as their own, as the “other daughter.” The friends who survived Norristown Area High School with me, the “lifers.” The Drexel Players and all the incredible people it brought into my life during college, most of whom are my closest friends, my partners in crime, my refuge. All of the wonderful love affairs that were had with a group of people every time a show was put on. The Drexel Football Team and Mayor Karen – the family that laughs together, stays together (even though we did fight sometimes). The people I met in my dorm during my freshmen year of college. The ones who spent more time cooking than studying, who shared everything as we all tried our hardest to adjust and fit in. We found each other. My new family at Central, the people who have made moving across the ocean well worth it. The Philadelphia artists who live passionately and love fiercely…and don’t always take themselves too seriously. Iron Age Theatre who can’t do good work unless it feels like a family. Everyone who is in it for the long run. We are all in this together.

Then yes, there is my dear old mum, dad and sister. They are the reason I am who I am (and in therapy…HEY-OOO!). I’m the youngest, so everything they set before me shaped the world I know. They are the reason for my sense of humor. The reason I’m so darn sensitive. The reason I’m a crier at the movies, terrible at sports, competitive with board games, a lover of The Beatles, a fan of baseball, a city person, a voracious reader, a lover of the arts, a person who loves. The reason I’m a writer. A daughter. A sister. A good friend.

Family, in every sense of the word, is the reason I care so much about the people in my life – the ones who matter and really stick. I’ve learned that if you take care of those relationships, really take your time, it becomes an unshakable foundation. It takes all of the courage in the world to stay and build something, but it’s worth it. When you get as much as you give. Family is worth it. Your family knows you better than you know yourself. Your mom watched you grow up, she knows everything. Your dad may not always have a lot to say, but what he says counts. Your siblings understand you, they went through it too. Your friends see the things in you that you want the world to see. They see things you don’t even see. They are your lifeblood.

So Merry Christmas to all of my families. I love them with everything. I love them for their faults, no matter how maddening they may be at times. And even if I have complained about them this festive holiday season (yep, I definitely have), it doesn’t overshadow how much I love and need them. I love my families for being imperfect. I choose to love and be grateful for them – there’s not enough of it in the world. There can never be enough. It’s what keeps us moving forward.