Iganga Town, Uganda

September 1, 2010

“I’m thinking about Columbia.”

My mother’s perfect composure cracked and she whispered fiercely, “why do you always have to go so far away?”

I’d just gotten back from South Africa and my mother mistook my interest in Columbia, for graduate school, with an interest in South America. She was wrong about that particular location but not my inclination. I travel when I can and as such I’ve expanded my concept of family.

Despite america’s definitive step away from the “traditional” nuclear family –  mom dad and two point five kids- my family has hung on. My folks have been married for 40 years. My sister is married with three kids of her own. I seem to be the only outlier to our familiar norm. I’ve chosen to expand our family in a decidedly different way, I get adopted.

There is no paperwork and no one is claiming me on taxes – although I do occasionally get a name change, but I have been successfully (and repeatedly) adopted or absorbed into families all over the world. A running joke, when I tell them they are my favorite mom and dad, they know it means something because I have a history laden with doting moms and protective fathers.

South Africa, New Zealand, Liberia, folks have literally taken me into their homes, fed me, taken care of me when I was sick, and kept me safe and happy before bundling me back home to the blood that birthed me.

And so family for me is this expansive thing. A thing that transcends biology or language. In my village in south Africa, my friend Skware’s mother, who spoke Ndebele to my limited northern sotho, claimed me as her family. When I was absent too long I was chided, when I got old (around 23) and wasn’t married she had solutions (mostly that I marry Skware) and when I was injured, she cried.

It doesn’t take blood to love someone fiercely.

My brother in-law’s father died yesterday. I’m still reeling from the idea that that quirky, funny, friendly man is gone. And while he technically has no familial ties to me beyond marriage, I feel his loss none the less. He is family because he loved and raised Ced. Because he insulted me affectionately the way he did all his family. Because family is more arbitrary than blood.

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1 Comment on blood is the least of it

  1. Lizzie says:

    The quote I will be taking from this blog, “It doesn’t take blood to love someone fiercely.”

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