The meaning of family

Families are funny things. Love them or hate them you’re usually stuck with them, whoever they are.

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But you could argue that as we zoom into the 21st century (can you actually remember what you did on Millennium eve?) that perhaps this traditional viewpoint no longer rings true – and family is what we make it.

Personally, I don’t believe that blood is thicker than water – I have just been to a very special lady’s birthday party and am looking forward to a long-overdue reunion with another. Neither of these occasions are with blood relatives, but to me these wonderful women are very much a part of my family.

Traditionally, the family has consisted of two parents – a mother and a father – and their offspring, with the wider family being their ancestral relations. For nearly four decades now my family hasn’t followed this norm, and at the moment I am finding this really exciting.

Preview of “Henpicked Nans birthday”_2My Nan – by no other definition than my mother married my step-dad – has just celebrated her 100th birthday. I think it is bloomin’ marvellous and I am proud. This lady was married, lived through two World Wars (that included her husband being held as a prisoner of war), saw women get the vote, a woman Prime Minister elected, witnessed more technological breakthroughs that you can imagine and had five children and countless grandchildren.

Yet when the time came she simply opened the door and welcomed me and my brother in.

Sadly, I cannot confess to being the perfect granddaughter. I was great when I lived next door, always popping to the shops, but time and geographical distance resulted in more infrequent visits.

card from the queenStill, I really enjoyed the party; seeing Nan with her card from The Queen and one from the Government.

It was also great to see her family, the people that I call MY family.

It was during the build up to Nan’s 100th birthday that got me thinking about other family.

Over 30 years ago my Godparents divorced. That sort of thing wasn’t meant to happen to childhood sweethearts.

My biological family was once again torn apart. Partially through loyalty, but more likely through ease with a liberal dash of the fear of rejection, I kept in touch only with my Godfather, my uncle. I never forgot my Godmother, just missed her.

My heart skipped when the ‘friends’ request to my Godmother’s daughter was accepted.Life is convoluted, technology is brilliant and resilience is even better. As a digital visitor to Facebook I noticed that two cousins were ‘friends’ (nothing unusual there other than my two cousins were also half-sisters). My heart skipped when
the ‘friends’ request to my Godmother’s
daughter was accepted.

We communicated and the doorway to more family just needed to be firmly pushed open. I am no Usain Bolt, more Little Miss Slow; it took over 12 months to telephone my Godmother. I cried with joy after we spoke. I cannot believe it took me three decades.

Her words, “Whatever goes on in families should never affect others” were so poignant. I look forward to meeting her again this summer.

I also can’t wait to introduce my Nan, the wider family and my Godmother to
My immediate family; my partner and our two children, who together form a different kind of family.

Families get you thinking. I was estranged from my father for nearly 20 years with only one brief, unsuccessful, reunion before he died.

Family isn’t always the people you are related to. It is the people that you need to make you feel real, to belong, to be whole.

Mandy Clark

About Mandy Clark

Well into my forties life took a new pathway when my partner and I adopted two beautiful children. A full time mum, with a passion for cricket I am midway through my MA course wondering when I’ll ever find the time to recommence my studies. Happily in a Civil Partnership with Louise and looking forward to getting married soon.

  • Jane McKears

    What a wonderful, warm story. You really hit the nail on the head, Mandy. Todays families are often quite different to what previous generations knew. Sometimes for better; sometimes not. Thank you for posting this account which was a pleasure to read. Hope your wedding goes well, and that the legal problems of switching from CP to marriage have been ironed out by then.

  • Ross Crombie

    Lovely. As the saying goes: “Friends are the family you choose for yourself”. Families these days are very much an eclectic mix, and all the richer for it in my view. I love writing about my/our ‘Patchwork’ family in ‘Happy Families?’ on this site. Writing another as we speak!