Yesterday was Aunt Kathy’s surprise 60th birthday party. She isn’t by blood my aunt, but as I have come to know her, she has in a way become one. I am part of an undocumented adoption into another family where I enjoy all the holiday festivities and they treat me with all the respect and disrespect of family.
For the event, the roles were divided from cooking to decorations to photography and all the calls were made. The only part left for chance was whether anyone would blow the surprise. Lucky for all of us, Kathy was surprised, not only by the event, the magic show and gifts, but all the friends and family that traveled to Clear Lake, Wisconsin to spend the afternoon celebrating her life.
Let us see if we can break down a visual for you. Two very noticeably pregnant women only weeks away from birth, a table of four children between 5 and 15 playing UNO, a number of sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, grandparents and family picking up in loud conversation from every corner of the house as if they had not seen each other in years. As the afternoon progressed, more moved from the table to the couch to engage in the traditional “I’m full, I need a nap” ritual.
The afternoon would not be complete without magic, gifts and talk of being on the boat and going to the cabin. For those of you that do not know the Midwest, everyone says “The” boat and “The” cabin as if they are the only ones that have one. As I watched three generations coming together from diverse backgrounds to celebrate life, it dawned on me that no matter where I travel and how far I go, family is always the one constant. They are the one element of your life that you know will always be there in the darkest of hours or the height of celebration. It isn’t an act of selfishness or need, but an open door of comfort. As we tackle the daily challenges and face paths we must take, we think of those few people that we know care about us for nothing more than who we are. That is and will always be family.
What sets family aside from friends and other loved ones is that they will set you free as a bird or shelter you from a storm. The only reward they ask is to show love and be there. Family is not restricted by distance, age, lifestyle, wealth or religion. They are void of all prejudice and unconditional in their commitment to you.
Sometimes you need the reminder of a loud room filled with laughter, sharing, hugs, pictures and memories to see who the most important people in your life are.
To my family, both blood and non-blood, thank you for always being there.