I realize that not everyone is particularly enthralled with their family members, and I don't intend to wax sentimental about my family. We have a wide variety of folks related to us in one way or another, there are lots of quirks, plenty of ways we don't agree with each other, and yet all the way home today over the pass, I thought about the many facets of family and home.
There are several blended branches on my family tree; there have been several divorces and remarriages, bringing into the family constellation assorted "steps" and "halfs". Nearly every adult present this past holiday had been through at least one divorce, either as a partner or as a child; most of the children present had also experienced this pulling apart of a family. But all are now concentrated in one large extended family, permanently, we expect. And there may be additional children and mates added, as new lives become part of the circle.
We stretch from one end of the religio-political spectrum to the other, fairly evenly spaced across the continuum from conservative to liberal, with devout Catholics, devout Evangelicals, and one devout Unitarian Universalist in the mix. Surprisingly, this does not cause us problems. As I discovered with my sister several years ago, we may not share theology, but we share "church". We avoid talking about doctrine but can talk about what our congregations are doing to reach out. And we can talk, to some extent, about our spiritual lives and practices.
This morning, I attended the christening ceremony for my newest great-niece, Mona Grace Agnes Martin, Joel's 6 month old daughter. Father Chuck Schmitz explained every element of the ceremony as he anointed her squirmy little body with the chrism and then the blessed water. Godparents Scott and Diana solemnly promised their spiritual support and love as the rest of us stood around the font beaming.
And as I headed home, I thought about what it means to me that my family is so diverse and so expanded. I'm not crazy about Moses Lake, but when I'm there, I'm embedded, immersed in family. Sometimes I'm a little bored because there's little to do but read and visit; I spend all my time with family members and hardly have any solitude. Until I acclimate to the changed environment, I'm a little uneasy and restless. But when I let myself relax into the context of family, I am thrilled to see the threads of connection between us.
It's more than Abby's delighted hugs at the door and more than Davy's squeals of laughter when I pretend to tickle him. It's also Joel and Christina's pleasure in their children and their desire to share Mona's christening with the rest of us, even though many of us are not Catholic. It's Scott and Diana's being godparents. It's Jean and Pat's connection to their CMA church and its activities and their taking under their wing Christina's three kids as though they were born into the family. It's Justin's funny stories of his life in the Marines. It's reminiscences about my son Mike and his days growing up with Scott and Justin and Susanna and Joel.
I think it's knowing that we are committed to each other, that religion and politics and other differences do not divide us but make us interesting, that we belong to each other even when we disagree or disapprove. When I moved back to the PNW from Colorado, I knew that this would be one of the gifts of making that move. I have come to appreciate it more than I ever believed I might.