When you think of family, do you think of only those that you are blood related to? Or do you have other people in your life that you consider to be your family? If you were to look up the actual definition, it talks about the people who are related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption. However, I would argue that those aren't the only criteria for someone to be a part of your family.
Biologically, I have a rather large family. While it's just me and one sister, both of our parents come from fairly large families. My mom is one of five and my dad is one of seven. So between aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and so on, I have a large family unit. But those that I consider family extends beyond blood.
When I was a little girl, there was an elderly couple, Elmer and Jeanette, that lived down the road from me and my family. My mom runs her own salon in my parents' home and these two were clients of hers. But they were more than just neighbors and my mom's clients. They would invite us over and spend time with us. I have pictures of me as a little girl playing with paper dolls at their house.
I grew to think of this couple almost as another set of grandparents. They never had children of their own and in some ways, they adopted us into their family. Or maybe we adopted them? It's probably most accurate to say that it was an unspoken, but mutual decision to adopt one another into one another's families.
When I was a teenager, I had to have emergency surgery to have my appendix removed. Elmer had an appointment to get his hair cut that morning. So while my dad and I waited for me to go into surgery, my mom went home to quickly give him a haircut and cancel the rest of her appointments. My mom told Elmer about me needing surgery and he began to cry because he was so worried for me. That afternoon, he went out to get me a "get well" card and came up to my hospital room to visit me and make sure I was recovering okay.
Another person that's been in my life since I was born was my mom's friend Carole. Mom and Carole went to beauty school together before I was even born. For as long as I can remember, Carole has lived in a completely different state, but she and my mom have always made sure to keep in touch.
As a kid, Carole usually came to visit in the summer time and I always looked forward to her visits. Typically we would go to a water park or the lake or somewhere to swim. Those days were always so fun. Even though I was the baby of the family, Carole never treated me like a little kid which always stood out to me. And every last one of those days felt absolutely perfect to me. To this day, I can't remember a single bad thing happening during those visits. They were always filled with joy and laughter.
As an adult, I still look forward to seeing Carole. Simply by being herself, she taught me a few things about being independent, being comfortable with yourself, and enjoying life.
From relationships like those with Elmer, Jeanette, and Carole, my parents showed me that family doesn't have to be limited to just those that you are related to by blood, marriage, or adoption. And as an adult, I've met people that continue to expand my family. A few years back, I met a woman named Heba at a potluck. I had no idea then that a year later I would be traveling with her and her family to her home country Egypt.
You see, Heba and I connected with one another very quickly at that potluck. Not long after, I met the rest of her family and it was very clear that we had very similar personalities. Their home became like a second home to me.
As I said before, I traveled with Heba and her family to Egypt one summer and met both of their families. And just like that, my family grew bigger yet. Meeting everyone in Egypt felt natural, as though we had always known one another. On the first few days that I was there, their families encouraged me to relax and get comfortable in their homes. I felt entirely at home there.
I firmly believe that family can be defined differently for each and every person. For me, I have my biological family that I love. And in addition to them, I have other people who have come into my life in different ways who I also view as family. Some say "you can't choose your family," but I would argue that in some ways you can.