They were leaving. It was unlikely that they’d ever return…at least not permanently. They packed their bags and beloved treasures that were deemed too cumbersome to keep. I watched as, one by one, a host of memories were carried to the moving truck: the couch we’d sat on, the beds we’d pile into while watching movies and telling funny stories, and the pictures of times past that graced the walls. I wondered if the movers knew the fragility of my emotions were forever sewn into the fabric of that furniture. As they carried it all away, I knew I’d never drive up to that house again. I’d never walk in without ringing the bell or smile when I arrived because “home” was inside. After 27 years, my parents left Illinois and a piece of “home” left with them.
Now seven years later, all but two of the eight Lindsays who lived in that house have left the state. It still shocks me how much changed in a relatively short period of time. My parents and three siblings now reside in California, and my brother lives overseas.
Most of us cherish family – particularly around the holidays. It’s great seeing pictures of smiling families on Facebook. I enjoy reading about the various family holiday traditions and, thanks to Facebook Live, witnessing some of those traditions. Seven years ago, my holiday traditions were forever changed. I can no longer count on having holiday dinners in my parents’ home…at least not without flying four hours.
When Max was three months old, he started going to a sitter we affectionately call “abuelita” (grandmother in Spanish). I dropped him off at 8 a.m. and picked him up at 5:30 p.m. As I worked, abuelita cared for him as though he were her own. She bathed him, fed him, and most importantly loved him. And in return, he loved her. Many times, he wanted to stay with her instead of return home with me. We quickly developed a relationship with abuelita’s family. Her grandkids were invited to Max’s birthday parties and vice-versa. We ate impromptu meals at her house, shopped together, and sometimes visited for no reason other than to say hi. Over time her house began feeling like a home away from home.
Christmas Eve the first year after my parents left, Kwabs and I had no plans. Upon hearing this, abuelita’s family invited us to spend Christmas Eve with them. We were apprehensive. We thought it might be awkward since we would be the only ones who were not blood relations. However, we went and immediately felt at home. We were amazed by their generosity. We stuffed ourselves with tamales, watched holiday movies, and Max left with lots of gifts. Five years later, we still spend every Christmas Eve with abuelita’s family. The difference is the family has grown; three additional children have joined our family, including Myles. We no longer wait for a Christmas Eve invitation; instead we simply show up like the family that we are.
In many ways, the “loss” of my family seven years ago opened the door to gaining another family. Now I have multiple families to spend the holidays with. As I reflect on our new holiday reality, it rings true that family is not always flesh and blood – sometimes it’s people connected by heartstrings sewn together by time and mutual affection.
This year I am grateful for my family, the one I was born into and the one I chose.