THE FAMILY STONE is one of my favorite movies, not because Diane Keeton is dying, but because everyone has to fiercely protect the things that they love, even if that causes a dance where people shift partners and learn to respect new values. My favorite son (my only one) and his lovely wife arrive tomorrow. They will pull in right behind my husband who has been fixing broken pipes at our cabin in the Trinity Alps. And while I'm writing they are enjoying a night together at the cabin. My daughter and her significant other come the next morning and my other daughter and her husband will dance in and out as they go back and forth to their own home with my grandson and soon to be granddaughter. The next four nights are full of family and family extension dinners. For those of you that aren't old enought, that means we are all grandparents and our families now fill our houses...which means a separate night is involved to get the WHOLE family together. Chaos! And as an only child, chaos and the love of people we are close to is all I have ever wanted. Well, not really. I didn't know chaos might be a byproduct.
Once in a while you feel your life come full circle. When we lived in villages in Alaska, we had the same kind of chaotic Christmas week. We had a "village" family. The girls came to our house to bake and create crafts to share. We met at the dance hall, the drums beat and we danced and the kids were given gifts from Santa. Then village families joined their family of relatives. always telling us we could join them. But it was time for many of the teachers on the delta to enjoy their own family committment...to meet in a bigger school, where there was a gym or an extra classroom for the mom's and kids to sleep in. We layed pallettes on the floor and the kids all went to sleep, not caring who they were next to. If we had met these other couples in Sebastopol, where everyone had their own families to go to, our kids would never have known the idea of a village family, or a family of friends. We are lucky. In my family's world there are so many different kinds of families.
During the holidays... Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, etc. the idea of a family can become stereotyped. A mother, a father, a tree, a menorah, and don't forget the gifts! For those who have widened their circle, we should all be grateful...for those who work at food banks, share shifts at hospitals, take the extra shifts at grocery stores so that other can go home, recognize that we are all a part of a bigger family, a wider circle.
I think that those of us who write and share our art are also looking for the bigger family.... a group that is open to hearing our story, and is willing to share theirs. And we are looking, often for the greatest gift... listeners. These are the people who listen to our stories, then tell their own so that our own circle can widen.