Thursday, April 22, 2010

On My Family

I first met Shawn Steil when I was eleven years old, sometime in the fall or winter of 1995.

He was a stranger, this man who was taking my mother out for coffee, or a dinner date, or maybe to see a movie. He brought us butter popcorn, with M&Ms, and told us to combine them. To pour the bag of M&Ms into the cooked popcorn. This was a snack revolution.

We liked them. We liked him.

And so did our mother.

Sometime later (maybe a month, maybe a year, I don't know) we met his children - his five children - and forget it. We weren't sure who these Steil's were, but we would be fine without them, thankyouverymuch.

Shawn and my mother kept dating, despite their children's immature objections, and fell in love. Much to our initial displeasure, they became engaged, and plans were made for the Maloney's and the Steil's to relocate, to merge. A new home, a new family. A new life.

But the parents, well, obviously, they knew best, and they saw the big picture. A new life for all of us. Leaving the past behind us, and starting fresh.

Something we all needed.

Something we all did.

On August 2, 1997 my family was created.

It's been nearly 13 years, and I will admit: I was wrong. I thought it was a bad idea, the whole thing, and I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It is impossible to be more wrong then I was.

Because my family, the family that my mom and my dad created starting that August day? It is so right.

Biology is wonderful, but it isn't everything. My family is a study in nature versus nurture. We are half biology, half choice. I have 2 brothers with whom I share blood, 2 with whom I do not. A parent who birthed me, a parent who chose me.

I've heard that "friends are the family we choose for ourselves" which is a lovely quote, and it has such a nice sentiment, which I do believe. But sometimes, family is the family we choose for ourselves. My mom married Shawn, but that didn't make us family. No, he chose me as a daughter, and I chose him, too.

Someday I will write about him, about my second father, but at this point, I have still not found a way to write what I want to say.

At this point? Suffice it to say that I still eat popcorn with M&Ms.

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one".
- Jane Howard

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