We Are Family

I’m never sure who will be at our Thanksgiving every year. There are a couple of standards we can always count on: Uncles Wayne and Davis, the children’s faery godfathers always fly in on Thursday from Seattle. Almost always, my parents and my brother and his wife arrive from Kansas City and Pennsylvania respectively. It is almost a sure thing that my friend and partner-in-fiction-writing-crime, Gabriel will be there, as it is nearly certain that Krystal, former-student-turned-friend will come, sometimes with a friend in tow.

After that, it’s a free-for-all. I have a habit of inviting everyone I talk to for about six weeks before the date and right up to it. We have our big Thanksgiving celebration on Friday (some would say “Black Friday” some would say “Buy-Nothing Friday”) because of the travel schedules of people arriving on Thursday. This means lots of people who have standing Thanksgiving plans elsewhere can still come to ours, the day after.

This year it looks like we’ll be getting Uncle Sasha, her partner and their girls (play date for the kids!), friends from church, friends from the bookstore, and Josiah–our erstwhile housemate who recently moved into a tepee in a field in Iowa–will be arriving by bus.

I bought a big turkey.

Family Resemblance: Matching White Mustaches

No matter who shows up, no matter how many, there will be a sad missing place where my father–lost to cancer in July–ought to be. Everyone will miss him and his quietly humorous presence in the chaos. His lap was always open to a kid in need of a picture-book reader, or just a calming hug in the midst of the happy fray.

Cousine, Cousine

But this year is not just about lost faces at the table. We said goodbye to my father in 2012, but before he died, he joined us in welcoming the newest member of the clan as well, my new niece, Gwendolyn. She has yet to experience Auntie Shannon’s Thanksgiving. I have some mashed sweet potatoes waiting in the freezer just right for her 5-month old palette. We are all looking forward to her baby laughs and opportunities to teach her new tricks.

I’ve always liked the euphemism “family” to describe people who bat for the queer team. But to be entirely fair, it was my own biological family of origin that taught me how to pick up and tag along with people not necessarily in my genetic circle and become family by mutual agreement. It was something my parents did with dear friends near and far. I’ve been doing it ever since I grew up and struck out on my own–even before I came out as a lesbian.

In a time when the definition of family seems always contested and in flux, one way we define ours is by who comes through the door on Thanksgiving. Who’s in yours?



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