There is a very large photograph in Aunt Donna’s basement of her as a young woman, dark hair, slim figure, standing primly in a beauty pageant. Her forties hair swirled perfectly and her lovely face and smile… my Shyanne looks very much like her.
Aunt Donna is my grandma’s sister. I say ‘is’ even though she passed away on Halloween. She is mentioned throughout this blog many times as my gardening guru, my insight to family history and spirituality, and my friend. At eighty-nine years old, she left behind a family that she had helped keep together over decades. The matriarch. I shall miss visiting her. I shall miss her home. I shall miss asking things like, “What do I do with Jerusalem artichokes?” after a day of harvesting sumac and Oregon grape root, or apples, or grapes or Jerusalem artichokes.
Family is beloved.
Family looks differently to different folks, indeed, but a family is a family. Even though the actual definition is of blood and descent, I feel the dictionary ought to update. I was born into a very large family. As I grow older in the line, the family line changes and we all take different places. My grandmother is now the matriarch. There are many pieces missing in between, either from death or distance or apathy, they move away or fall apart or come closer and evolve.
My granddaughter, Maryjane, knew Aunt Donna. She knows my grandparents on one side. She also called my friend, Kat, grandma and calls Rod, grandpa. She calls my great friends, Auntie and Uncle. The harsh lines of lineage change and soften. Maryjane’s Pa adopted all my children when they were very small. There is no question that he is their father and his entire side of the family can be found penned into Ancestry.com as such. My lovely, dark skinned sister and brother are as much my brother and sister as my blond brother and sister.
And to Maryjane there is no difference between anyone. If they are in our lives, they are family. Community and family and friends intertwine and become stronger. Find those that bring you joy and choose to spend time with them. Call once a week, pen a note and send it off. Be there. Be present. Be kind. Be thankful. Because family, made up of the kindest and those that love us, is beloved.