Families are like belly buttons: everybody’s got one. I’m one of those lucky people who has two — families — not belly buttons (that would be weird.) I have a perfectly good DNA family, stocked with sisters, nieces and nephews. I’m the off-the-wall uncle, and we bash along functioning as dysfunctionally as all families do. However, when I was young, I “adopted” another family: one of those wild, extended ones with rambunctious cousins, several generations of sons and wise, comical old aunties — all sprawled across half a continent. I grew up with this family just as much as I did with my own. It was fun.
Last week, after several years, I went to a Family Reunion of my adopted family (that’s me in the back.)
I spent the weekend playing “Remember When,” trying to figure out who was related to who, which generation was which, and how did my generation get so damned old, so damned fast. And it all reminded me why I “adopted” these Vandales in the first place.
Vandales are a unique bunch of folks. At a Vandale table, there’s always room for another plate and nobody goes hungry, although, on occasion, the soup might be a little thin. There’s always another chair, a place to sleep, somebody to talk to and room in their heart for another child or somebody’s girlfriend. Everyone’s welcome. If you’re there, you belong.
“I didn’t knew you played 12 string guitar!”
“Neither did I!”
Children play. Everybody talks. In the general confusion, nobody can ever find Auntie Barb. We all sing. And there’s enough food for the 108th Airborne Division. Vandales are a family who genuinely like each other — faults, fights, warts and all. And now that the kids I grew up with have become the comical old uncles and aunties, it’s nice to see that — in 5 generations — nothing has changed. The newest generation of Vandales are just like we were — all those years ago.
Most of us take our families for granted — they’re either too close for comfort or too far away to do us any good — but we need to remember our families are actually our first BFFs. Yeah, they know what buttons to push to drive us crazy, and they don’t always forgive the way they’re supposed to — but so what? These are the people you’re in it for life with. So we should all take a page out of the Vandale book: lighten up and enjoy the ride.