What’s In A Word?

I’ve been wondering lately what it means to be family. It’s a word we toss around so much. One of those over-used yet hardly understood words like “love” that we seem to say so often yet don’t really realize its depth, its resonance.

I think of my complicated family and wonder if it isn’t something more than blood that binds us together so strongly. What makes sharing the same blood with someone so special? What makes a similar genetic code stand out as a bond like no other?

Qualities that I would find deplorable in a stranger I can easily forgive in one of my sisters, regardless of the hypocrisy. A fight with a friend can likely mean the end of a friendship forever yet my sisters and I can swear that we hate each other, can escalate a fight to violence, and can vow to never talk to each other again and in an hour, some fondly remembered childhood movie will be on TV or the cat will do something funny and our fight is suddenly just a minor argument.

And perhaps that is the answer. That blood really isn’t the ultimate binding factor at all. Not blood but the simplest of memories can bind you with someone. Simple memories of watching Hook together thousands of times, or buying pizza from the same pizza shop at the same beach year after year together, or playing Clue in the kitchen with our mother. These are the memories that bind. These are the small pieces that make you overlook the negative qualities in your family. It seems strange to say that I can’t stay mad at my sister forever because we used to love the movie Jack so much that we got in trouble for quoting lines too often or that I must forgive my mother because I used to brush her hair every night, yet, I can think of no better reason to forgive.

Or perhaps it isn’t so simple. Perhaps there’s more to the equation of what makes a family than just blood and memories. But, for now, I’ll just hold on to those simple bits of my past and be content that, so far, they have bound us together tighter than imaginable.

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