Family is as celebrated as it is mocked. “The family is coming—better stock up on wine!” There was that SNL short about the family arguing about politics and other “hot topics” over Thanksgiving before an Adele song brought them together. Family is often portrayed as a prickly burden.
Sometimes it is hard to be tied to people you would not choose as friends, or whose life choices cause you to worry or despair. Other times it is a relief to know that no matter what you do, whether you color your hair lavender, say something hateful, or rob a bank, your family is still tied to you. Even if you are the one causing worry or despair. Family is for better or for worse, with lower stakes than marriage.
There are many types of intelligence sitting around the table, many narratives coming together and diverging, many expectations (and perhaps misjudging) of the person we pass the potatoes to. My family is a whole world of stories and beliefs, and I am one citizen among them.
My family knows me and they don’t. Do you ever feel like that? Our shared history is something that the people sitting across the table at Friendsgiving or Friendsmas will never get. My family knew my parents before they were parents. They knew me as a little kid. They have known me the longest and yet they don't fully understand my humor, my accomplishments, my faults, or what I am like as a friend.
I, in turn, will never know fully each of my family members. I do not know how they joke with their coworkers, what their dreams are, what they regret, what’s on their real wish list, what’s the first thing they do when they get off work, or what they truly want to talk about over Christmas tamales. I know only who they are to me: a place, a home, a context, a community in which no matter where I go or how long it's been, I belong.