Finding family in the Magic Kingdom
Growing up, four out of seven people I perceived as family shared blood with me, but three did not.
When my sister’s high school boyfriend came to feel more like a brother than “my sister’s boyfriend,” my family-member scale was balanced numerically between those of blood and those strictly of love.
The scale hung in the balance for only a brief while. Soon enough, my new brother’s mom became family, too, confirming to me what I’d suspected all along: blood didn’t make family.
Sure, my parents seemed to feel bound to the other kind of family, but in my mind, those biological families had little to do with my own family.
Most of the time, I had no desire for more family. I figured I was abundantly blessed with what I had.
Occasionally I’d find myself wistful, but never wistful enough that I let wishful thinking rule over circumstance.
When a Monster in Your Closet reader, Katrina, mentioned in February that she’d be visiting Disneyland in April, I noted her middle name–my mother’s maiden name–and state of residence and figured we probably had an ancestor in common somewhere. I said as much to my honey, Anthony, but was otherwise focused on the thrill of meeting up with an online friend in person.
The day before Katrina and I met up, I got a short Facebook message from her. Her husband, she wrote, had suggested she should make sure I knew our relationship.
Namely, that we were cousins.
I wrote back instantly to ask the specific connection, though there was really only one option. I then called Anthony, crying with joy I couldn’t explain.
When I looked at Katrina’s profile picture, it was like looking at a younger version of my mom.
The next day, Katrina, her family and I met for lunch at Disneyland.
As I waked back to my car a little while later, I wrote this on my phone:
The next evening, I brought my son, Li’l D, to the park. We spent a couple of hours wandering and taking DCA (Disney California Adventure) kiddie rides with my cousin and her family. When Li’l D refused to ride any animal on the carousel, Katrina took the bench with him while I held her son.
One word replayed over and over in my mind: family.
Watching Katrina’s kids not only play with but instruct and tend to Li’l D filled me with wonder. I’d had many a fun Disneyland trip together, but never one so merry as this!
Heading out of DCA, Li’l D alternately shrieked with glee while darting between my cousin’s sweet, spirited children and dance-walked to the music, occasionally stopping without notice and jamming foot traffic.
“You’re so weird!” one of the kids said to Li’l D with a kindly laugh that inspired my own.
I would bet you just about anything that’s how my siblings and I sounded when we visited Disneyland two and a half decades prior!
When we parted ways a couple of minutes later, I was reluctant to leave. I only did so knowing Li’l D would soon enter meltdown territory if we didn’t. And that family wouldn’t end just because the evening did.
Today, Li’l D and I went back to the park solo. There was much laughter, and much messy enjoyment of ice cream.
There was something else, too: a sense of connection, as we strolled hand in hand, not just to each other, but to the little Deborah who’d once held hands with her own mom at the park, and to the new generation, whose interwoven hands and hearts might reach so much further together than they ever could apart.
This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.