Home > Family, Love, Parenting, Personal, Youth > “You don’t have families, Mommy?”

“You don’t have families, Mommy?”

En route to Christmas dinner with my fiancee’s family, we pulled over at a convenience store. When Ba.D. left the car, our son asked me a few questions.

“Mommy, are we going to see your family?”

“No, sweetheart. We’re going to visit Daddy’s family.”

“You don’t have families, Mommy?”

“I do. They’re just far away.”

“Hey, I’m your family, Mommy!”

The other flaw in my explanation struck me only when I read the exchange to Ba.D. a couple of minutes later: We were going to visit family. Our family, not just Ba.D.’s.

It should have been clear to me earlier, thanks to text messages still fresh in my mind from the beginning of our drive.

We had just begun driving when my phone alerted me of a text message. I unlocked my phone and read a text message from my sister, Silver Star, before seeing the picture attached to the message.

I started crying.

My mom died having met only one of her grandchildren: my son. My gratitude that she lived long enough to do so was tempered by sadness my sisters would never see their own children in her arms. I felt guilty every time I shared images of my mom holding my son, because the joy I felt was one I deeply wished my sisters could have known firsthand. Its very presence implied absence.

When I saw the picture my sister sent me, it was truth. It was a truth I have longed for since my siblings and I laid our mom to rest.

You can see it for yourself here.

After staring out the window and reflecting on the picture for a little while, I picked up my cell phone and texted my brother-in-law.

You are a good man, Nicholas W.

He replied practically before I could put my phone down.

Thank you. I love my whole family so much. ♥ pass that on to my nephew and soon-to-be brother-in-law!

This morning, I woke up mourning that I was not with “my” family this holiday.

Sometimes it’s like I forget I am no longer ten years old. My family is no longer just my siblings and my mom.

There are so many people who have since become my family, through love, patience, perseverance, and commitment.

And, of course, there is the man who will soon be my husband. We are family now, too, both because of and apart from our son. We have chosen not only to intertwine our lives but our families.

There is a part of me that will always feel like ten-year-old Deborah, lost and alone but for the proximity of her siblings. And yet, this me, here today, is surrounded by laughter, chatter and the undeniable sounds of family.

I did not know this family when I was ten. I did not know how limited and limiting was my definition of family.

But I see now, and I am grateful for family, all family, and how truly late is better than never.

My mom is not here to eat and laugh with me today, but she is within me.

She would be glad, I think, to know I am with family today.

My family.

Her family.

Our family.

  1. December 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I feel these same sentiments so often, Deb. Birthdays, holidays, family gatherings with my in-laws when it’s obviously a time my mom would have also joined us. You wrote about your feelings so beautifully, but I must admit that it also sometimes (really, not all of the time) helps to just say, it really sucks that my mom isn’t here. Mostly, I am, like you, positive and look to my sister, cousins, aunts, uncles and my husband’s family to fill in the gap. And, as I’ve written about “other mothers,” I am blessed to have a best friend whose mother takes in my immediate family as her own. I loved time with my own grandmothers who each lived to be in their early 90s! I so wish my children could have had that…. Fortunately, I did get to see my mom with her first grandchildren, my sister’s twin boys who were 5 when my mom died. I know what we’re missing — a wonderful, happy relationship. Like your mom, mine got to hold my daughter – she was 4 months old when my mom died- so there is comfort in that too.

    The depth of your feelings toward your mom, son and fiance is remarkable. It’s kind of neat how your love for your son seems larger than life– that and the “family” you describe surely does a good job at filling the void in your life.

    I wish you the very best of health and happiness during the holidays and in 2013!!

    PS– I love what your brother-in-law did to create a “memory” for your sister!

    • December 26, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      I love the comfort of being able to say those words: it really sucks that my mom isn’t here. The listener’s response to these words are so illuminating as to what role that listener is meant to play in your life. Long-haul friends understand that the feelings will come and go, not just gradually diminish or disappear with the passing of time. I’m grateful for such friends, whether offline or on.

      Happy new year to you, too! I wish you all the best, and hope I will hear a lot about it in the year to come. This is not a guilt trip, mind you–just a wish! ♥

  2. December 25, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I understand so very much how your heart can ache for those who are not there, who can not be there physically to hug you. But I am glad you see those who are there–the family we choose and grow into are the best! Treasure the old memories but build new ones too.

    • December 26, 2012 at 7:07 pm

      the family we choose and grow into are the best!
      A huge amen to this! I feel so fortunate to have grown into this amazing, far-flung throughout the world family. The reality of my life has far exceeded both my early day hopes and expectations.

      Happy new year, Patti!

  3. December 26, 2012 at 2:56 am

    I peeked at your sisters post, beautiful. Then come back to yours, beautiful. We fill our days with family and friends who are family. As always Deb, you strike us in the forehead.

    • December 26, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      I got the artist’s name from my sister earlier today. I spent several minutes perusing his online gallery, full of amazing images. My brother-in-law not only chose his gift well, but chose the perfect artist to see it to fruition. Seeing that picture is like seeing my mom anew, and that itself is a gift that’s going to keep giving for a long, long time to come.

  4. December 26, 2012 at 4:16 am

    That picture is so cool. I love it and your post, beautiful as always.

    • December 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      Thank you. That picture and the words that accompanied it . . . they meant for one weepy car ride, but a really, really good one. Not all tears are bad tears, after all!

  5. December 26, 2012 at 5:16 am

    Loving and true.

    • December 26, 2012 at 7:11 pm

      Thank you. I’m glad I brought my iPad so I could hunt-and-peck this out while in the midst of the family gathering. (I’m glad there were other introverts, too, so none took offense when I retreated to a corner for a while!) It made me think I might need to type more posts from within a din, so my self-censor is quieted.

  6. December 26, 2012 at 6:03 am

    This made me stop and reflect, ” I’m your family mommy.” Christmas is about remembering the people who gave us joy. People who are there with us every moment of every day. Your child shared a priceless gift that no presents in any store could ever give. Merry Christmas my friend. I wish you and your family all the love, happiness, peace, great health and many awesome adventures today and everyday.

    • December 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      You know, I didn’t even fully understand all the implications of Li’l D’s statement until I was rereading this post this morning. From the mouths of babes, such sweet, affirming truths! It was a priceless gift, and a kind I hope I’m blessed to receive for many, many years to come. And speaking of years to come? I hope yours is as full of joy and peace as that you instill in others’ hearts with the words and images on your blog!

  7. December 26, 2012 at 6:29 am

    What an incredible gift your sister received. Just perfect. Your line, “sometimes I forget I am no longer ten years old” really struck me deep. How true we miss those days when our loved ones were still around. But now we have the chance to spend our future with new family members and that blessing makes the pain ease a bit.

    • December 26, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      I love your comment. I love seeing that, while people exit from our lives (and from life), new people enter them and fill them with a new light. And I love the image that prompted this post even more today than I did yesterday. I would like to have that kind of thoughtfulness. Maybe with time and care I’ll be able to emulate even one-tenth of it? I’d like to dream, in any event!

  8. December 26, 2012 at 6:47 am

    What a beautiful commentary on family! I was with my family (my daughter and her family) on Christmas Eve) and spent Christmas alone. I texted her, my brother, my sister but no responded. My one granddaughter did respond. It was nice to have a text. I am no longer ten years old nor thirty years old. I am old, but I still miss all my family.

    • December 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      I’m glad you got that text message, but I agree they definitely don’t feel the same as a phone call or a longer email! I got a few phone calls in with my sister, and that, too, helped make the day what it was. The goodness of it remains strong in my heart still, and will, I think, for many days to come.

  9. December 26, 2012 at 10:22 am

    My definition of family is always changing. Love, love the pic of mother and child 🙂

    • December 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      Mine, too, but I somehow forget it until I have just the right convergence of circumstances! Only a couple months back, I wrote a blog entitled “Family, Revised”–but do you suppose I remembered that before I started typing? Of course not! I tend to get things and miss them all at the same time.

  10. December 26, 2012 at 10:33 am

    love your thoughts on family. that you are finding your way through the different ways it looks and that you are recognizing the depth and extent of it. heart-filling. –kris

    • December 26, 2012 at 7:22 pm

      “Depth and extent” are perfect characterizations of it. I thought about this while I walked me dog a little earlier. “Family” was always this tiny, discrete sliver in my mind; today, I see it’s more like the interwoven roots of the trees in a vast, deep and beautiful forest.

  11. gothbutterfly69
    December 26, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Thank you so much for this, I really needed it. My mom died 10 years ago on December 23, and ever since Christmas has been very hard for me. I totally get what you mean by “the 10 year old me”. I miss my Mommy so much!! I feel ridiculous for it sometimes, but then I realize that it’s completely normal. Loss hurts, and the closer you were to someone, the more it’s going to hurt. We just have to keep living, keep moving forward, to honor them.

    • December 27, 2012 at 8:36 pm

      I do sometimes still think, “How does this hit me so hard?” when I decide it’s good to keep feeling certain things deeply, even a long time after they’ve transpired. It would be sad if people who’d been in our lives decades could just ease their ways out of our lives because a few months or years had passed. The mourning means there’s something worth missing, and something worth missing means, to me, a life lived with love.

      We must have to keep living, keep moving forward, to honor them.
      Perfectly put!

      Happy new year. I hope it’s a year full of peace and love.

  12. December 26, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Yesterday Maycee and I were alone for most of the holiday. We stayed in our PJ’s (hand made matching ones that my mom sent us), ate hotdogs for lunch, and played with most of Maycee’s new toys. I peeked a couple of basketball games on TV. It was a strange and nifty day all the same. Just the two of us….our little family…oh, and two dogs, two cats, to fish, and two frogs. I’m still not sure if I missed being around a bunch of people in a more festive setting or not…but ultimately it doesn’t matter. We are blessed, and I’m so grateful for those who are our family both by blood and by heart alone. XOXO-SWM

    • December 27, 2012 at 8:37 pm

      I was kinda bummed when I found out we would be driving away. I’d just gotten used to the idea of a small family gathering close to home when I learned we’d be spending it with a bigger crowd. Turned out each has its merits! We really are blessed, and I share your gratitude. ♥

  13. December 26, 2012 at 11:15 am

    That artwork of your mom holding her grand-daughter was absolutely marvelous. And your post is great – I know how the feeling of “her family” becoming “our family” can be both uplifting at inception, and heart-breaking when a member of “our family” dies. It hurt to lose my mother-in-law, almost as much as it hurt losing my mom.
    Very well done, my lady.

    • December 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm

      Thank you, John! I’ve looked at the picture a dozen times today alone. I love it more every time I see it. The guy’s art is phenomenal, it turns out; having seen others of his pieces, it doesn’t surprise me at all that this piece should turn out so perfectly a reflection of my mom and my niece.

  14. Pam
    December 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I love your “voice” and insights – in this post and a few others I have perused. I will continue to read – thank you.

  15. December 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    That is a great picture!

  16. December 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Not many posts make me weepy 😦 thank you for this!

    • December 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      Thank you for saying so, and for your many thoughtful, gratitude-inspiring words on your blog! I get something in my eye there every other post or so, and I’m grateful.

  17. December 27, 2012 at 6:31 am

    “Sometimes it’s like I forget I am no longer ten years old.” I forget and remember just about every day. I love how life can step up and take care of us, though. When we’ve “lost” or find ourselves far from one family there is another brand of family waiting to embrace us or a reminder that despite distance family is right there with you all the time.

  18. December 27, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Lovely thoughts and so true. How blessed you are by all your families!

    • December 27, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      I absolutely feel it! I actually debated sitting down and reading through comments tonight because I’m tired, but I’m glad I did. I’ll go to bed with extra smiles for having taken out these moments tonight.

      In case I don’t get a chance before it’s upon us, happy new year!

  19. Marta
    December 27, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Oh I love this. Family is so complicated for me. An only child with extended family abroad and not a great relationship with my parents I never really felt FAMILY before having my own. And even know its difficult for me to understand that the family I made is now my family and there for me through thick and thin.

    That photo your BIL made for your sister is amazing. So thoughtful and beautiful. You’re so lucky to have such a great and loving family.

    • December 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm

      I am so, so lucky. I wish it weren’t luck, and that everyone had such an amazing network of love and support.

      For a while, it was hard for me living in Los Angeles and trying to decide whether “home” was here or Oregon. I didn’t realize I was doing the same thing with family, after spending a couple of years not realizing folks meant Li’l D and Ba.D. when they referred to “family.” I’m learning, slowly. It’s a beautiful lesson to learn, as often as I need to. I love to wonder what family will mean to Li’l D. I hope he’ll love his family by blood, but pick up a few of heart along the way, too.

  20. December 30, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Such a touching post. Clarifies and articulates the point that family is defined in the heart. What a special gift!

  1. December 29, 2012 at 7:58 pm
  2. January 3, 2013 at 11:03 pm
  3. December 25, 2013 at 7:34 am
  4. October 3, 2014 at 2:39 pm

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