I am finding that as I age, some of our favorite family members are those who aren’t even related, to begin with. I mean we have lots of relatives we love that are blood, but my children have called some of my friends “auntie” and “uncle” for years and none of those people have blood running through their veins that match the DNA in my children’s.
Even as I was growing up near all sorts of family, I still had people in my life who weren’t at all related to me whom I called those names as well.
When I was a child growing up in central Ohio, my brother and I had a small-town pediatrician who lived a couple of towns away and over the years, my mom had become friends with his wife.
Enter “Aunt Chris”.
I don’t remember exactly when Aunt Chris became part of our family because it was completely natural and calling her Aunt Chris was unforced and honestly, I don’t even remember a time when she wasn’t “Aunt” Chris.
Aunt Chris was quirky and edgy before that was considered cool. She loved to do off-the-wall things, she had an amazing sense of humor and a large laugh.
I remember her voice, how she reminded me of Geena Davis, how she didn’t fit the bill of the typical doctor’s wife. Their yard was filled with tall grasses and big white beehive houses because her husband was also a bit eccentric himself. She quilted and sewed her own dresses, dressed unconventionally, and had an amazing smile.
“Grandma” Lucy was my grandmother’s best friend who was our surrogate grandmother since the day we were born. I remember her soft sugar cookies, her small apartment kitchen once she moved out of her farmhouse, and her sweet little voice.
When she lived on her farm, they had this piece of farm equipment that sat near the driveway and every time I would see it and its odd shape, I knew we were at their home. I recall a cursive metal H on their storm door leading into their home, the smell of cookies baking in her oven, and all of the things above as clear as it was yesterday afternoon. All of those things collectively make me feel safe and secure and if I could be back in her tiny kitchen for just one day more, oh man.
One summer we were back in Ohio for a wedding and my mom and I drove Anna by Grandma Lucy’s old farmhouse and as we sat in the gravel driveway staring at it, my mom and I sobbed heaving tears, yearning for the past.
My Grandma Lucy was such a huge part of my childhood, such a huge part of who I am today, and yet, she has never been mentioned on this blog until today.
My friend Rebecca has been in both of my children’s lives since they were born. I think of the memories that my girls have with their “Auntie” Rebecca, the smells of her home, the egg rolls that Anna requests she makes, that Ella says her home makes her feel so secure and it makes me think of my Grandma Lucy. I feel you, girl.
Ella even thought Rebecca was her aunt until a few years ago and when I was little, I was also shocked to learn that Grandma Lucy wasn’t my actual grandma. Why we tell our children the truths about these things, is the real question. I told my friend Kristen one day this past summer that her children are like family to me, that sometimes friends are family too. The family we choose, our “soul family”.
Sadly, Aunt Chris died of cancer in March of 2017 and my Grandma Lucy passed away in 1993.
The book I wrote was about being a woman, dealing with all of the things that make us strong and I think of how much the world has changed since they were both living within it. Since so many women of my past were in it.
Family accepts you for who you are, not who they think you should be.
Your soul family is the family who takes you in and protects your soul and makes sure you are okay in bad times.
These people have watched over me and my family and have made sure that our souls were good. Proof that family doesn’t have to be blood.
Do you have “soul family” in your life?