When Jess comes home, we usually gab a lot, sip wine and watch movies on Netflix, visit thrift stores. (We never go to malls, thank God.) This last visit, however, her only request was, “I want us to cook together.” I don’t remember what I taught her, but she took the lead on making a fennel salad and a sweet potato chorizo soup, both delicious.
Jess works as a designer. Sometimes she’ll bring home plans she has drawn. Other times she takes me to web pages that display renovation projects on which she has worked. As she explains the problems and solutions of each job, I think how lucky I am to be able to share her. Key to my being able to do this is her one, true mother, a generous woman who once sent me a Mother’s Day card that made me weepy.
But this blog isn’t only about Jess. It’s about my large blended family, and how lucky we are.
My siblings range in age from 25 to 62, and they include one full brother, two half brothers, a half sister and two stepsisters. I used to joke that we were a family waiting for a call from Oprah. Then one day as I watched her show, I realized she had called a different family — one with a smaller age spread and no diversity in term of ethnicity or sexual preference. Our group has it all. Sometime we squabble with each other but mostly we laugh.
When I was single and my half brothers were kids, I’d drive them and my niece and nephews to Peter Piper’s Pizza where they would take it upon themselves to call me “mommy.” They wanted to shock the waitress that someone so young with no ring on her finger could have so many children. They counted on her sympathy for free Coke refills which they knew I would never buy.
Until recent years, my siblings and I, along with our partners and children, and all of our parents and step-parents celebrated Christmas Eve en masse. Those holidays were noisy and hectic but yet pleasantly civilized with my two fathers talking over cocktails; my mother chatting with my half brothers, who, like my nieces and nephews, called her Grandma while my stepmother and her year-older stepson took turns taking pictures. I’ve no ideas how old the kids were before they sorted out the relationships between us all, but when my niece went to college and was assigned to draw her family tree, she called upon me for help.
People have called our family gatherings “crazy,” which is only true on Father’s Day when our annual ping-pong tournament causes a bit too many taunts and too much blustering.
We have my older brother’s first wife to thank for keeping our family together. She refused to host multiple holiday and birthday parties after her first child was born. She invited all of the not-so-amicably divorced grandparents and their partners to her son’s first birthday and left it up to them to decide whether to attend, put away their differences and act as adults, which they did.
That was 30 years ago.