Growing up I had a plethora of aunts and uncles. They had the title the moment I was born, but not for the same reasons.
Some were the siblings and spouses of my parents and grandma.
Others were the cousins of my grandpas. Perhaps it would have been strange to call men and women older than my grandpas Cousin.
And still others were friends of my parents and grandparents who had blurred the lines between friendship and family.
I understood the distinctions. I knew Uncle Brian was an uncle while Uncle Chet was some version of a cousin. And there wasn’t a hint of a bloodline with Uncle Earl, but it didn’t stop him from bringing me gifts from his trips around the world. I have a bell collection because of him.
Maybe I knew it didn’t matter when or why the label was affixed. It mattered only that it was held in place by love. Even the ones that passed as familial were often grafted in through marriage and step-ness and adoption higher up in the branches. Family is about more than the structure of the tree.
And it’s still true now as I climb the generations and gain new titles. I became Aunt Kristen first to the children of a friend and then to the children of my brothers. But I was no less an aunt. I’ve been to hospitals and birthday parties. I’ve walked crying babies and tickled bare bellies. I’ve doled out hugs and sat in kiddie chairs at kiddie tables. I’ve played on playgrounds and watched swimming lessons. All for nieces, and for nieces.
We’re family. And I love how open-armed our definition is.
This post is part of the 31 Days: Family series. Read the beginning, and see a full index of posts, here.