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Celebrating Family and Reunions!

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I recently learned that July is National Family Reunion month. School is out, the weather is good, and people are ready for vacation. While it seems there is a national holiday for just about everything lately, this is one I can definitely get behind!

Family 2010

I have been thinking a lot about those two words–Family and Reunion. Specifically, what makes up a “family” and what actually constitutes a “reunion?” Doing what I do, I have been fortunate enough to meet families from around the world and have seen that the word family can be defined in a variety of special, beautiful ways. Remarriage, adoptions, domestic partners, live-in nannies, even friends like family all make the word have a much broader definition than ever before. Does it matter? To me, absolutely not! Where there is love, roots (even if not yet too deep), mutual respect, and trust, there is family.

How about the word reunion?  Is there a certain amount of time that must pass for a family not to see each other in order for their get-together or vacation to constitute a reunion?  Let’s take two examples.  I met a mom once who had been contacted by the son she had given up for adoption twenty-five years earlier.  He found her because he wanted to meet her and to introduce her to her new grandson.  She was about to be reunited (or, I guess I should say, united) with the son she had not seen since the day he was born, her new grandson and daughter-in-law, and the parents who had raised him since birth.  Talk about a reunion!  I couldn’t help thinking what an incredible experience for this entire family–one that included two sets of parents, a son and daughter-in-law, and a beautiful new baby who was going to be surrounded by a whole lot of love.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, my family and I are together ALL the time.  We’re talking your old-school, typical Italian stuff like big Sunday dinners, huge holiday celebrations . . . you get the idea (My sister and I even lived next door to each other for a while, and my parents lived right down the street. My husband jokes that when he said “I do,” he thought he heard an echo in the church–“I do,” “I do,” “I do!”  What can I say? We come as a package deal!)So, it may be no surprise that we have all gone on vacation together to the same place every year for over thirty years.  In all that time, I missed one year—my senior year in high school—because somehow Myrtle Beach with friends seemed far more exciting to an eighteen-year-old than the Bahamas (note that I never felt that way again!). What started as an annual vacation over thirty years ago for my parents, my sisters, and me has turned into a huge, wonderful tradition not only for the five of us, but also now for my husband, brothers-in-law, children, nieces, and nephews.  A very different type of “reunion,” but also pretty spectacular.

Family 2011

As you can see, reunions are as varied and unique as families.  Whether it’s meeting family members for the very first time, a “get together” every two or five years, or even a special time for a family who see each other daily to unwind and enjoy each other more than they can in everyday life, the important part is reconnecting with loved ones.  That precious time together is priceless, and it creates the memories that our children will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  I hope that we all continue to remember that, whether it’s National Family Reunion Month or any other time of the year!

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