Y is for Yearn

Y

yearn
yərn/
verb
1. have an intense feeling of longing for something, typically something that one has lost or been separated from.
2. be filled with compassion or warm feeling.


When I was a kid there were no parties, there were no presents. The first gift I remember getting was a 12 pack of Play-Doh for Christmas, that I shared with my brother, and that was it. Later (from age 9 to 13) I lived with my mother’s parents and they did give gifts, in fact they were the giftsole expression of interest and love. During a therapy session I had told my therapist that my grandparents never told me they loved me or showed affection, she insisted that I tell my grandmother.  I assume she thought it would be helpful. I told her, and her response? “ We provide for you, we buy you gifts at the appropriate times.” That’s it, that was her response, except to add that I did not react properly to said gifts and perhaps I should address THAT with my therapist.  So lets just go forward with the knowledge that I have some issues, big, cringey. pathetic issues when it comes to gifts and celebrations. 

6180_138001065751_6851742_nWhen my daughter turned 1, I made it, a big deal. My kid would always know how precious I thought she was, she would always know how celebrated her life was. Once a year, she would have an awesome party with everyone that loved her. Around 60 people attended her first birthday party, I took out a small park to accommodate it. I know this is more about me, all of my insecurities, and perceived failings, but sometimes self-awareness doesn’t even slow me down. Rented tables, crafted projects, tulle, costumes and full menus are all part of my yearly homage to the life of my daughter and she knows she is the princess of her own little tale.3oncouch

Soon after Asha turned 1, I finally kissed Robyn, who had been one of my best friends for years and secret crush for some time. She (literally) ran away, or as she says “walked briskly”, but she returned and kissed me back. We got married and she legally adopted Asha, bringing her official momma count up to, 2.

AquabatsAfter the first year, that party evolved to be both a celebration of Asha and a greeting of Spring. It’s the one time we have a big party and see everyone, especially the people we rarely get to see during the rest of the year. The Boy and Gretchen came the first year and the third, but Gwynnie was still teaching classes and couldn’t come. When Asha was turning 4, I made sure it would work for Gwynnie and they were all able to drive down. Gwynns sister and partner drove out from Brooklyn too. Asha and her cousins were into The Aquabats, so they were also making an appearance, in the form of one doting mother, and assorted Uncles and Aunt.

We had just moved to a sleepy little town on the Delaware River. The kind of place that is filled with walking and cycling paths. The weekends fill the main drag with antique hunters, bikers in leathers, cyclists in spandex and families strolling with sticky-fingered children. It was the first time since I gave The Boy up, that Gwynnie would be in my house; also the first time I was proud of where I had made a home. It even had a garden and tiny porch!

Everyone came, everyone talked, laughed, and ate well. As Gretchen sat on the porch talking music with my broth-in-law, Gwynnie chatted with her sister in the backyard and The Boy chased his sister around while she squealed, I realized some deep shit.

 I could, maybe, let up on all of the heartfelt yearning, because..here it comes.. I had a family.

It was filled with people who didn’t have any blood connecting them, and there wasn’t a language to easily explain it to outsiders, but it was strong and fierce and mine. More importantly, it was my daughters’ and her brothers’ and they would both be okay, neither of them was ever going to be alone.kisses4yrs

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Not so easy definitions

Family has a lot of definitions. Many of them just aren’t that easy to incorporate into the language we’ve been given. My history doesn’t allow for many, if any, easy answers that work well in banal situation, but most of the people I know have a few of their own too. “Cousins” , “Aunts” , “Uncles”,  that never shared blood. People that became sisters and brothers, where the word “friend” with best in front or not, just didn’t cut it.

Our daughters recent 4th birthday was a big and obvious example of this. 30-40 people showed up, as they do for her birthdays. About 10 were my wife’s family and mine through marriage. One was my son who came with one of his real mommas (I’m his birth mom). The rest? They were mine, they were Asha’s, but they weren’t blood. They are more, and I don’t have the words to explain that to the new people we’re meeting in this new neighborhood we’ve moved too. My very friendly and kind new neighbor asked who was Robyn’s family and who was mine, and I found myself stuck with ” Well, this is my..Christina..um..”

These people are my friends, but they are a lot more, they are my family, they are my daughters’ Aunts, Uncles, Grandmas etc. They have been with me for years, they were all there the day she was born. These people banded together, rented huge storage space and scoured their own networks to fill it to the brim with furniture and baby gear when I had nothing.  They made sure I knew I could have this child and that I had support this time, I had family to give her. They have stood by us no matter what and never questioned if I asked for help.

This year, one of Robyn’s old friends, that has become a big part of our family, made a two-hour trek with three kids to stay with us for the weekend and prepare for this party. She stayed up until 3-4am designing and making belts for the Aquabats costumes my friends/family were donning for this insanity. She herded children and made last minute shopping trips, she costumed up herself and never missed a beat. She’s totally one of my heroes.

Add on to this amazing group, my sons’ family. I gave him up when I was 17. I picked his amazing mammas, and couldn’t have done better had I made them myself. His family has known me since I was a teenager. They have, been the only template I had for what a family could and should be. They are my family as well as my sons’, as well as my daughters. They are kinda heroes for me too. How do you define such a thing to someone in the course of getting to know you, chit chat?

I work with the Transgendered/Intersexed/Genderqueer community, and by work, I mean live, breathe, cry, rejoice and hug them. They are a large part of my life, the practice is small and intimate, we know each person, each family, each tragedy and triumph.  Some of them are also family and friends.

Should I say “These people?  They are brave, loyal, sincere, honest and giving. These people are who I want to be like when I grow up. “?  That’s the closest I can come to an easy explanation and I’m not sure that’s so easy to understand.

It’s a mixed bag with very little that’s easily explained.  Though it might seem cliché, this last weekend, at my daughters party, when I had no words and couldn’t explain or  make it easier for a stranger to get it or understand? All I could come up with was that I was really really blessed because,  all these people?  They CHOSE me, they CHOSE my daughter and my wife and my family. They made space in their lives to make us family too.  How fucking AWESOME is that?? How fucking amazing are they?