Some months back I went to the birthday soiree of a very good friend of mine. Like mine, his parents split up when he was young and also like mine, they had to find themselves in more failed marriages before they finally found themselves with someone who was good for them. It was at this soiree that I saw something you don't see very often: a collection of parents, step parents and siblings old and new hanging out and celebrating.
A big percentage of my friends grew up in families where step relatives were the norm, and being a part of that subculture I never stopped to examine the dynamics of these families because I figured that what I had grown up with, which unfortunately involved an unexplained rejection towards the family I was born into and the temporary parental units that came and left, was the norm. It was at the tender age of 26 at this birthday party that I realized that I was part of the unfortunate majority though definitely not representative of the whole.
Ironically though, in all of this "rejection" I speak of we never include step siblings. I grew up with a bunch of step siblings that continue to be referred to as brothers and sisters and to this day, even the ones who are not an active part of our lives are regarded as such. In total, I have had 13 step siblings and one half sister, that is of course not including Ivan and Gus.
In the days before Ilonka's wedding, as dictated by tradition, there were a lot of family events. Lucky or unlucky for her, she married a man who comes from a very traditional family (ie- divorce-free)so it was hard to bring together the two families when in reality it was three. It was also hard to bring together the families when not all the parties involved were willing to include the others. It was hard to get over the embarrassment of the explanations.
But then came the siblings.
In the days prior to the wedding we all came together and stayed together. Maybe it was noticeable from the divergance of my regularly scattered posts to a greater focus on family, but for the past number of days I've come to realize just how important my family is to me, and most specifically my siblings- even the steps. It was at some point during the wedding circus that we became siblings because we wanted to, not as consequence of other people's actions. We also adopted Robert and his siblings because they are good. Regardless of who was hosting what we were always included and that was a sign of transcendence.
The day of the wedding all three families had to come together under Ilonka's terms, which frankly were simply that everyone would just be together and play nice. In retrospect I believe that we taught everyone there a lesson. Together, along with our respective significant others, we celebrated as a family and we made it a point to build relationships with people who though they are not our family per se, they are our family because thanks to them these people who we love are in the world.
I firmly believe that those who hadn't seen us together were pleasantly surprised at the way we raise each other to a higher level. I am absolutely certain that Ilonka got everything she wanted that day including the assurance that no matter what happens with our parents or families that we'll always be around. The universe works in mysterious ways and if we were brought together by fate and disliked each other as a first reaction, years later we came together by choice and now we have a huge family.
I am okay with that.