Thursday, February 19, 2015

After Family Day

by Giselle Renarde

Monday was a holiday here in Ontario (and a few other provinces--I forget which ones).

Monday was Family Day.

When it first came into existence a couple years ago, I was down on Family Day.  It seemed like such a blah Conservative Government idea. Everything's about the family, with them. The rest of us don't matter.

It's kind of funny, being just one person. I have a family of origin, but I think I've lived alone long enough to qualify as a spinster/cat lady. It's the part I was born to play, baby!

Sure I've found the woman I want to be with until the day we die (simultaneously, I can only hope, because I don't want to face a world without her), but marriage isn't on my mind.

And no I don't want kids. Do you even know how much I enjoy sleeping? Sleeping is, like, three of my top five favourite pastimes. I'm not willing to give that up. Just let me have my bed and let me have my cats and I'm good.

God, I love my cats.

Giselle, preparing to fly off into the sunset...
Anyway, over the years my outlook on Family Day has changed. I willed it to change. I rejected the jaded view I started out with. I wanted to take a more benevolent outlook on this holiday, so I did.

You can change your mind just by wanting to. Such things are possible.

I re-envisioned Family Day as an inclusive event celebrating family in all its forms. Celebrating chosen family. Celebrating extended family and family of origin and friends and roommates and all the people we love and care for.

My girlfriend blew my mind the first time she told me I was family. I don't mean in a, "Hey, I was just charting my family tree and it turns out we're distant cousins" sort of way, although that would be hella kinky. 

Damn. Now I want to take up genealogy. I've always had a thing about cousins.

That's why this happened.
Sorry. I'm veering off course a little.

What Sweet meant was that family is about care and mutual support and knowing that person will ALWAYS exist in your life, in some way. Family is someone to whom you're inextricably bound. You can argue, you can disagree, you can even have "knock-down blowouts" as she calls them--those fights you have where you hurt each other deeply and you stew in resentment for days and you tell yourselves you'll never forgive each other--but you'll always come back to each other. Because you're part of each other.

That's family.

On Family Day, I wanted to blog about my kin. But then I spent the whole day with them and all our outdoor activities in the frigid 13-below-zero Canadian winter really tired me out.

So I didn't get to tell the world how much I love my mom and my siblings. I didn't get to tell anyone how awesome they are for claiming my girlfriend as one of their own, for embracing her with all their hearts, for never once questioning her gender identity or misgendering her when she wasn't around. They've welcomed her into our tribe so lovingly my eyes are filling with tears as I write this.

Family can be a beautiful thing. Maybe it does deserve a day of celebration after all.


  1. Hi, Giselle,

    I'm a cat lady too.

    For one thing, mostly they let you sleep - as long as you make space in the bed for them.

    Your cousins book sounds deliciously deviant - even if they're not "really" cousins. I mean, we make our own families, as you point out here, right?

    Blessings on you and your family.

  2. Like all writers we have a cat but I don't get along with him too well. The cat is very careful not to disturb any one but me when he wants to go out in the middle of the night.Speaking of family I did the genetic profiling thing offered by an outfit called, 23andme. I found out that I am 3% Neanderthal. Most of my genes come from Northern Europe-no surprise. You can find lots of family far removed through 23andme.

    1. Current study supports that, Spencer. Neanderthals didn't so much die out, but were rather assimilated w/Sapiens. Erectus had a bigger brain than we.

  3. When I look around at my circle of friends, it strikes me that close family can also be terrible to one another. They often feel that simply because, as you say, there is this unbreakable connection, that anything goes, that judgement and insults will be tolerated on some level. I've found that the group I'm close to, core family or not, evolves as we go through life.

    1. I just had a dream about two of my cousins. I haven't spoken to them in probably a decade because family drama. I love them. It's complicated. Anyway, in the dream, they were still children. Now they have I think 7 kids between them, none of whom I've met.

      It's funny, but I'll always feel a very close connection with those cousins, even if we never see each other again. For me, they represent how the feeling of family survives estrangement.

  4. Family drama - ah yes, I remember as a kid most of the time we weren't speaking to some aunt or uncle or cousin. I found it annoying as I Ioved visiting our relations - generally they had bigger houses than we did - more room to play in! I reckon I have something like 20 cousins around the globe that I have no idea how to get in touch with. So much for family ties!

  5. I've always told my kids that "Family is the people around you who love and support you...whether you're actually related by blood or not is irrelevant." Growing up, I had 22 cousins on my Mom's side, and 2 on my Dad's side. I only keep in touch with a few of them, and that only on-line. Many have diametrically-opposed political views, and want to espouse their views whenever we get together. Besides, as with any other large family, eventually it becomes: weddings and funerals...then no reason to get together anymore. Christmas cards remind me that they're still around, and vice-versa.

    Husband has 6 siblings, but one has estranged himself...his loss. My kids love even my brother, odd as he is, but prefer to be with their Dad's family because they're so much fun.

    I view my closest friends as family. There's one woman I've known since grade school, one since college, one since I was an at-home mom, one from when our kids were in grade school together, and one I met when I ran her daughter's Girl Scout troop. All of them represent a different "phase" of my life, but we accept and love each other, and have dinner/lunch together at least a few times a year. As much as I love my husband, I need to talk with other women, to share with them, and to get and provide support.

    And I can't forget to mention my closest woman friend: my daughter. I wrote her a "love note" and sent it with her Valentine's Day chocolates. She called me to chide me for making her cry. But she's coming home from college this weekend because she needs "a shot of home." And we're both looking forward to some tight hugs. Because even my friends who don't hug anyone else, including their own kids, will hug me back when I grab them. I want to feel my loved ones pressed against me, in some kind of symbolic "joining." I learned that from my Mom and her family. And my sons tolerate it because it pleases me so much. I think they enjoy it, but they'll never admit it!

    So to all of you here, HUGE on-line hug! I love you guys! I look forward to my visits here.

    1. The feeling is mutual, Fiona- Your comments are always appreciated and usually spot-on.

    2. Online hugs are the best. irl I don't even hug my mom.

  6. I'm profoundly lucky to have close family and fairly frequent family celebrations (my wonderful sister-in-law cooks all the dinners, and I just bake the birthday cakes or other desserts.) But the weather this February has really been kicking our familial butts. My granddaughter's birthday party has already been postponed for a week, and will be tomorrow, but i'm just far enough away that I'd be driving through a snowstorm on my way home if I went, so I won't. At this rate she'll look so grown up the next time I see her that I may not recognize her. They grow so fast between 8-and-9-tenths and 9 years old.

    1. In our family, I started the tradition of having a special treat for kids when they turned "double-digits", or 10. That was the day they could have their first whole cup of coffee to themselves, instead of just taking a sip from mine. I put milk and a splash of sugar in mine, so as kids they preferred mine to my husband's black "java". But I wanted them to have something to look forward to, even at that young age.

  7. Giselle, I agree with you about Family Day as a thinly-disguised (or undisguised) Conservative ploy. (And part of the subtext of "family" as used by conservative types is that it does not include same-sex couples or their relatives-by-marriage, e.g. my stepsons, never mind the Charter of Equality Rights and various changes in the law.) But then, a holiday is a holiday! I love Family Day because it is the kickoff to a WEEK of free time for me, when the local university cancels classes for 5 days plus 2 weekends. It never gets old.

  8. Giselle, this is sweet and funny, as you so often are. I very much feel you on that point about chosen family, and I'm glad you've pushed back against the gross parts of Family Day and worked to make it your own!


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