Family is an interesting concept. Scientifically, it refers to a group of individuals who share a common ancestor; in taxonomic terms, a family is a collection of genera that have similar traits and are all related. Animals often move in family groups, though these can take many forms. Human society was built on biological relationships: the so-called “royal blood,” inheritance and the class system, how we design our cities.
In modern vernacular, however, family refers to the people we each consider closest to us, regardless of blood relations. Those people might include parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, step-relatives, in-laws, close friends, or even pets. We live in a time where the household we are born into does not necessarily determine who our family will be.
Almost 19 years ago, I was born into a household that had two other people: my biological parents. Soon, we were joined by a fourth person—Thomas the cat. Three years later, my little brother was born, and we were up to five people. Our second cat, Chester, came long when I was five, and I thought that was who my family would be.
Except it’s not. When I was nine, my biological parents separated. My brother and I lived with my mom and our cats, and he and I visited our father when we could. My mom met my step-dad when I was 11, and my family grew again. At age 13, I chose to stop talking to my biological father, we had to put Thomas down, and I “adopted” my step-dad as my Dad. The following winter, we adopted Arya, my cat, from the shelter. The next year, my dad had to put one of his cats, Salem, down, and he and his other cat, Merlin, moved into our house. I consider one of my closest friends as a second sibling.
So that’s my family now: my mom and dad, my brother, our three cats, my “sibling,” and various grandparents. Except my biological parents were only legally divorced in the past few years, so my mom and dad are not yet married.
Today, August 15, 2015, Corin Goodwin and Robert Bachmann are getting married. I’ll have a step-brother, two uncles and an aunt, two cousins, and several nieces and nephews to add to my family.
It’s been almost eight years since they got together. It’s been almost six since my family came together in its current configuration.
We are celebrating so much more than just your legal union today. We are celebrating freedom from toxic relationships. We are celebrating each other. Most of all, we are celebrating love.
So, congratulations on getting married, Mom and Dad. Thank you for loving each other and my brother and me and our cats so much. Our family is unusual in a lot of ways, but love is a human constant. Love is what ties us together. I love you both so much.
Thanks to Amy Mayo and Sarah Wilson for their editorial assistance.