We had a big family birthday party tonight. Both of my brother's sons were born within a few days of each other in July, and my sister-in-law's brother's son was born that week, too. The boys are teenagers now, and there were thirteen of us in attendance at a casual midweek pizza party to celebrate all three. At one point during the evening, I overheard Judy, my sister-in-law's mother, recounting a conversation she had had earlier in the day: she had been describing who would be at the party, and she ended by saying, "It might seem crazy and confusing, but it's just our family."
I looked around at the assembled guests, and for a moment I glimpsed what her friend might have been perplexed about. There was my brother, my sister-in-law, their two sons, my sister-in-law's parents, one of her four brothers, his wife and son, their son's girlfriend, me, my partner, and our godson, who is not related by blood or marriage to any of us.
Any sense of discrepancy evaporated a little while later during our traditional singing of Happy Birthday as a round. I went second this time, and when my part was finished, I was able to sit back and listen to the last eight people belt out their parts in this most dissonant, yet wonderful, rendition of that simple song, happy and dear, and I knew then what family is, and that these people are mine.