I do not believe in family in the traditional sense of the word. When I was five years old we moved away from home in Santa Fe. Although I’m sure it didn’t happen this way, I have a movie-like memory of me looking out the back of the moving van waving to everyone I knew in the town, waving until they disappeared. In-between then and now my family has grown immensely as so much has happened since that fateful day.
I still have many memories of living there. Ten years ago I spent my summers in the arroyo catching snakes to keep in the bathtub. I would wave to the neighbors and they would wave back. They were friendly but they were not family. Family took care of me. Family was people like Michael Sandrine, the overly enthusiastic Italian, who would take a break from watching the Tour de France to call me in for dinner. Family was my uncle Craig, who lived in the same complex as us and watched me most afternoons, thus earning the title uncle.
After I moved away I would visit every summer, flying by myself as early as ten. I would play tag with my cousins in the plaza. We would take bike rides to Haagen-Dazs and we would watch the country bands play in the park. Once I dropped my ice cream cone and it was my Aunt Shelly, the large jovial artist with lots of jade, who bought me a new one. I called her aunt because she baked me pies.
Most recently one year ago I went back. I visited Santa Fe high, where I would be in school now had we not moved to Seattle. Inside Santa Fe High I think about family.
At lunch I met Rueben, who always wears thick clothing to hide the scars on his back, and almost never talks to hide the scars in his head. I met Polar, with the scars painting her wrists and the severe cocaine addiction. And I met Kaila whose brother had just died in an alcohol related accident, just like her father. That night they showed me their hide out- the roof of the bank. We climbed to the top and admired the view. I could see where I dropped my ice cream as a kid. It was on that roof top I came to my conclusion. I watched them laugh with each other. I saw how they depended on each other for support. I saw they were each others family. They were family because they were there for each other. It was then I understood the farther I might travel, my family will only grow.
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