This I Believe

Caitlin - Wheaton, Illinois
Entered on October 17, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, race
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The truth in pretending forever

I believe in my family, the real parts and the pretend. I believe in pretending. I believe in pretending today and I believe in pretending forever.

I have 3 sisters, 2 brothers, a mom, a dad and a nanny. I also have a cat and an 8 year old neighbor who loves me. This is my family and I love them with all that I am. We represent 4 races, 3 countries, 2 species and we run the full gamut of ups and downs, with a few horizontals in between.

I have spent a long time pondering how to answer truthfully when people ask me about my family, which someone inevitably always does. For years, I simply answered with the names of the family I was born into. Mom, Dad and one little brother, Tyler. It took a lot less explaining and, after all, they are my real family, aren’t they? The rest is just pretend. Yet, as I have I have come to understand my family as being very different from what I was born into. If family is a community of people who love each other unconditionally and will be there always, then I cannot rightly define my family as simply including Mom, Dad and Tyler. The family I have accumulated is much larger and, in my opinion, much more beautiful and I believe in them.

I believe we need to stop drawing lines between ourselves. I believe that we can choose our families and that family can exist far beyond the boundaries of birth and even culture and race. I believe in adoption, the legal kind and the pretend, and I believe we need to stop distinguishing so much between the two. I believe we all know people we can adopt. I believe that everyone knows how to pretend someone is in their family for a day, but I believe that it is an indescribable joy and privilege to choose to pretend forever. I believe that I was born into a great family, but I believe that I was born for a glorious one.

Denise and Robyn and Hannah are the most beautiful and loving sisters I could ever have. Never mind that I’m not related to them. Never mind that one is far closer to my mother’s age and another is 10. Never mind that one is Chinese, one is Indian, another is African-American and I’m pretty darn White. Never mind that I’ve known one since infancy and one since last spring.

Never mind because I believe.

I was born for Denise and Robyn and Hannah. I was born for this family that embraces whoever embraces it. I was born for a family that sometimes looks quite different by May than it did in October. I was born for a family that is O.K. with pretending we belong to each other, because the more we pretend, the more we find we really do belong.

Now, when people ask me about my family, I tell them the truth. I tell them about the family I was born for. I tell them, “Yes, it may all be pretend. But it doesn’t matter, because we’re pretending forever.”