What about your real family?

Some people can’t resist categorising some adoptive family member or another as “real,” and so, by contrast, the corellating birth family member as, somehow, not real. There’s friend who, when I’m telling a story about something I did with my mother, can’t resist interjecting, “but what about your real mother. You know, the one who raised you?” People also bring up my real father, real brother, real granny. So far I’ve resisted the impulse to ask if they think the mother/father/brother/granny about whom I’m speaking is imaginary. The irony here is that, for most of my life, my natural family has been, to some degree, imaginary. Nonetheless, now that I have met them and have added them to my regular life, they sure as hell are real, complete with all the baggage — the granny who gets kicked out of restaurants for marching into the kitchen to complain about her food, the philandering brother, the uncle who brings the ex-wife (who he still shares a house with) and the girlfriend to family dinners. In my life, these people sit (figuratively) alongside the Mum who, for my adolescence and beyond, shagged just about everything that moved, who buys pills from the cleaning lady, the uncle who popped too many one night, the Dad who denies the lot. These people — some who made me, some who raised me, some who came or went at other times and for other reasons — are each equally real to me. Like them and all they do or not, all these people and many more are my real family.

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