Family is more than who you're born with

Jessica Barnett


My mother is cooking Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house this Saturday. The whole family is invited. 

For my mother, this means both grandparents, her three siblings, my stepdad, my six siblings, my two brothers-in-law and my two nephews. I don’t have cousins on her side, and significant others are only invited if they put a ring on it.

I define family a bit differently. Thanksgiving with my family would need a much bigger room, and it would probably need several more tables.

That’s because last time I counted, I had 25 sisters, 18 brothers, six nephews, three nieces, three moms, a Dave and a Papa Jones. That’s not including all of their brothers and sisters or any kiddos that don’t know me as Aunt Sheshy.

The thought of the grocery bill for that meal is enough to make me question it, but I like having a large family.

I like knowing that there are people all over the country that would be there for me in an instant if I needed it, because they know that I would do the same for them. I like knowing that when I fight with one sibling, I have at least four others on my side. I like that having four on my side means I probably have 20 who aren’t, and they aren’t afraid to tell me so. 

I like knowing that even though we haven’t talked in months – and in a few cases, years – all it takes is a phone call or bumping into each other in town to spark a conversation that makes both of us forget we ever stopped talking. I like knowing that in the time we have known each other, we’ve learned which subjects to avoid entirely without ever running out of things to talk about.

For me, these are some of the best parts of having a family. We have been through some abysmal lows and astronomical highs, and more than anything we learned about the other is that family is more than blood. It’s our ride-or-dies, our bros, our sistas and our kiddos. 

It’s the people we are most thankful for, and it’s the people most thankful for us. It’s the ones that we assume don’t have to be told that we’re thankful for them, because they’re sitting at the table with us as we list off everything else we have in life. 

Still, it’s nice to hear it sometimes, and I encourage each of you to include your family on your list when you share what you’re thankful for this year. Whether they’re the ones you’re born with, the ones you chose for yourself, or the ones you found yourself inexplicably stuck with, family is family.

And from my family to yours, happy Thanksgiving. May it be your best one yet, and may the future only hold better ones.