My daughter graduates from high school next week. Her ceremony will be small, as she is graduating from a charter/home school institution….We were discussing who would be invited to her graduation. She’s not a talker, or a “feeler” in particular, or even a social person much; rather an extreme introvert. She likes relatively few people around her, and MUCH time in solitude.
So her text late at night, words that tore into my heart, surprised me as much as they made me acutely aware of MY feelings, of love, and inadequacy, and heartache. She shared that, in her dreams for her graduation day, there would be a huge family, making lots of noise, cheering her on, and christening her with LOTS of leis…..that this is what she had always imagined the perfect ceremony to be. And she knew hers wouldn’t be like that, and she was really grateful for all that I WAS doing, but she wanted me to understand why sometimes she was sad.
See…we have a small family. My parents, and her brother, and I, are pretty much it. Her father isn’t allowed to see her, the rest of his family lives back East, and we have no extended family that we are in contact with. And in this life, we have known a lot of tragedy. We have suffered a lot of loss. We’ve had a lot of unexpected endings, and seemingly rock-solid alliances, that have been torn away. We’ve had family that we have held dear, repeatedly violate our love and trust, and do unheard of things that “family” doesn’t do, necessitating us to build walls around our castle, keeping all but the most tried and true, out.
And her shared thoughts made me sad, filling me with grief for what I couldn’t offer her, for where I had let her down, for needs that I couldn’t fill with the resources I had….
And then I was thinking about the friends that have become our family over the years. Those that have been there when we needed a safe place to go to escape a violent home; or those that have picked us up when we were a million broken pieces lying on the floor, telling us that we would one day be whole again; those that have walked every weary, back-breaking path with us… understanding our silence, holding space for our pain, and slowly encouraging us to breathe joy once again; those that have stood as stoic, unmoving soldiers, fiercely defending and protecting us when we couldn’t protect ourselves; and those rejoicing with us over the simplest of pleasures, encouraging us to laugh, and to sing, and to dance…. and to reassure us that we were safe, finally, to do so.
And it was then that I realized that we may not have much of a blood family, but we have a tribe surrounding us. This tribe has both kept our village safe from the outside, and kept us celebrated from the inside. It is this tribe that has been there all along, and it is this tribe that will surround us this coming week.
So no, dear daughter, it may not be much blood family that will be standing with you as you embark on this next moment of your life. But the tribe that WILL be surrounding you will be thicker than blood; with respect deeper than our strongest fears; and pride wider than our greatest worries; and most importantly, with love that is chosen rather than expected. YOU my child, are a warrior that is invaluable to it’s pack. So confidently take your place, stand tall with your shoulders back, and roar.