I learned this the hard way when I left NJ. I made the choice to have a different life. Fred and I wanted to venture out on our own and make our own mistakes. When the opportunity came to move somewhere where I could go back to school and Fred could make a better living we left and did not look back.
But we did have to live with our choice. For the next 30 years our family vacations consisted of three days in NJ (my family) three days in Pennsylvania (Fred’s family) with a mini three-day vacation in between to places like N.Y. Williamsburg or a shore area. This would set off a mini rivalry between the families. Fred’s mom said we would leave and would go to NJ and my mom had the grandkids longer. My mom complained and said we put her last and did not care about her. We tried to rent a few times in N.J. hoping to combine visits and vacation but that did not always work out because we were in conflict with other people’s plans.
The saddest part of our choice is that only one side of our family stayed connected. We were able to continue to build relationship with Fred’s side. His family had wonderful yearly reunions that really did build new memories for everyone. They also visited us when we lived in Ohio and also here in Florida. Our children grew up knowing aunts, uncles and their Martin cousins. The Martin’s are more than wedding and funeral relatives and now Facebook helps keep them connected.
It was such a short time, I was twenty when I was married. I did live in Bridgeton a few years but my brothers were in college by then. So consequently, we have no new memories. My kids do not know my side of the family, their aunt, uncles, cousins etc. My immediate family thinks they know me but they do not. They know a teenage girl who worked, ran a house and babysat 24/7. She abandoned them to go off to college. They don’t know ME now, how I think, what I teach, my politics, my dreams and hopes or what I want to be when I grow up. They do not know how I feel. I will continue to try to build relationship across the miles but know that each year it will become harder until what I want is not reachable. But I have to live with the inevitable choice to let some people and things go. However, I hope it is not too late for some connections and today’s modern technology is helping somewhat.
But the wonderful thing is that there are people who are close to me, they do know all about me. They laugh at my jokes and lift me up when I am down. I saw a sign once that I keep in my heart. “Friends are chosen family”. These are the people who have been a part of my Cleveland and Florida family for many years and I thank God for all of them. They are the beloved “aunts and uncles” to our children who were at band events, plays, or award programs. They are co-workers who have become surrogate sisters, nieces, even daughters.
I cannot forget another special chosen family. Although, I did not chose them our daughters did. I also thank God for both of my son in laws. They KNOW me well. I treasure them.
Life is about choices. I don’t regret our first choice. Fred and I have one of the strongest vital relationships I know. We have this because we were forced to make our own mistakes, live with them and then go on. Our chosen family are like the rocks that lead you across the rapids, they help us navigate through the troubled waters and they represent some of our best choices. I pray that Annie and Jaime find their own “chosen families”.