Fred and I left my hometown many years ago. Friends became our surrogate family. They were there for the birthday, holidays, Communions, Confirmations, graduations and weddings in our family. Many are closer to us than our own brothers and sisters.
These past four years we have called on them for support and love many times. When we gather together we laugh and share the memories of our lives. Our girls refer to many as aunt and uncle. Annie and Jaime have adopted our idea in their own life as they surround themselves with their own surrogate families in Ohio and NJ.
It occurred to me our chosen family is such a comfort because of our past. I am so sad that my girls do not feel close to my family. They have very few memories with them.
When our kids were growing up we made three yearly trips to see family in NJ and Pa. Christmas, Easter and summer break. We did this to try the best we could to develop relationships with our blood relatives.
Fred’s family would embrace us and the kids were able to really get to know their Martin family at picnics, sledding in winter, or family reunions. Because they knew we were coming, every day was a new event. Each night we would go to a different family member’s house or restaurant to draw together to laugh and build a second generation of memories. Now as adult children the cousins group together and take on the role of memory builders for the younger generation.
In NJ it was more difficult especially in the summer. Even though we came at the same time each year we often felt we were a burden. Several times when the girls were little we went to Jersey shore and never saw one person from Bridgeton. It was the same thing when we tried to gather for two weeks with grandchildren in recent summers. Only my nephew’s wife and my cousin Louise made a point each year to spend a whole day with me. Yet my surrogate family drove down each year from Connecticut to see us. Our facebook reunion with lost cousins was successful too.
A couple years ago we said why are we doing this?? We went to NJ for a class reunion and had to stay in a hotel because no one could take us. Some were not going to be home but did not offer their house. We had to have Jaime drive three hours to take my mom because no one could watch her for a few hours. This is not family.
Face book has been a beautiful gift for me as I can get to fill the void I felt with my father’s family. I blame daddy & my mother because we only saw them at weddings and funerals. When I go back to NJ next time I will call my Pennsgrove facebook family and my Vineland second cousins and I bet someone will take me.