Lately, the idea of tribes has been on my mind.
We all yearn for ‘our people’,
all of us looking to feel cherished, supported, understood, accepted,
When I was young, my family tribe felt eternally fixed. There was my brother and I, mom and dad, our grandparents, and our aunts and uncles. We had a relatively small extended family and generally there was no need for extensions at our Christmas dinner table. We all safely fit, and it felt as if we always would. My grandfathers died, one while I was in Junior High, the other while I was in University, but other than that there were few changes.
At 22 I married and found myself living in a very small rural town away from home and attempting to understand my place in a new and different setting. These were people who had all known each other for a lifetime. Their ways were deeply entrenched in the land, their shared past, their common ways of recreating, and their intricate webs of personal histories and stories. I was an outsider,
but I still awkwardly found kinship,
co-workers and acquaintances took me under their wing…
I also found my first mentor there too, and made other solid friendships that I still treasure.
I came to love my husband’s family and grieved them when my husband and I divorced,
especially my mother and sister-in-law.
That tribe, for me, dispersed and changed abruptly when I left that small town.
I created a new life back in my hometown,
made new connections, re-connected with others, and let go of relationships that had run their course.
Now, so many years later, my family looks very different again, and the word tribe suddenly seems even more appropriate given our unconventional construct. What was once simple and quiet is now often raucous, busy, and complex.
Our dinner table is often overflowing, and the extensions are pulled out of the garage.
This new version of my tribe includes my dad and my stepmother Elsie, my aunts and uncles and cousins,
Dan’s family -his parents, his siblings and their spouses and kids, his uncle Roy, his beloved cousins,
and Dan’s first wife Glenna as well as Glenna’s dad Bill.
More recently, it has also come to include Alex’s boyfriend Ry and his family
and Steve (Glenna’s boyfriend).
Also, I cannot forget my brother Jonathan and his partner Dannielle…
All of us intertwined now,
like our very own little small town of stories and unfolding dramas.
My beautiful tribe.
It has always, though, come down to peace and inclusion. That has been the
Circumstances in life are constantly changing for everyone and as a result our tribal memberships expand, contract, and are in an eternal state of flux. People die, marry, move away, form new relationships, come home.
This is what happens with tribes.
What really matters, though, is that there is an epicenter of love that remains, even after so many of the players have changed.
The heart of the storm needs to be that unconditional place of acceptance,
wherein all are welcomed through the front door and into the kitchen for dinner, a glass of wine, hugs, laughter and conversation,
while the kids play and squabble in the background ~
and there is that unspoken but palpable undercurrent of ‘we are so happy to all be together once more’.
So it has been throughout all of my tribal editions,
We may not always agree, our political persuasions may sometimes differ, our choices may not always align, feelings may sometimes get hurt,
but at the end of the day support is certain, and love trumps it all.
because together is always better.
So I am forever grateful that there is always more room at our table.
The Red Dust Road
I am currently reading a wonderful book, The Red Dust Road by Scottish writer Jackie Kay,
This is Kay’s own story of tracing and finding her birth parents, her Nigerian father and Scottish Highland mother. Kay’s sense of identity and family expands as she must weave in new histories, new places, and new extended family.
Her very real and accessible ways of describing this complex re-calibrating of family and identity positively brims over with depth and beauty.
Though I bought this book because I am drawn to all things ‘Scottish’ these days,
and though I have always known that there is an ancestral tribe and a profound connection to place that awaits me in the land of the Scots,
it was Kay’s emotional description of finally reaching her biological father’s Nigerian village that moved me beyond anything else ~
”The earth is so copper warm and beautiful and the green of the long elephant grasses so lushly green they make me want to weep. I feel such a strong sense of affinity with the colours and the landscape, a strong sense of recognition. There’s a feeling of liberation, and exhilaration, that at last, at last, at last I’m here. It feels a million miles away from Glasgow, from my lovely Fintry Hills, but, surprisingly, it also feels like home.”
Sometimes familiarity and finding a sense of home defy the laws of time and space.
Our Family Tree
Sometimes kids can describe it best, and distill the truths~Perhaps we are ALL a part of that tree.