Among Family

By Diane Stark

Among Family

“Are we going to see Grandma and Grandpa this Christmas?” My then-five-year-old daughter, Julia, asked.

“Yes, I’m going to drop you and Jordan off at their house, and Grandma can call me when you’re ready to be picked up.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Why aren’t you going with us?”

I sighed. Things were so complicated these days. I’d gotten remarried over the summer, and this was our first Christmas as a blended family. I was still trying to figure out my relationship with my former in-laws. “Well, Honey, when your dad and I split up, I promised Grandma and Grandpa that I’d make sure they still got to see you and your brother,” I said. “But Grandma and Grandpa are your dad’s parents, and now that your dad and I aren’t married anymore, I’m not really a part of their family.”

But when I called my former mother-in-law, she disagreed. “We don’t want you to drop off the kids. We want to see all of you.”

“That’s really nice, but I don’t want to leave Eric and his kids alone while we visit with you.”

“No, we want to see all of you. Eric and his kids too.”

“Really?”

“Of course. We want to get to know your new family.”

Very hesitantly, I asked Eric if he would mind visiting with my former in-laws over Christmas. “I know it might be awkward, but they are really wonderful people,” I said.

He shrugged and said, “Why would it be awkward? They’re your kids’ grandparents.”

“But they aren’t your kids’ grandparents. And it’s Christmas.”

Eric shrugged again. “I’ll just explain to my kids that your kids will be getting presents from their grandparents, and they will get gifts from their grandparents later.”

Eric’s children were old enough to understand, but I still worried that their feelings would be hurt.

Turns out, I worried for nothing.

When we got to my former in-laws’ house, Jeff and Cheryll could not have been more gracious. They welcomed Eric and his kids into their home as though they were part of the family. Cheryll looked through our wedding photo album and told me how happy she was that I’d found someone new to love.

She and I had always been close, and my divorce from her son had been hard on all of us. Before I’d gotten remarried, the kids and I had frequently eaten dinner with her and Jeff. They’d included us in their family functions, and even helped me financially.

The kids and I had spent the previous Christmas Eve with them. I’d been a single mom, struggling to pay the bills. I remember how worried I’d been that I wouldn’t be able to afford a nice Christmas for my kids. Jeff and Cheryll had purchased extra presents, wrapped them and given them to me to take home for the kids to open on Christmas morning.

They’d been so good to me while I was single, but when I’d married Eric, I’d moved 150 miles away. I just wasn’t sure where our relationship stood now.

But as the evening unfolded, it became obvious that nothing had changed. I’d gotten remarried, and in Jeff and Cheryll’s mind, that simply made their family a little bit larger.

When it came time to open the gifts, Eric offered to remain in the kitchen with his children.

Jeff shook his head. “We have gifts for all of the kids.”

I immediately teared up, but Jeff just shrugged. “Who wouldn’t want more grandchildren?” He asked.

I turned to Eric and said, “I told you they were wonderful people.”

Eric and I have been married for nine years now, and we still see Jeff and Cheryll several times each year. Every time we make the 150-mile trek to see my parents, we call Jeff and Cheryll to make plans to visit them as well. They still count Eric’s children, as well as the little boy Eric and I have had together, as bonus grandchildren.

We spent this past Thanksgiving with Jeff’s side of the family. Jeff’s mom, who we’ve always called Grams, is in poor health, and the kids and I wanted to make sure we visited her while we had the chance. Jeff’s siblings and their spouses and children were there, and many of them had only met Eric once before.

Not that it mattered.

Grams hugged Eric and thanked him for bringing me to see her. “We were lucky that she was a part of our family for a while,” Grams told him.

I fought tears as my new husband told her, “She’s still part of your family.”

And when Grams began vehemently discussing politics with Eric, I knew he’d become part of the family too.

The evening was full of jokes, laughter and lots of reminiscing. When someone told a story that happened before Eric and I got married, everyone just filled him in until he too was laughing.

And when it was time for us to leave, we joined hands and they prayed that we would have a safe trip home, and that God would bless us and bring us back to visit again soon.

That visit was more than I ever could have hoped for. I was only biologically related to three people in the entire room – my three biological children – but there was no doubt in my mind that I was among family.

To some people, my blended family is confusing, maybe even disjointed. I have one mom, two dads, two brothers, one sister, and four stepsisters, not to mention my wonderful husband and our five yours-mine-and-ours children. I have two mothers-in-law and two fathers-in-law, all of whom are more like moms and dads than in-laws. I’ve got aunts, uncles, cousins and one spunky Grams, none of whom are blood relatives, but they love me, and they love my kids. And we love them.

In blended families – in all families, really – DNA doesn’t determine who our families are. Only love can do that.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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3 Responses to “Among Family”

  1. Diane, your story proves love has no boundaries, and your former in-laws sound like very special people. Great story.

  2. Erika Hoffman says:

    Very dear story. It brought a tear to my eye, literally. I am always impressed with your writing.

  3. Rose Ann says:

    What a wonderful extended family. Wish all blended families could be as loving. Great story.

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