I think of family as a kind of meiosis, cells dividing, recombining, and dividing again, like genetic bubbles joining with other bubbles, some popping, some growing larger, some drifting away.

When I think back on my family, the genesis of it often starts with my grandparents, only two of whom I actually met, and includes the stories of their lives and experiences. Scrolling down the family tree then, I start with my two parents in the box, with their ancestors in half-tones somewhere overhead.  Then I drop down to my siblings and myself, our partners and offspring, their partners and offspring and suddenly, my two parents who arrived in Canada with one toddler and one newborn, oversee a family which now counts 43 kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.

As a child and teen, the nuclear family was obvious: mom, dad, us kids. All our other relatives lived in Europe so there weren’t cousins and aunts and uncles to include in the mix.

Then, as we got older and had children of our own, the family unit evolved, those bubbles reforming and drifting slightly away. And now, as my children have their own children, and their bubbles drift off, separate from mine, it’s hard to let go of the original definition of family, and to recognize that family priorities are now different, as everyone reshapes their own.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you realize that, as parents, you are no longer central to your children’s lives, although they always remain central to yours. That is both the beauty and the poignancy of family – the way it changes and reforms to include new members and new generations.

Canada’s Family Day started in Alberta as a way to celebrate “family values” and spread to some of the other provinces as a provincial statutory holiday. “Family values” has become a term that is encumbered with conservative baggage but if we turn the term around, we can “value family” for all its quirks, challenges and joys.

My parents in Poland, 1956…and some of the offspring a few years ago!

Joannas Parents in Poland 1956

Family, Relatives.

Joanna Piros