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Grew up in a big family.
I remember our dad taking us for kitfo tibis every so often after his salary comes in. Usually, as many of us as his VW Brasilia can accommodate. He goes in to order and a waiter will bring out the delicious kitfo tibis and we would eat it in the car.
My parents lied to me my whole life. Now I know the truth, I can begin again.
I see the link for this just before midnight on the day of its closing. A lifetime ago I dreamed of family, of connection, attachment ….the things I fought in my childhood to see amidst the anger and turmoil of what was my family. My ultimate dream – motherhood – was neither an easy or a cheap venture. But here I am living the acronym SMBC ….solo motherhood by choice! More by circumstance and the wonder of science that I found my family. My devoted, musical daughter. My born-for-the-stage Christmas born son. I find in them a beat stronger than the rhythm of my own heart. We are Friday night kitchen discos, endless walks in the woods, late night conversations, early morning snuggles, eco warrior – litter picking tribe of three. Tribe of three.
My family are joyous, uncontainable, cosmic loving catastrophes.
Full of wickedly joyous laughs and MAJOR BIG LOVE, we are all out – full on, say it loud, have a major barney – solve it with a tea. Family is home.
There is nothing I would rather do than sit and converse with my 3, now adult children. They are unique, fabulous human beings. I have loved and will continue to cherish the opportunity to watch them grow. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family is very close we are 7 siblings one brother we’re from a diverse background our father was from Africa Accra and a Muslim! Our mother English /Jewish heritage! Our Parents instilled anti racism into us we lived in a poor predominantly white working class area. My mum was very clever and had a very good understanding of racism she always explained how being mixed race in an area like ours we would always be treated different she always told us to be respectful to everyone! I believe we are aware of diversity and how this Country has benefited from our diverse population! I’m proud of my family and my background and our values have shaped us all we’re all professionals working with families in some way! My values have. Even passed down to my children and where We fit into society! Without our mother who had a very good understanding of the affects of racism I don’t know where we’d be today! Family is everything you don’t have to be blood family you just need to feel attracted to belong! Just knowing you have others out there that share your past gives you so much and enhances your future! Family is everything! Including drawing on our similarities! My work has meant I’ve worked with lots of different families who are all unique. I’ve worked with children disconnected from their families and for whatever reason they’ve always wanted to try and reconnect! I hope I’ve tried in some way to help them back! #TheJanuaryChallenge
My Irish mum is one of 12 and my Irish dad was one of 14. Both were key members in their family and taught us how family should be there for each other. My aunts and uncles spanned the Us, Australia, Canada, uk and Ireland .I have 71 first cousins and in contact with all living cousins. We are close and relish spending time together. #TheJanuaryChallenge
As you lifted the latch of the old, green, wooden back door and entered the kitchen of the farmhouse where my Grandparents lived, the cowbell clanged your arrival. Dogs would bark and wag and gather you in. My Gran, short-time landgirl and long-time farmer’s wife, glinting and smiling, would make a pot of tea and ask if you were staying for supper. Sat at the hefty melamine-topped table, home-cut “chippies” would appear from the oven: fresh and hot and so beautiful, with the skins on, that you wanted the world to know. But, as they clattered onto your plate, you were secretly glad that the world wasn’t sharing those hot, salty and vinegar chips.
Looking back from nearly 40 years on, those moments in time were heaven actually.
Gran has been gone a while now, and I’ve been told the farm’s old working charm has been updated and renovated. But in quiet, midnight, moments I go back there in my mind, to Gran, and the dogs and the pot of tea and those chippies. That’s family. That’s what it’s all about. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family was my neighborhood who tried to hold my mother, when she didn’t has milk so my neighbour but me on her breasts. Or when she didn’t had clothes, so I got my cousin’s. When I became sick and the red cross didn’t give me back to my mother, or my grandmother. When everyone started charging for my life. The orphanage, the foster family. And then laywers and doctors charged for my adoption. My adoption would be 30.000 euros today. Everyone earned, but my mother lost, my grandmother lost, my future sister and my brother lost. I lost my family to get a European passport, I lost my birthday, I lost my mother tongue, I lost my culture and the connection to my territory. I was raised in the culture of the colonizer as a story of rescuing, a better life, with European values, Christian culture practices and financial and political stability. Adoption wasn’t the solution. The orphanges are still full. Because European families deserve protection, deserve to grow, but our families have rights too. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My lovely mum holding it all together for my sister and I after our dad passed away when we were teenagers. My family changed at that point and we learned to live as 3 not 4, evolving as protectors of each other to this day, 30 years on. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family were my launch pad and they’re my landing pad. They are nuts and they drive me mad but I wouldn’t change a thing. They help me remember my place in the world and never get too big for my boots. #TheJanuaryChallenge
A warm and wonderful person, my mother was the glue that held our family together. Her death in 2016 left a huge hole that was difficult to fill but her presence somehow remains and helps us to make the right decisions and ensure that we care for one another as she would have wished. When you hear of so many families divided, I thank my mother for her shining example of unconditional love. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My babies, (all grown up now and one with their own baby), never knew my Mother, who died four years before my eldest was born. But my love and the continued loss of my mum keeps her alive and a real person for them. Not unhappily, but through stories and through mannerisms and through DNA as a significant person in all my life, with her and without her. That’s how family goes on. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family is very mixed, adopted children, step children, birth children, young and older people in need, usually teenagers, those with labels, many labels. My father died and I felt a hollow confusion where I assume grief should be. I wanted grief. I wanted a dad to mourn and I envied those Facebook posts from people honouring theirs whilst I waded the emptiness. I’m sure he loved us kids in his own, deformed way. I fostered and adopted because I wanted to ‘save’ children from the fear I lived in. I have my dad to thank for that, ironically. I found happiness in Glasgow, my mom’s birthplace, every time we escaped a violent childhood, temporarily. Glasgow was emotionally freeing, large catholic families running around, seemingly spreading joy, first up – best dressed,. My own children- I wonder what they make of me? Hero and villain alike I guess. But I love them whatever., #TheJanuaryChallenge
My Dad told the best stories the best one was about a jam jar that was saved from the dustbin. He was the best whistler and could play the harmonica. In the 60’s we’d drive to Cornwall in our Hillman minx it would take about 12hours. I would always get a new Enid blyton book to read and my brother would get the summer edition of the Beano. Mum used to tell me and my brother Norman to leave my Dad alone for a day so he could get over the long drive. Mum would find somewhere for us to stay in the holiday let’s section of the Manchester evening news. Once we stayed in a caravan in someone’s garden and had to go in their house for a bath. Another time after we stayed on a caravan site and my mum would buy tomatoes from a neighbouring house she got friendly with the couple and the following year we stayed with them. My Dad taught me to swim, he taught me to ride a bike and he taught me that I could do anything.
He died at 60 and my mum 2 years later. I’m 67 now and have lived without them longer than with them but I still remember those holidays and what it felt like to be loved.
Rose and Bob Holmes. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family was loving but celebrated independence. As a teenager I loved being with friends. Silly friends. We celebrated Madness most…
“I remember way back then
When everything was true and when
We would have such a very good time
Such a fine time, such a happy time
And I remember how we’d play
Simply waste the day away
Then we’d say nothing would come between us
Two dreamers” Madness, Our House, 1983 #TheJanuaryChallenge
I am the eldest of 8. We have between us 5 fathers and 2 mothers.
Family – the moments we make. The warm hopes during the tougher days. The acceptance as the family evolves and new people arrive and surfing with the shift.
Forgetting and forgiving #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family is dysfunctional apparently and there are ups and downs
There is love and care and support
Belief in each other #TheJanuaryChallenge
As a child, my family felt really scary and unsafe. I became hyper vigilant, constantly looking for the signs of a volcano erupting. I can still feel the impact of that now, on my health and well-being. I came out looking after my parents. In my 30s, I’m therapy, I found compassion for my parents and realised how young and I’ll equipped they were when they had me, and that they had parents too- that they were also living with a cruel legacy. I have spent my life breaking that pattern and helping g others to as well. #TheJanuaryChallenge
A warm and wonderful person, my mother was the glue that held our family together. Her death in 2016 left a huge hole that was difficult to fill but her presence somehow remains and helps us to make the right decisions and ensure that we care for one another as she would have wished. When you hear of so many families divided, I thank my mother for her shining example of unconditional love. #TheJanuaryChallenge
We had mum and dad – now just mum and seven children. The children grew up in the 50s,60s and 70s. It’s great to be part of a big family and to have lots of nieces and nephews. We are in lots of different places but we support each other when we need to #TheJanuaryChallenge
I feel like I won the jackpot with my family – supportive, loving, caring and kind. My older sister is likely to be the person on this Earth who I have the longest relationship with, an unwritten bond of love, support and always being there. If I met her at work, a social event or at a party, I’d like her but we probably wouldn’t be best friends – but because we share that sibling bond she is someone I will love, support and champion until the end of time. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Today 16th January 2023 was my Dad’s birthday. He was born in 1930 so he would have been 93 today if he’d lived. When he died 11/2/2001 he was 71 years old. I cleared out his flat and played many of his collection of CDs as i was packing everything away. He loved all kinds of music. I remember playing Kirsty McColl’s “Thank you for the days” which i chose to play at his funeral along with “Sun in the Night” by The Lighthouse Family. I don’t think there would have been any music he wouldn’t have enjoyed. As a child my Dad suffered quite a lot of physical and emotional abuse which of course affected his capacity to develop into a healthy adult. He was sensitive, caring, loving and creative.. he loved painting and making models. His favourite film was “Empire of the Sun.” He and my Mum met when they were very young on the sea front here as they both worked nearby.They fell in love of course. Mum came from a big family.Dad was an only child.They came from very different backgrounds. Her family were against the marriage and by the time she died in 1971 her family were not speaking to my Dad. Family to me has often meant loss, fear, sadness, regret, generational trauma, blame, grief but all wrapped up in love and loyalty. #TheJanuaryChallenge
For me personally, family is the buffer, the safe haven. Unjudged & loved unequivocally for who I am. The people who want the very best for me. Our family has had its traumas. But we have held eachother. Here in Wales we have a word Hiraeth…….it is hard to describe but its a longing for Wales, our homeland. I feel the same about family. When I am struggling I can always turn to my Mum, my brother, an aunt, a cousin. I can return to that feeling of Hiraeth. What is so very sad, is that not all children grow with that sense of connection, that sense of safety. It should be a human right that exists in reality for all. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My mum died when I was 9 and my dad was amazing as he took on the role of both parents. I later moved away to university and then to teach English around the globe, coming back for visits every couple of years. Eventually I moved from Mexico to the UK, and then Europe, so my daughter could get to know her grandad Jack. She loved him as much as I loved him and as much as he loved both of us. Once he allowed us to get him a phone – he never wanted one when he was working so his boss could ask him to cover someone else’s shift – he would sing Happy Birthday to me down the phone, but time marches on and he became older and more frail, and then he had to go into hospital. That year there was no phone call, no Happy Birthday – he died a few weeks later. I never got to say my goodbye, give him a kiss and a hug. We all want that extra chance to tell our special family members how much we love and appreciate them. Do it now while they are still here. Miss you dad. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family is my rock, my lodestone, my anchor and my joy #TheJanuaryChallenge
When I think about family I think about my mum and dad and them meeting in Kingston Jamaica late 60s my dad a cool, handsome Yorkshireman, recently arrived from the UK and my Mum a beautiful young Jamaican nurse living in Kingston, born and raised up country. Both of them fishes out of water I suppose, drawn together, fell deeply in love and the rest is sweet history #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family was blown apart by my parents. My parents did not take good care of us four kids in many ways but what my mum did do, was love us, even if it was compromised and complicated. And that, I think, held us four kids together. So, that’s family. It’s not fun, it can be fun, it hurts and sometimes you can find each other. I care for and love mum, I love my siblings. We somehow stayed connected. We survive and we are pretty good at it, overall. Families are the best and worst thing. We grow up and live our own lives, that love from mum, despite all the crap, helps I think. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I have two families; my family that I grew up in as a child, and the one I have created as a mother. I think we all want to create a better one than we have had. my first family was for me, happy, caring, loving and warm as a child, but change dramatically during my teenage years. I am unable to be wholly myself within that family. I feel judged, yet I know I am deeply loved. I hope I have created for my children, the place of safety and security I had as a child. This family, we scream and shout at each other, hug and cuddle and kiss each other, play games together, laugh and cry, watch telly together eat together. We are a team, a unit. We are routine, Friday night crisps, stories and cuddles at bedtime, “please can I have some peace”! And “why are your shoes still not on?!” I think our family is home. We all have our place, our position in the family, but these might change as the children grow. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My mum was called Geraldine Diana. Its important to me to still say her name.
She was the life force in our family and she became ill in lockdown. She begged for a hospital appointment for months and by the time of a diagnosis it was terminal pancreatic cancer. She had had pains for more than three years and had been backwards and forwards to doctors and hospitals even before 2020. She absolutely knew something was not right.
This time of year is hard for me, she died in March 2021, less than six months after her diagnosis. January and February were lonely journeys in travelling along the M4 to be with her. Always worrying that I would get into trouble for travelling during lockdown, painful dark days when she spent the last months of her life seeing very few people. People who were too frightened to see her because of covid; people who were worried about passing on covid to her while she was having chemotherapy. Her life before this was bursting at the seams with friendships and family but many did not see her in the last year of her life.
When she went into the hospice we believed we could be with her all the time but were told only two people at any one time for two hours a day. Testing an hour earlier before each visit and taking it in turns to accompany my dad with my brother. I would walk in to find her lying alone in a room with the tv flickering in the corner, which she would have hated. She hated day time tv,. I still wonder what was she was thinking.? She could not tallk much towards the end and I feel so guilty. Did she think we had abandoned her in her final days? Did she wonder where we were? I
I buy her favourite biscuits – chocolate gingers to remind me of her. She gave me a jar of cooking sauce before she died. Its out of date now but I keep it at the back of my kitchen cupboard and sometimes I take it out and hold it because she held it when she handed it to me. I have a bottle of shampoo she gave me when her hair started falling out. Its empty now but i keep it in the shower. I wear her perfume. sometimes. I wear her scarf.
I wish it was more normal in this country to grieve. I have close friends and even members of my extended family who have never acknowledged my mother’s death to me or spoken to me about it. I can not be around them anymore. The last time I saw my mother I painted her nails and the last thing she whispered to me was “Well done”. I can still hear those words. I miss her so much… She was the heart of my family. #TheJanuaryChallenge
We are two women raising an adopted child. Our son is 8 now and he’s the light of our lives. We constantly listen, learn and open our minds and hearts to make sure he has what he needs. His birth family are always there in our lives and our minds, he knows about them, where they are and what ever the future holds we’ll love him and support him.
Raising children isn’t easy, and that’s an understatement. Humans raising younger humans. We grow with him as people.
We couldn’t be more proud of him daily. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I am from a family of 9. I was raised by a traumatised mother searching to love every child she met in her attempt to make up for the love she should have had has a child and a radical Christian who believed that everyone on this planet was his brother. Our door was always open. We fostered. We were a refuge to everyone. We saw the magic of familial attachment in real time. It was magical. And also, it wasn’t. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Mum had been a nurse at 16 but caught TB in her 20s. She was in hospital for a year. Having gone down to 4 stone and been given a week to live she was the first woman in the uk to be given Streptomicin and miracurously recovered. She was very sheltered by her parents after that and didnt get out much. She never went to a dance or a night out with friends. She met my father on a hospital visit. Dad was from Ireland. He was visiting a friend in the hospital. He later told his sister that he had “met the most beautiful woman I’ve seen” To mum he was different. Dashing, attentive, suave and he swept her off her feet. They were married in 1951. Things kind of fell apart after that #TheJanuaryChallenge
My father, who I never met came from County Mayo hence the irish name. He married my mum but then after my birth or before even ,he had an affair. My mum found out through an anonymous letter. I often wonder if that letter hadn’t landed on the doormat- would I have still had a dad?. My mum, you see , divorced him and he me it seems! #TheJanuaryChallenge
I am one of 13 children born in county Derry. By the time I was born there was only 12.
On the 9th Sept 1970 my youngest sister Frankie died, she had not long started school and was hit by a car while crossing the road on the way home from school. The following March my older brother Terence was stabbed and died while intervening in a fight between his friend and a boy who lived not far from our home with a knife. Two truly sad and devastating events, these events would mark our family out in the community we lived. I was 7. I was one of and am one of the Peoples. We were met with awe and sympathetic/pitiful stares that I hated. Our family didn’t talk about this, it was too painful, we wanted to forget. But we couldn’t. This is who we were, the poor Peoples who lost 2 members of their family within 6 months. So, in order to escape we stayed in our house and only mixed with children who let us be more. We played tennis, rode the bike belonging to one the Bradleys. We played and danced in the chapel next door to our house. We giggled during mass and didn’t show respect to some of the older congregation. We embarrassed our daddy as we didn’t behave like good children. We survived.
In January 1972, 14 innocent people were shot dead by the British army while on a civil rights march in Derry, this event is known as Bloody Sunday, my father and brother in-law attended the same march, they arrived home safe. From that day on I felt that we were not safe. That being a catholic in the north of Ireland meant second class and bad things could and did happen.
Food was an important part of my upbringing, the lack of it at times. The plain diet of bread, eggs, mince, peas and potatoes. I have a lovely memory of the odd Friday night if my Daddy was in a good mood, he would buy us chips from a van that parked outside the parish hall after Bingo. Those few bags of chips we shared were the nicest ever. I savoured every one of them salt and vinegar chips and still love a good bag of chips. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family to me is the feeling of belonging and connectedness that I only experience when we are all together. My husband has a saying that he pinched from Rudyard Kipling, ‘the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf’, and I think this defines family for me. When one of my pack is missing or hurt, I feel their loss or pain. My children are growing now, and one has left, I love it when he returns and I wonder; when they have all grown and left, will I form a smaller pack, or will I always feel incomplete unless we are united and together, like a small tribe, with our own traditions, in-jokes, irritations (we are far from perfect), and colloquialisms? #TheJanuaryChallenge
My mum and dad were born and lived in Glasgow. They had 4 children, me being the youngest. When I was 2 we moved to a ‘new town’. It was about 30 miles from Glasgow. My mums family felt that my dad was taking us to the ‘end of the earth’. Whenever we went to visit the Glasgow family my mum would line us all up, check we looked clean and presentable and say ‘now remember, you are my ambassadors!’ Mum died 10 years ago and we still say it to each other as siblings #TheJanuaryChallenge
Our family is unconditional on my mums side however there is mystery around the origin of my fathers side. My great man fell pregnant to an unknown person in Australia and his name was kept in secret due to shame on the family. This side of the family is more locked up with uncertainty and distrust. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I met my birth father for the first time in my mid thirties and flew up to Arran to meet him. I discovered that he was living in an old showman’s wagon on the beach next to his house. At the time I was running a circus company, so this felt as if we were meant to be. We went into his house (which bizarrely was similar in feel to mine). I noticed the terracotta tiles on his kitchen floor all had a crack in them in the same place. When I asked him why, he said ” Oh that happened when I brought the horse into the kitchen for the winter” And then I knew he was my dad and that I had found my tribe. #TheJanuaryChallenge
It’s only really as I’ve grown older that, very gradually, I’ve become more and more aware that my family were pretty dysfunctional! Things that I’d grown up believing were normal and experienced by everyone were not – and seeing the longer lasting impact on me and my siblings has made me rethink a lot of what I thought I was.
I always had this story of “me”, that I held on to – but having to re-evaluate that and undo some of the rubbish inherited from family behaviours is a continuing process.
Don’t get me wrong – I (mostly) always knew that I was loved and safe; and I am closer to my siblings now than I’ve ever been. But there are things I struggle with; trust and openness, responsibility and treating my own health and well-being as secondary, that I now appreciate are linked to life in my family. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Having experience as a foster mother, an adoptive mother and a birth mother has taught me that family is about so much more then genetics. We all share the same needs and hopes and are connected through our need to love and be loved. Realising that family knows no boundaries and recognises no borders is our only hope. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My Grandpa, who even with quite advanced dementia, if you were sad or upset as a teenager, was the one person most likely to always come and find you, hug you, and say… “Can I do anything to help?” Even though he didnt quite remember who you were and would forget it had happened moments later. My best family. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I am 49 years old, married for 21 years to my husband Phil. We have a biological daughter who was very much longed for, who is now 12. Our youngest daughter is 3, and after a 2 year struggle, is now no longer our foster daughter but our adopted daughter.
My parents are deceased sadly. I have two sisters, one biological and one adopted. I don’t have a relationship with either.
My husbands parents are both still alive but have cut us out of their lives because I was diagnosed with cancer in the same month that they retired. They told us that I had ruined their retirement and they would not spend their free time caring for me or our daughter, who was then just 4 years old.
I am thankful that they made the decision they did as they gave me the fire in my belly that I needed to complete 8 cycles of chemo, major surgery and 25 sessions of radiotherapy, all whilst caring for our daughter.
It also gave me a clear focus and enabled me to go on and become a foster carer. I vehemently believe that children within the “care “ system need positive, caring people to advocate for them, to give them their voice, to allow them access to the services they need, to listen to them and not airbrush out aspects of their life.
Our third foster child is now our legally adopted daughter. Her birth mum has never contested our expression of wish to provide her her forever home, the authority however did.
Her first adoption was when she was 18 months old after living with us from the age of 6 months old.
Her adopters cut all contact with us and also made very serious allegations against us concerning the care we provided.
On her 2nd birthday they handed her back to the authority as she was too much hard work!
During her time away from us, we were bereft and I had resigned myself to believe that this would be the greatest regret of my life – not fighting harder to keep her.
My oldest daughter had written and hidden her letter to Father Christmas during the time our youngest was away. In that letter she expressed just how much she missed her little sister and that she would forgo all presents in exchange for just one more chance to see her. If that was not possible, then for her birth mum to be able to see her one more time.
I was heartbroken and sent the letter to the Head of Service to demonstrate the huge impact these children have on our lives and how much they are loved. I also was trying to illustrate just how damaging it is for all contact to be cut, for all the children.
The letter my daughter wrote has been used within training services provided to social workers in our local authority as they did listen to us.
When our daughter was returned to the authority the Head of Service rang us to ask if she could return to us – OF COURSE, THROUGH THE TEARS WE SAID YES!!!!!!!!
She returned the next day and at just 2 years old told us that she had missed us, had been looking everywhere for us and was happy that she had found her way home!!
My family is amazing. We, together, let nothing prevent us from following our dreams and we are so much stronger for that. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Lemn, you are part of my family because we were both lost brown babies. and all the other brown babies who were lost, well they are in my family too. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family are mixed race. I am one of four siblings born to a London Irish mother in late 50’s and 60’s. Three different fathers. My father was from Guyana part of the Windrush generation. Both my mother and father died when I was a child. We were separated as siblings, different outcomes including, living with Irish grandparents experiencing care and adoption. Three of us siblings reunited as adults. As a family – I miss the love and support we weren’t able to share in childhood. There is a disconnection being separated in childhood and teenage years . I miss the richness of my Caribbean and Irish culture which I never grew up with and would have loved to share with my husband and two daughters. I miss the confidence that comes from a well formed identity shared as a family. However we, three, are family now and we have our own children and even grandchildren for my brother and sister. I hope we can stay better connected as move into our senior years. I love my mixed race family.
My family come from Sri Lanka and my dad moved to London in 1966, whilst his siblings moved to Toronto and one family in Australia. We are still connected across the miles and l visited all my aunties and cousins last with my daughter. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I grew up in 50s/60s in a large Family of Love & Laughter. Nana & Grandad had 7 children( that I knew of) and Family, friends and neighbour get together & parties were the norm. Everyone, all the in laws and friends called my Nana “Mum” and, I can still remember her like yesterday. Her soft warm skin and smell of the soap…. Most have passed now but I have many memories to look back.
More info came to light, including more children that would have been my aunt & uncle, that passed away through illness, very young. Never experiencing such sadness, I realise such things were emotionally hidden and people just got on with it.
Are we living in a better world now? #TheJanuaryChallenge
My mum was clear she didn’t want children but my dad did so here we are, my sister and I. They had a great relationship by the way. It was a marriage pretty exclusive of others, including us, and she still sat on his knee in her 50s up until he died which was sudden and broker her heart.. Only after he died did she want a hug. Before that, if you hugged her by mistake – on impulse – she pretty much recoiled from you. Went rigid. She had control issues, thought being a Christian meant nobody was better than she was. I tend to try to see the humour in everything so that always struck me as funny. My sis had therapy and I didn’t. I think that’s because I talked openly to my friends about my relationship with mum. So I had sn outlet. Gail has two fabulous children, whilst I didn’t feel a strong maternal urge and was scared I’d end up with a crap relationship with any children I did have. I now have two step children whom I love dearly, so I was probably wrong but I’m happy, I have a magnificent man in my life, coming towards the end of a great career, and have a handful of amazing close friends who I view as my family and they me. I believe I’m seen as a loving caring person, and I love a hug. I often think of the poem “they f*** you up your mum and dad” and smile but in the great scheme of things I realised ages ago that I don’t need to let my family define who I am even though inherently that’s what family kinda does in another way. Love your work Lemn. Wishing you peace and love x #TheJanuaryChallenge
Families come in all shapes and sizes – and ours includes most of those varieties. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I came from generations of dysfunction, strong, chaotic, unsettling dysfunction. It was a blessing and a curse, it made me a warrior, yet also a vulnerable soul. There was love and there was pain, good times and bad. I ran far and fast away from that when I was able, to create a life and family of my own. I am now blessed, yet haunted by times past – fragments that invade my mind, my body, my behaviour. It’s a daily battle, to stay in the here and now and be present. My children help tether me, keep me grounded, showing me the way. I am both shaken to the core and kept whole by family. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Families are alive! They are like lichen. Everyone leaves an impact, imprint, impression on everyone else stretching both backwards and forwards. One of my most favourite things until Covid came was Sunday tea at my in laws. It began 35 years ago with just six of us. Then the children arrived one at a time and once it was twins at a time! Till there was six of them too. Then later their friends, partners, and more children! I wish there was a time lapse film of this so I could watch this wonderful organism and tangle of people grow through the years. This ebb and flow of life, conversations, out of tune Happy Birthday songs, arguments, comfortings, joys and hard times, opinions, raucousness in which love and joy is layered like laminations in my mother in laws divine pastry! Its like an era laid down in the earth’s core; a history singular to us yet universal really. It was like Christmas once a week but the only gift needed was to be present. Now we no longer do this due to the combined cruelty and ravages of Covid and dementia, I feel less solid and grounded and more anxious about the future because I no longer see it unfolding each Sunday teatime right in front of me. Family is a living, breathing, diary and almanac of what has been, what is and what is to come. Family also embraces and includes others because family is not only about bloodlines and genetics, its about communion, kindness and sharing and showing love with others; coping with conflict and sadness; celebrating joy, success; supporting through failure, yearning, grief. It’s accepting and exploring personalities, politics, and preferences of individuals and ultimately about listening enough to let others know you care no matter what. This does not always require agreement! In fact, on reflection, gatherings where everyone throws all opinions into the pot is much more exciting and makes me feel alive! I miss it profoundly these days. #TheJanuaryChallenge
We are a small forever family, me (mum) and my daughter L…we have been together almost 5 years, and are grateful to share our love! #TheJanuaryChallenge
My mum’s baking is a main character in most of our family occasions – Easter, Christmas, birthdays and so on. Even a Sunday gathering of the family is punctuated by bickering over who makes the never ending brews and cries of, “Cake o’clock!” to the children, grandchildren and dogs, scattered around the house and garden. Her marble Easter ring cake, the centre filled (and refilled) with Cadbury mini eggs. A childhood memory bequeathed to the next generation. And her almond slices. The Legendary Almond Slices. Loved and admired by friends and family alike for as long as any of us can remember. A gift of love, of memories, of family. Delivered in a reused ice cream tub. Still warm – if you’re lucky. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family stories. Throughout my life I have been surrounded by family stories. Stories about family members across the generations. Stories about my father’s exploits when he was in the navy and travelled the world. His stories about encounters with black magic and riding emus – or was it ostriches? Many almost certainly the subject of artistic license. Then my son’s stories of his time following in his grandfather’s footsteps and travelling the world in the royal fleet auxiliary; getting held up at gunpoint on Copacabana beach and stumbling into particularly dangerous areas of the favelas. Then there are the stories of family members past; possible links to David Garrick on my mother’s side of the family, French aristocracy on my father’s. Also on my mother’s side a troupe of acrobats. Most tangible of all however is my great grandfather, Gus Garrick, who was a music hall performer for whom we have ‘evidence’. These stories enrich our family and provide us with traces of our evolution as a family. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family have survived infidelity, abuse, suicide, cancer, and the criminal justice service. We are smaller, and sadder, but wiser and we are not diminished. #TheJanuaryChallenge
The word parent/Mother/Father doesn’t always mean birth parent.
My birth father wasn’t my Dad.
My Dad was my Mums 2nd husband. My Dad was a legend. We didn’t always see eye to eye but we understood each other. He was a constant in my life.
My three children weren’t born to me. My children were adopted. I defy anyone who doesn’t know us but has met us as a family to tell the difference. There is no difference. They are mine; I am theirs. Family isn’t just DNA; it’s love. It’s about the people who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you when the going gets tough.
Both my Mum and Dad are no longer with us. When I think “I wish my Mum/Dad was here” I mean Sandra and Bryden. My real family. #TheJanuaryChallenge
In the morning when I was 8 days old my birth parents dropped me off, and in the afternoon my adoptive parents took me home.
An only child surrounded by love and a dubious privilege of being chosen. My comfortable home, grandparents, cousins, laughter.
At 35 stepbrothers appeared and then at 50 biological sisters were found. An only child in my adult life, too, unblended, authentic and profound. #TheJanuaryChallenge
The English & the Irish grandmothers shared a house but not a life by living on separate floors with no bathroom & an outside toilet. They only came together once a day to watch the evening news on the tv. Visiting them was complicated as they had to be seen separately; x2 cups of tea, x2 sets of biscuits or cake , x2 worlds. My worlds. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I’m a gay mum in a civil partnership for 10 years. We have 6 grown up children, although 2 of them aren’t best friends daughters but she died. Also we have 2 grandsons.. Love and fun are the glue that bind us. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family is complicated, it can be what you are born into, it can be made for you or you can make your own. Family can be love and safety but not always, some families have trauma, the tauma makes people feel unsafe and survival mode kicks in. Famiky can be disjointed, blended. Bonds can be made through connections as well as blood lines, families can be made when people come together in love and care. I am so lucky, my family is love, it keeps me safe, it surrounds me. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Battening down when storms hit, memories. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I’m from Philly and have lived in Manchester off and on for 20 years. We bought our house here 10 yrs ago. My partner (who is English)and I have 2 children, one born in the US and one born here. Both were born at home in water. I’ve moved 25 times since I was born. My childhood and so much of my young adult life was unstable and traumatic. This is my first permanent and stable home. I don’t want to ever have to move my children and hope we can leave this house to them when we die. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My big sister died at the age of 47 in 2013, my family were devastated, we still are. I discovered there is a hierarchy surrounding death, my parents lost their child, her 3 beautiful children lost their Mum, I lost my big sister, my sons lost their Aunt. I promised her I would always look after her children, their resilience and strength give my parents and I hope and joy every day. Their 2 babies continue the legacy, our family lives on… #TheJanuaryChallenge
I feel sad about the way my sister treats me. All my life I have striven to help and support her and there have been times when she has really needed it. For some reason, unknown to me, she has always had negative feelings towards me and recently accused me of stealing a necklace of our mum’s after our dad’s death. I don’t steal things let alone anything which was jointly owned after their deaths. I am deeply wounded by this, her final insult, and so I haven’t spoken to her since last summer as this is only one example of her unkind behaviour towards me. Here we are on one happier occasion. I am in blue. #TheJanuaryChallenge
As ive grown older i see each member as lumps of coal…we all huddled together to keep each other warm, glowing. Time passes, the coal grows cooler and the loss of each one causes embers to take their place. I miss each one of them – the warmth, the glow. #TheJanuaryChallenge
When I think of family I not only think of the family I’m related to through birth but the people who had a massive impact on me as a child and we’re not blood related. One such person was a friend of my grands and 55 years after I last saw her I still think of her.
Growing up I saw her as part of the family, I saw her often and her capacity for love and kindness are what I remember.
She was the first person who didn’t live with us that I felt such love for, as much as I did for my parents and grandparents.
The relationship I had with her was precious and so to me she was and will always be part of my family growing up. She died age 90 in 1990. #TheJanuaryChallenge
No one talks about information that may harm the family. It’s all whispers and rumors. Shame and trying to preserve ‘family divinity’ seems to matter more than truth. Truth that can redirect and bring families together. Instead we are left with sadness and loss. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My civil partner Mark and I have been together for 20 years now. We have a daughter called Naomi who is 30. Naomi is from a brief relationship I had with a woman in my late teens/early twenties, she is not my biological child but I have known her since her birth and loved her deeply from the beginning. When Naomi was 4 years old, her mother stopped me from seeing her which was horrendous but is old news now! When Naomi was 16 she found me and since then Mark and I have been her parents. She has two beautiful children on her own (no father involved in their lives), a boy and a girl who we are very involved with and adore! I’m a priest in the Church of England so we often joke that the children don’t have a typical family, but what’s that anyway? The main thing is that they are safe and happy and they are told constantly how much they are loved, oh and they’re showered in kisses and they’re hugged as much as they’ll allow! #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family is everything to me and us I think. My brother lives in hove. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I live in Sydney. My family are the ground beneath my feet. #TheJanuaryChallenge
You can make one of your own., and it can be the kind of family you wanted but never had. You build it, bit by bit. You remember what hurt you and you wave it goodbye and you make a promise to yourself that you will not be that kind of wife, mother, grandmother or friend. Every day your decisions and actions accumulate, and 50 years later you look back and forwards and you give yourself credit for the family you have made. Because you chose, at the age of 16, to walk away and make your own family. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family is always family. Friends and colleagues can slip and slide through our lives but family, good or bad, is the constant. Family is what family was. Every action, attutude and quirks came down the line from a family member who lived it before us. Our hands, eyes, smiles and sadness have been witnessed somewhere else in our family. Family can hurt and we dont have to accept that but it helps to understand where it is coming from. Stories pass through us, some read and known, some unknown. Our bodies and minds are unique but also are a patchwork of a family lived before us. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Lost and fractured and living apart. Great in number and noisily keeping the facade but no room, no place for the one who is not like them. Spent my childhood hoping someone would take me in and I still do. Lost. #TheJanuaryChallenge
When my grandparents died I bought their house. In the garden there is a shed with a concrete step that has my handprints prints from when I was 5. It was my birthday and my grandad said they would be there forever and I could come back and look at them when I was grown up. Every so often I go and look at them, they remind me of the happy days spent with my grandparents, geraniums in my grandads greenhouse, looking though my grandmas button box………… simple memories I feel lucky to have. We lived next door to my grandparents so, because I live in their old house, I live next door to my parents. I have a daughter who loves her grandparents too and, I hope has many happy memories, with more to come. #TheJanuaryChallenge
It starts with my two mothers – the one who left Ireland, pregnant and unmarried, and the one she came to in England, who took me in and raised me. They were sisters – fierce and feisty, who dealt with all kinds of adversity in their lives and both succumbed to dementia. So many questions I wish I’d asked them. I owe them everything and see both their personalities in my own children. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Ours was a small family with few of the connections to place/people that are assumed. My father was an only child. My mother had a challenging childhood. We have no cousins, rarely saw our one uncle and contact with grandparents was strained. My parents died 13 and 23 yrs ago leaving 3 adult children who get on best by living on separate continents. The gift our parents gave us was the gift to live the life that was right for each of us (we are all very different from each other). Now in our 50’s we are learning how to connect with each other in manageable chunks. My husband’s closer family has been a revelation. My wish for our kids is that they both get to live their own lives and stay connected with each other . #TheJanuaryChallenge
My dad was an immigrant doctor to the UK in the early 1960’s. Mum was a teacher in Cranbrook and Biddenden. I studies in the Mary Sheafe School for Girls in Cranbrook and then went on to Weald of Kent School for Girls in Tonbridge.
Our family consisted of my 2 younger brothers and many young girls who had come to study nursing from the Commonwealth countries. So we were a large family. mum and dad offered these girls away from home for the first time, a home. They cooked their favourite dishes, wore their sarongs and saris and blended into our family easily.
We too were the first Asians in our community and Benenden where my dad worked. Mum and Dad worked hard to make sure that we retained our Indianness while at the same time being as English as we could! We had a biryani stall at the church fete and i leant to make an excellent shepherds pie too!
Our family had a Golden Rule. How would you feel if this were you? Now do the right thing!
We adopted our darling son 20 months ago. I wrote rhis poem about 9 months in. He had started to sing and dance with me, he’d never had the confidence before. Watching him unfurl in confidence and build trust with me was the loveliest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
There are tough times, but the good times are the very best this world has to offer ❤
Poem is called….
Every Song of Love
Your drumming on the table, your humming in the breeze
The swaying of our shoulders, and twisting hips and knees.
I’ll spin you in the kitchen, I’ll swing you in the air
We’ll sing our tunes and melodies, of love and hope and care.
And when you’re feeling weary, I’ll swoop you up and sing
That I’ll love you forever, keep you safe outside and in.
In ballads and in anthems, in rhythm and in rhyme
I’ll rock you and sway you darling, until you know you’re mine.
And when you’re full of beans my love, I’ll try to keep up pace
And take my motivation from the smile that’s on your face.
The beating of your big brave heart, each step, each whoosh, each skip
We’re dancing through our lives now and I’ll catch you if you trip.
Your singing in the chorus, hands reaching sky above
I hear our family story now, in every song of love.
We adopted our darling son 20 months ago. He is the most perfect thing I’ve ever known
I have a big sister and a little sister, she is a half sister. I was always in awe of my big sister and never quite felt like I got enough time with her. On one side of the family I was the youngest and on the other side, I am the middle. My nicknames were Weasel, Abigail dooby doo, creature, bug, stinker, these sound like they arent nice but they were always said and recieved with heaps of love.
Sometimes I miss being small. I particularly feel it at the moment, heading for my own first child. The generations are moving upwards. I just want to be in the back of dads car, blanket (my special one I still cuddle) around me and the feeling of absolute safety and lack of responsibility. A home moment. Now me and mum attempt a new blanket for my future child.
Although I also felt a confusion, a home sickness being away from my mum. Parents separated and I would with my big sister, stay with dad, step mum and little sister. I would feel guilt two fold, guilt about being away from mum and guilt about not feeling at home with dad. I still feel the pressure of balancing time between the two sides, although they are all able to talk to eachother and get along.
Another home moment that I long for is the simplicity of sitting next to my darling nana and holding her hand, time stopped, it was peaceful and treasured time. She passed away when I was 17. The day it happened, one of my first experiences of loss, I could swear I saw some of the colour leave the sky. I also gained gradual maturity from then on. Mum would say “nana suffered with her nerves”, one time when she stayed at ours I heard her being sick. I realised people in my life are fragile. As I have grown and experienced my own journey through mental health needs, I have reflected more on my nana, not just as a nan but as a women who experienced mental health difficulties through the latter half of the 20th Century. How daunting. They used electric shock therapy on her.
Final image to note is, the seafront, the sea, the sand when the tide is out, one of our family dogs galloping across the sand at low tide. The late afternoon sun shining down and casting shadows. The ever lasting rhythm of the sea tide, going in and out. Other days the sea shows her anger, her power and gousto. It has always been a sight that can reflect my mood, show its empathy through crashing waves or “mill pond” calm stillness.
My family members all have a relationship with the sea, and all have taken solice in it over the years as individuals and as a group.
We are a family because of our son, with whom we share no biological connection. We are a family because he needed to feel love and we needed to share love
My best friend growing up and beyond was my amazing little brother. With only 2 years between us we did everything together. When I think of ‘family’ I think of my childhood and my brother. He died aged 34, and a piece of me disappeared that day too.
My family is a puzzle piece in our community, they are my connection. Growing up was far from benign a consistent, nurturing space but there are moments and times in memory that remind me there was love. Family love should be unconditional, however often first generation child don’t always have that space to articulate. We become parts of our families’ stories, dreams, goals and ambitions. This fuels the aspiration of communities in the diaspora. We spend our formative years navigating a way through, with, under and alongside the pressures we feel to break generational trauma.
Family is love, in all its messiness, craziness, loudness and expression. It’s about families taking up their space, unapologetically.
I Come From Manchester
I come from mint sauce made fresh from leaves in the tiny back garden
I come from steaming plates of hot pot with beetroot, semolina with a blob of raspberry jam in the middle, of sweet apple pie, which makes your teeth zing, and custard, from scones eaten straight from the gas oven
I come from food mixers mixing on a Sunday morning, chocolate cake, coconut cake, licking the bowl
I come from hard work, from laughter, big gatherings
I come from snowballs, coca cola in bottles, pantomimes and tape recordings at Christmas
I come from new cars arriving on the drive, ABBA records being played, inferior school uniforms, money being tight
I come from medicine, tablet for this, tablet for that
I come from family in far flung places, penfriends in distant lands, visits to these exotic realms
I come from studying hard, achieving well, head down, praise
I come from Russian Sandwiches, Swiss Rolls, Angel Delight and Arctic Roll
I come from deep fat fryers and Goblin puddings, Halib Oranges, Little Lung Healers and a spoonful of malt each day
I come from roses in the garden and blossom trees along the street
I come from joy and sadness
I come from love.
Inspired by Bread and Butter by Jo Roach
Eulogy: Ode to Jeff Ragiel
He was larger than planet earth. His humour expanded the universe.
His kindness led to infinity, like his Gandalf beard.
Fanatical about Manchester United Football Club. Taurus like the proverbial bull in the china shop; especially with umbrellas. Loved a bet on the horses, and Ladbroke’s loved him. Well read, liked to quote from Shakespeare and Tolkien. Taught me to swim and ride a bike. Fabulous cook, especially good at Tikka Masala and Spaghetti Bolognese.
Names he was known by; Best Dad in the world, Grandad, Uncle, Brother, Son, Best Husband in the world, best mate, Big Jeff, Tiny, Have-a-moan (by his work mates), Numero Uno, The Russian Bear, & The Big Hairy One.
I first met Jeff when I was 8 years old. From then on, he always encouraged me to read and learn as much as possible. So, I lost myself in the world of books.
And he was there at the Bridgewater Hall in 2011 when I graduated with a
BA (Hons) English Language & Literature from the OU.
He took me on my first holiday abroad to Malta. First time I’d been on a plane.
We saw Shakespeare plays at The Royal Exchange. Musicals at The Palace Theatre.
Football games at Old Trafford. Played games of Backgammon, Chess, and Poker at home. Taught me to stand up for myself in the game of life.
I remember he always said: “Forgive quickly and make-up before bedtime”.
Jeff wasn’t my biological father. But he was my Dad.
Always made me feel loved. Important.
So, goodbye for now Dad. Break a leg in the Afterlife.
But from time to time. Please visit us in dreams, and in good memories.
Requiescat In Pace.
Our lovely family was broken apart when I was 12 and my brother was 6. Over time, I believe each one of us has found that from devastation, it’s possible for new micro-families to flourish.
It’s not all I think you think it’s cracked up to be. Mine wasn’t very happy and I couldn’t wait to leave home. I’m much happier now I’m old although everyone keeps banging on about their families. I don’t think they did that when I was a kid. My friends have been more important to me.
My daughter is the only person in the world i am genetically related to who i have a positive connection to
Family isn’t perfect, you get what you get. We are all perfectly imperfect humans and just as our parents made mistakes parenting us, we will not always get it right when it is our turn to parent. Family’s are made not created and whoever we choose to call family is family. Our family is a mix of blood relatives and those we choose to include in our family. Love wherever you find it is love and love is the string which binds us as family.
My dad wrote to me every week when I was at school. He said he didn’t have anything to say, so he made up stories about the village – MI5 investigations at the local shop, Madonna nipping in to the Green Dragon for a pint. I loved those letters. He always told stories, made up ones around our spelling tests, read us books every night. Stories and laughter, that was my dad. And some shouting!
My family is my husband, my daughter, my son, my step daughter (who lives in London), my parents (Sutton Coldfield), sister (Bishop’s Stortford) and Aunts, Uncles and cousins.
When I met my husband Eric, I knew I’d found home with in hours. Eric was the love of my life and when we had three daughters he was the best father I could ever have wished for , for our girls. We were such a happy family. I’d found a love I’d never known before unconditional love.
Eric , my love died aged 49 from ALS/MND in 2015. When he was sick I could not have loved him more and since his death our love has transcended this mortal coil.
There are times since he died I wanted to be dead too but thankfully our girls give me purpose to be the best solo mum I can be.
I pray that somehow, somewhere I will meet my love Eric once more. 🙏🏼
Poor background but very funny, always a story to tell #TheJanuaryChallenge
My Grandmother Florence was born in 1902 , orphaned at 2 years old , her mother died in Bristol work house aged 47 , my grandmother married my grandfather Henry he played Rugby for Devon county and moved north of England to play rugby for Rochdale Hornets and they had 6 children together , Henry died prematurely at 54 from heart problems. And sadly their first born son Richard was killed by a train , he was 6 years old , my Mother at that time was only 4 yrs old , they lived in Rochdale – she had a sister Molly who died at 54 from Alzheimer’s, her brother Geoffrey died 56 was cancer , brother Bernard died from alcohol poisoning and Ivor 39 was murdered in a local pub when a man open fired into his brothers Geoffreys pub with a shot gun . Florence in her sixties brought up her grandson Bernard still the age of 16 years were by one weekend he suddenly collapsed and died from a brain tumour . She outlived all her family , her children apart from one daughter my mother Margaret Mary who is now 93 – my grandmother was near to 98 when she died . Her usually saying as I was growing up was , even through all the tragedies she had gone through and experienced would still say “ There is always some where in the world worse off than me “ . NB : I recently did a Dna test Too prove a point that we are all the same – our family are so diverse – my grandmother Florence Mother her mother Alice was from Wales and her father Richard was born in Benin , Abbersucan Africa . Nigerian and Spanish dna result show in my mother’s results . Just goes to show what I have always believed – One Love 💕🙏🏻🥰✌️
there are 2 families that I belong to, one as the youngest child of 3 adult children and one as the mother of 3 adult children. I still feel like the youngest child in one and hopefully behave like the adult in the other. I hope my children feel like adults.
I love my family youngest of 6 lost our mam 25 years ago who was our rock and who kept our family together shown us so much love always putting her children first and grandchildren she would go without herself to make sure we were happy even though she suffered lots of unhappiness in her own life. Such a strong minded woman who taught her children how to love by always being there for us.
Now she’s gone we no longer get together at her house for Sunday dinner or just to simply visit and bump into each other at our mams instead we as a family make sure we get together on Mother’s Day our mams birthday and anniversary of her death and not to be sad but to be together as that’s what she would of wanted.
We are there for each other when ever in need I had the best mam I could of wished for I know she would be proud of each and every one of us family is everything.
my family has given me a sense of belonging and place . It has been a difficult road to travel my feelings of being outside and looking in for so many years .
my children you have saved me and given me purpose . In the best and worst of times .
My hope for you is that you continue to look out for each other and your families .
Family is a funny thing. It’s the only time in your life when you have no control over your connection with the other people, they are automatically your family once born. Some people are born into rich or poor, loved or unloved families. Some families spend all their time together and others prefer less.
There is a huge amount of pressure on parents to either make or break a family. Without good parenting their is no “family”.
Family for me is support and care for each other even if you are far away or haven’t seen each other in a while. I have no doubt that my family care about me where ever I am.
Always there, know they care, only small love them all!
Since watching Lilo and Stitch years before kids I have always said to them: Ohana. Family means nobody is left behind or forgotten. I lost my Mum(62) and Dad (65) five years ago – don’t feel like I had any time at all with them but feel luckier than most (still get family envy at Christmas though).
Family means everything to me x
My parents parted in 1954 when I was 5years old. I spent the next five years with one set of grandparents who gave me a wonderful time. Then I was taken to the other set of grandparents who were extremely strict and scathing of my maternal grandparents. At 19 I married the boy who I had known for 6 months. We have had a fun filled 54 years with 2 children, 3 grandsons and 2 great granddaughters. Those early years are still with me but they don’t cause hurt. We have to take the best and learn from the worst.
My parents have showed me the real values of love and security, no matter what. They were and are understanding, caring and non judgemental and always forgiving.
In my early years I thought this was a normal upbringing, however in adulthood I have encountered many people and heard their difficult family stories and realised I was very lucky to experience a settled, fun childhood. Which in turn which has given me a good grounding and helped me in adulthood feel secure and cope with issues that have arisen. My Mum (89) has been a a rock following my Dad’s death from bowel cancer and in the last year my breast cancer diagnosis. She has shown me resilience and strength.
My family is ever changing. We are foster carers and also provide support for care leavers so our family evolves on a regular basis. Some stay a short while, some for many years. To us it doesn’t matter how long someone is with us, they are part of our family and forever in our hearts.
(With thanks and apologies to Terry Scott.)
Hey, there’s someone who I love.
Who is it?
Oh, it’s you.
I wish you could come here and sit close, but you’re in England and I’m in Australia.
So, I’m going to tell a story about you and post it on Lemn Sissay’s January Challenge, ‘Tell me something about family’.
Who tolerated his big sister dressing him up as ‘Josephine’?
Who had the most luxuriously curly hair asking to be tied into bunches?
Who now has a tanned bald patch complemented by a distinguished greying beard?
Who threw his hated rice pudding out the dining room window?
Who regularly fell into ponds and ditches?
Who kept a waddle of ducks and imprisoned me in the budgie aviary?
You ought to have seen our Dad’s fury and our Mum’s concern.
Aww! What a contrast in parental responses!
Why he wanted to exploit my fear of feathers was obvious …
And he wanted to ride motor bikes …
The thrill of speed and leaning into corners, the pain of falling off and losing his front teeth in a malicious accident.
‘Cos he wanted to be independent, despite our parents’ protectiveness.
How brave they were.
They wanted us to find our own ways in the world, knowing the ever-present potential for harm.
Who’s lived with what to many would be a physical disability, yet doesn’t see himself as disabled?
Who persevered with his relationship with Dad to reach mutual understanding?
Who was willing to pool resources and make a home with me?
My Brother said, ‘I’ll go with you to Kenya to explore our birthplace.’
My Brother said, ‘I’ll come to Turkey for your 40th birthday – I know you are having a hard time.’
My Brother said, ‘I’ll come with Mum to visit you in Oman. We must fulfil the plan they made before Dad died – sorry I forgot my credit card.’
My Brother is so caring.
Who can design gardens, cook scrummy dinners, and bind books?
Who can rear sheep, cattle and pigs, and grow the best vegetables and flowers?
Who can build houses and vintage motor bikes?
Who seemed reserved and awkward around young women?
Yet, who had a succession of beautiful girlfriends?
Who at 47, after resigning himself to a solitary life, married the woman of his dreams?
He looks just like a man in tune with the earth.
I know he’s happy, sitting under a tree, enigmatically focusing on the pattern of leaves, with Stripey the cat on his lap and a pint at his elbow.
But you don’t know what he’s really thinking about, do you?
Who says I’m his bossy, clever sister who struggled not to feel responsible for her little Brother?
Who knows what I gave up migrating with him to Australia to help him fulfil a dream, one our Dad had of being offered ‘a fair go’?
Who returned to England to realise his dream of true love, which eventually I accepted?
Well, I had to, and I thank him from the bottom of my heart because I too found love and a new and rewarding life full of opportunities in the land of our Dad’s birth.
My lovely, lovely Brother!
Come on, mate, let’s finish here. Come on, give me your hand, not literally ‘cos we’re too far apart, but we know these hands will always be there.
My mum was raised by nuns in the 1930’s and early 1940’s. It was a harsh and deprived version of ‘being in care’. Her experience taught her to revel in the joy of deep, lasting friendships and she was known as a fun and kind person, despite her early years. Proud to be her daughter.#TheJanuaryChallenge
Family can be devastated and split apart by divorce. But later, when the dust settles, it can be enriched by the new members who come into your life. So dont let anger become a barrier to the richness of the rest of your life. Look for the light.
People say “family is everything”. And they are right but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. For each family member plays a role, sometimes pivotal role, in each other family members lives. Sometimes without each other knowing for years to come. If you feel loved in a family, you may also feel hated. If you have felt uplifted and supported in a family you have probably also been disappointed by them. If they know exactly how to make you smile, I bet they also know how to push your buttons and frustrate you (in our own quirky ways). For all the times you feel a sense of belonging I bet there’s been times when you felt alone (I have and still do sometimes). It’s all part of growing up in a family growing – I’ve pointed out that my eldest watched their parents grow up (when exactly is the time we feel adult?). As the family builds in warmth and different personalities, we each gain resilience from the challenges we often give each other or ease each other of. Knowing your family helps you understand life but also helps you grow beyond it. All the while, we got each others backs. To summarise. …let me tell you something about family; it’s complicated. Anyway what do I know?!
“Family is kind and honest” – Layla age 9 in foster care.
“Family pick you back up after you’ve fallen down” – Olivia age 6 in foster care.
People say “family is everything”. And they are right but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. For each family member plays a role, sometimes pivotal role, in each other family members lives. Sometimes without each other knowing for years to come. If you feel loved in a family, you may also feel hated. If you have felt uplifted and supported in a family you have probably also been disappointed by them. If they know exactly how to make you smile, I bet they also know how to push your buttons and frustrate you (in our own quirky ways). For all the times you feel a sense of belonging I bet there’s been times when you felt alone (I have and still do sometimes). It’s all part of growing up in a family growing – I’ve pointed out that my eldest watched their parents grow up (when exactly is the time we feel adult?). As the family builds in warmth and different personalities, we each gain resilience from the challenges we often give each other or ease each other of. Knowing your family helps you understand life but also helps you grow beyond it. All the while, we got each others backs. To summarise. …let me tell you something about family; it’s complicated. Anyway what do I know?!
“Family is kind and honest” – Layla age 9 in foster care.
“Family pick you back up after you’ve fallen down” – Olivia age 6 in foster care. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I felt lonely for a long time in my family, an outsider who was different in so many ways due to the nature of genetics. We were a family who never hugged, who faced adversity and were broken by it, in one way or another.
It was only when I got married and had children of my own that I really understood what a family could be. Mutual support and love and respect, conversations and dreams and interpretations of the world growing with and alongside each other to form a single story, in which each of us has their own part and narrative.
Every time I comfort one of my family, be it after some bad news, a scraped knee, an argument on the playground or a feeling of insurmountable frustration, this makes me feel comforted too. That they want me to comfort them, that I’m allowed to hold and hug them. Sometimes I wonder if they know how healing it is for me, to help heal them. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I’m happily swinging from the branches of a broken Family Tree. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Every Friday, all the way through secondary school, I went to my grandma and grandads for tea. This was in the 1990’s. My grandma cooked and chatted to me (about her grandma and gossip about her friends, who were also dinner ladies at my school). We had a meal, then dessert and before I went coffee and cake. She sent me home with 2 Twirls, one for me and one for my younger sister. I love my food. My uncle used to arrive home at 5.30 and we would watched Happy Days reruns on TV. Some Fridays I brought food from my school home economics lesson and she would incorporate it into our Friday tea. I really miss them and I am trying to create the lovely atmosphere of Friday evenings form my family now. #TheJanuaryChallenge
It didn’t matter what we did when or where we came together as a family but you could always rely on mum to call the next day to say thank you and how lovely it was simply to all be “together”. Sadly mum died just before Christmas 2021…dad now rings with the same message!!! Picture is of our last lockdown outdoor Christmas Eve in 2020. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family is root, branch and fresh shoots all rolled into one. My roots are from all over the world hence why I do not accept borders nor national symbols. My branches are what make me who I am and the fresh shoots are what give me hope and joy. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Families don’t have to be perfect and family life can still function with imperfect people – just as well as we are by no means the perfect family. We make errors in judgment, have disagreements and can frustrate each other. Yet the family is still the most important aspect of life for so many people . It’s still the safe place where I can be authentically me, warts and all, and still be loved and love. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family is my Irish parents with strong connections to “home”. Always music playing and a dance to be danced. Gaining a Precious brother when I was 34 years old. Who had been taken from my mum 42 years before and given to adoptive parents because she was unmarried. Now we have a new and improved family 💕 #TheJanuaryChallenge
Unable to change the past I have learnt to accept it. I am sure they loved me in their own way. As in some way I still love them. I see the pain and hurt it caused my siblings and how this ripples into the bigger community. Somehow I have become resilient and live to make sure my own family have a very different experience #TheJanuaryChallenge
When I was younger family was using your sisters as a human shield, punching each other as hard as we could with a pillow stuffed up our t shirts which we borrowed from mum or dad. Family was our parents going without meals so we, the kids could eat. Family was ripping the shit out of each other and calling each other names, but kicking the shit out of anyone else who would call one of our family members a name. Family was embarrassing, humiliating, hard, trying, chaotic, loud, but trusting and caring.
Now I am a mother of two amazing sons, family is warm, cuddly, still loud and chaotic! Fun, adventurous, listening, caring, silly, honest and safe! #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family can be a mix of those with and without those powerful pieces of paper called birth certificates . #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family built the foundations of who I am, and who my children are and will be. That is amazing ♥️ #TheJanuaryChallenge
The Elephants Clan “Ndhlovu “ my family is unique consisting of six lovely kids. Each one of them with their own talent but most common one is ‘Art’. The kids and their Dad love to draw and design stuff. Music is what unites us as a family such as Christian gospel and reggae. I love to sign along and cheer too. I pray to God everyday to keep my family and that I should see our kids as grownups one day. As a mother, my seed in their lives is to give them the best I can. I say JOY is permanently in our humble home. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I really only understood the meaning of family once i had my own. Being brought up in the care system from a very young age, i felt like i had no belonging. Since having my own family, i gained a different out look. Family to me is about understanding, warmth, love, and listening. Its about communication and trust. It’s about being there for one another, lifting the other person up when they are down. It’s about caring, yet still allowing others to grow and develop to become their own unique person. Most importantly to me, family is supporting and nuturing yet as i have previously said giving others their own space and respecting the wishes of others. Family is a feeling of belonging and knowing you will always have someone to turn to wirhout judgement. Family is about protecting your loved ones. Family can also be the friendships you make along the way. In some cases friends become family. Its what you feel in your heart that makes family. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family of origin can be cruel, harsh, judgemental and unwelcoming,
But the family you chose for yourself will help you navigate your way and hold you sacred if you open your heart to them #TheJanuaryChallenge
3 incredible sisters 3 amazing brothers Mum and Dads legacy means were just about to welcome our 100th member of our wonderful close family !
Mum used yo say she was the richest person in the world ! #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family is unique, like yours , his, hers and theirs. It comes from all over, but would say its from London. They’re close, loving, mad,, kind, blunt, funny (sometimes unintentionally, to all the above).. They are my everything and I am theirs. I’m making my own family in the North East, but part of my heart will always be with the place and people where I belong. #TheJanuaryChallenge
1 / 3
Eliabeth is queen
She brought me in at the pink light
And comforted my first booze puke
She put food on the table
And then stood in your shoes
She made Christmas special
Birthdays and Easter too
Summer holidays were memorable
But where the hell were you?
She was the best job juggler
And spinner of fragile plates
She found money to save up
So, I could join the 80s craze
My first football boots
And educational uniform
Her greatest gift was to be vocal
and not to bloody conform
She stood proud like a lioness
In a jungle of hopeless fools
She built a council castle
So that I could rule
She knitted my social awareness
Supported my vinyl survival
She bought a book on birds and bees
Through blindness or sheer denial
2 / 3
She created a suite of armour
And a Viking shield to cope
But swear or be a bugger
Well she would wash your mouth with soap
But she would nurse and then build us
She let lessons teach
When I boarded my first train for the army
She was there to weep
But I only remember you vaguely
You’re like a distant ghost
It’s when I look in the mirror
That I am haunted the most
It’s like a seven-year itch
But only one you can scratch
I was branded and discarded
Then shoved onto a reject batch
I even built a bridge
And I walked over half way
You morphed into Usain bolt
As equals I couldn’t make you stay
I walk with a ghetto blaster
I know its not me to blame
You skulk and hide in a Walkman world
Moving house couldn’t hide your shame
I’m a vintage corduroy baker boy
You’re a kiss me quick mess
I’m a velvet collared Crombie
You’re a shitty rain Mack at best
3 / 3
I walk in Dr Martens
Your no better than a hobnail boot
I’m tailored in McArthur tartan
You wouldn’t fit in my birthday suite
I’m a true reflection
of the protective peridot women
Without her loving safety net
These words would not be woven
Dennis is a menace
Elizabeth is queen
She’s always been there for me
You’ve been nowhere to be seen.
Dennis you’re a menace
Elizabeth is queen
The old man has stepped up
You don’t even make my dreams
Family isnt a name and it isnt blood, family isnt perfect either!
Family is love ❤️ and being valued for who you are! Differences an all! I dont have a close relationship with my birth family but am very close to my husbands family. We have 6 children 3 birth and 3 adopted! Family is what you make it…. blended and mixed and messy at times but over all filled with love, respect, trust and happiness! Weve built relationships with our adopted childrens birth families and although our children are not ready to see/speak to them the choice is always there and they are there, a part of who they are and their identity! Family ! Family, good-bad-easy-hard its a choice and thats okay!!
In our family, we are two mums and two boys, a rainbow family. We love well and laugh often. We try and brighten others’ lives. And we foster cats until they find their furever home. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Famchat: We are two blended families. The parents have a group chat called Famchat where we talk about arrangements and school pick ups and birthday plans. But also we send each other pictures of our cats or an amazing dinner we’ve had or mini rants about the government. We love our children but we love each other too and I think that makes us better parents #TheJanuaryChallenge
I grew up in Portsmouth in Stamshaw. When I was a kid I used to spend a lot of time in Alexandra park and we would swim off Whale Island where the M275 is now.
This is mostly about my Dad ~ he was amongst other things a paint sprayer of cars. And a fitch is a very long thin brush for painting lines.
This is called:-
‘A Brush with Life’
There was a mound of grass in the park
I used to lie on as a boy
Head cupped in hands, looking up at the sky watching the clouds go by
There was a roundabout too ~ good for sky watching
If you didn’t get thrown, by the big boys who’d spin you off
I was always watching, watching
I watched my Dad
Watched him make paper planes
Not just a simple dart
Folded nose, curved wings, twin tail, ailerons for fine control
They had real style!
I don’t remember him teaching me, or how old
But I could show you how to make one now ~ blindfold
Watched him swim at the end of our road
From shore to boat to shore
Whale Island and back ~ it isn’t far at all
Sleek overarm, slow-motion crawl
So powerful, elegant, effortless
Straight and purposeful
I imagine him swimming like he lived his life
Carving his way through the waves
Watched him decorate our house
Several times a year
Everything seemed to be battleship grey
Stuff he brought home from work one day
I can see my Dad when I see those tones
The dust sheets, the sandpaper, the smells
The white spirit ~ he did have the right spirit
I loved to watch him paint with an old brush ~ a brush with life
Watched him prepare cars and spray-paint them too
That was a job on Sundays he actually took me to
Newspaper and masking tape to cover the windows
And a healthy dose of cellulose thinners
The freehand lines he painted with fitch
On the sides of vehicles for the rich
Always with a roll-up drooping from his mouth, as a guide to direction
The details were beautiful ~ they were perfection
His freestyle, flowing movements matching those of any ice skater
Watched him roll his Golden Virginia ~ always by hand
Thin strands of real gold, teased lovingly without force
Hairy tobacco sprouts, pinched-off with heart
Blunt ends wet-mouthed to finish the delicacy ~ it was a soothing meditation
I think he decorated the house so often,
Because the nicotine didn’t just stain his fingers,
It got everywhere.
We even had grey paint on the ceiling right there!
Watched him slide home Sunday lunchtimes
Gifting American hard gums, coconut mushrooms, pear drops
All with good love from the pub
Sweeteners for us to savour and forgive
Sitting, gently smiling over his mountain of roast dinner
Eyelids drooping, soon closing, sinking
No-one blamed him
Watched him on the ‘World at War’
Fighting against Rommel’s Africa Corp
In the album, you could see him with his sleeves rolled up, beret askew
Mates surrounding him chewing gum
Each with an arm leaned on strong young shoulders
Solid as rocks in front of their Sherman these soldiers
At War’s end, he returned home mostly alone
Older and older, Dad was always a soldier
Watched him pull up the duvet to hide
When I said ‘See you later Dad!’, on the morning of my ride
Getting married, a memorable day
What else was I to say?
At least that’s what I recall
It’s strange you see, he was always up before all
Always…. but not that morning
I was leaving home and somehow it looked like he thought I was leaving him
In later years, I watched him ride slowly by
on his bike
Yes that’s right ~ several shades of battleship grey
Was there no end to this dubious stache?
And he had grey plastic panniers on handlebars and saddle
Carrying essential tools and plants from his shed
To the gardening jobs supplementing his pension
He was never still, mostly silent
And ever-resourceful, my Dad
I’m watching him now in the mirror shaving
I can see you Dad
No wait ~ it’s not you ~ that’s me!
Here we are together
We never left each other
There was a mound of grass in the park
I used to lie on as a boy
Head cupped in hands, looking up at the sky, watching the clouds go by
There was a roundabout too ~ good for sky watching
If you didn’t get thrown, by the big boys who’d spin you off
Always watching, watching
And the sky is always moving
Just like my Dad ~ swimming ~
My Grandad built the house that he lived in with my Grandma, Mum and Uncle. He died in an accident when my Mum was 12 and her brother 13, and they had to sell the family home he built, but I grew up hearing stories about their time there. They used to keep goats, who would eat everything they touched and generally caused havoc. One year one of them got into the kitchen on the day of my Uncles Birthday party and ate everything before the guests arrived. At the time it was probably stressful for my Grandma but it became a fond memory. When I was a child my Grandma looked after me and we used to frequently walk past the house that my Grandad had built and she would tell me the stories of their time there, and about my Grandad, and how happy he would have been if he could have seen his Grandchildren. My Grandma passed away in 2021, she lived in a nursing home and contracted covid after a resident was sent home from hospital without being tested. I tell my children stories about things we used to do together when I was a child, and about the Grandad that I didn’t get to meet and the house he built which their Grandma lived in when she was a child. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family is one thing. Relatives are another. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My late husband, Tony, was a wag and always doing something funny or naughty. From hiding my dentures, telling tall stories, singing naughty ditties and witty comments at just the right time. When answering the telephone he always opened with, ‘Lord Green…’ which often resulted in folk thinking they’d got the wrong number. We married later in life, and each had families already who had already grown up. So we, ourselves, were a micro-family, but one filled with laughter. His laughter was infectious and was always close to the surface even when I was having a strop about something, ‘I love it when you’re angry!’ which would make me laugh, too. When he was alive, he died in 2018, our house was always filled with fun and laughter…. and that was magical. I miss him and the spontaneous outbursts of laughter about something ridiculous. He was a biker, had been both a policeman and a pub landlord for many, many years and his name (in the pub trade) was legendary in Nottingham. I mean, how many other people had a dog with a season ticket for Notts County football team? Eccentric and kindly… he was a wonderful person to have in our little ‘family’. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My wife and I have two birth kids. We started fostering for our Council in 2011 when our birth kids were 5 and 7. We fostered a variety of kids. Some returned home to birth family, some moved in with their extended family and we transitioned one to adoption. One of our foster kids had been with us a few years. He took a family photo apart and added himself to the picture with a pen. It was his way of saying he wanted to be part of our family. We adopted him. That was 7 years ago. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My Mum had spina bifida and had many operations as a young woman. As she got older she went from walking with a limp to being dependent on a wheelchair. However, was a very determined, strong and self-confident lady, like my Dad who had been in the paras. Dad had always been active and sporty, especially football but not Mum who’d endured ridicule as a child in PE at school. However, in her 60s my Mum decided to learn to swim, then started going to the gym and eventually took up wheelchair racing. All happily supported by Dad and their dog Sally, a border terrier. The new found interest found them traveling to road races, buying a specially adapted racing wheelchair, meetibg other wheel chair athletes and trainers at Loughborough, fame in the local newspaper and a friendship with Paralympian Richard Whitehead. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Our family is shiny. We’re annoying too. Everyday, normal life – tiredness, acheivements, bickering, supportive. The constant undercurrent of love sustains us and so we shine. Blessed. #TheJanuaryChallenge
The two at the back. Two of my many brothers and half brothers. Not raised together, only known one for ten years and the other for just two. But we are so alike, same nose, same humour, same father. I love them and am so happy they’re in my life. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My Nana, Lucy Fower was born in 1899. If she had lived another 15months, which she would have done if she hadn’t had a fall, would have lived in 3 centuries. It blows my mind the things she’d seen and heard. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Sue/Susan/Susie/Sucky Di Di/Spizzog/Soixante Dix/Wing Pong/Ying Tong
Family? Should be glued together but is often ripped to shreds by greed, jealousy, indifference, &c. I have always felt love for my family, even some who really didn’t deserve it (my chilhood sexual abuser for example) but even the most loving have proved themselves eminently capable of turning. It has made me strong but left me feeling like I am made at least partly of stone. The smallest jibe renders me to nothing but my dearest sibling died less than a month ago from a hideous disease – we were so close in age that we were almost twins, in some respects – and I havent cried yet. Our dad died in c2002 and I finally lost it about that BIG! TIME! in c2016.
My family is so disconnected and distant. I have never felt close to any of my family on my mothers side and my fathers side. I do not want my children to experiance that, so I tell them everyday how important family is and that I love them with all my heart. I want to break the cycle. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I am lucky enough to have a twin brother. So we did everything together until high school. We had some independence through the teens and came back together again when our dad died of cancer. We have an older brother and we were close anywsy, but this made us closer. Me and my twin love art, film making and photography and we sometimes work together on things, and put on grass roots arts events. He is always always there for me and I appreciate him. We have never fallen out or said a bad word to each other. I have his back and he has mine. #TheJanuaryChallenge
A Poem – First Family Round-Up
(To be read in the style of radio’s Shipping Forecast)
There were rumbles of parental instability,
North Earlham, Lower Hellesdon – twenties.
Norfolk blight and slumber.
General synopsis: Low,
479 moving westwards,
losing its identity at same time.
A new high expected – fresh field –
at this time.
Highest in October ‘68, moving rapidly
Tradition however, losing its identity by
Nostalgia and living in the past a constant.
However, the area forecasts for the next 24 hours:
Is that I will like Nan’s visit
and enjoy staying up.
Surprise warning issued
Yet on the horizon…
but enough food and security.
Mechanic’s hand with increasing force,
offers sanctuary and gentle warmth.
Narcissism however, always there,
tough or very tough, becoming very soft (or hard); pain later;
visibility moderate or good
Teenage warning issued
Big Brother ego force 8, increasing
Secretive state, no force 1970.
Me, though, veering skywards,
decreased through school bully incident.
Five, 12, 17 occasionally 16,
Fatherly force 9 later; wind up
Mother state, undyingly moderate,
Anxious and dutiful, always hard working.
Visibility? Occasionally poor, becoming
much poorer later.
Looking back on variable memories,
becoming cyclonic from 77,
and continued to wax and wane over decades.
Means that the forecast might be bleak, perhaps.
This is the end of the first family round-up today.
By Debra Hall
Intergenerational shame, secrets and lies. Estrangement and alienation mixed in with love. #TheJanuaryChallenge
The place I go for comfort and place that hurts the most. The space between insanity and perfect harmony – all 60 seconds of it. The place where tears and laughter are in equal measure… kind of! And the unknown untouched back streets full of information only WE know. The secret acknowledgement that I would never admit which screams that you DO in fact know me better than I know myself. The place where I crave a life of freedom with every fibre of my being and yet hold onto the sound of sleepy breaths and with my eyes closed… in those quiet moments… all is forgiven. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family of destination = home and acceptance. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family is everything.
It’s compromise, love, respect, acceptance…
Learning and teaching.
Experiencing life and all it has to offer together.
Did I mention love?
My family are my world ❤
10 years ago tomorrow, we legally became a family. You came home at three and a half years old having already lived with 3 families. Our hearts filled with a love unlike any other and will endure, no matter what.
My grandmother used to say, I put my eyes out on sticks for you!
When I would state a verifiable fact like “The bank is only 2 miles away,” but Mom was sure it was 5 miles away, no amount of proof mattered. The conversation would end with her statement, intoned with disbelief, “Well I don’t know about that.” Sometimes we laughed, sometimes we pulled our hair out, sometimes we might have cried. When she passed away, all the family wore t-shirts emblazoned with that phrase in honor of her and in honor of our memories – fond and otherwise.
My mum was adopted as were her two siblings… They were told separately but my Mum and Uncle think they are blood relatives. They never found out….
George my son, my family and my world.. He was the light in my life and now he is gone. I have lost my sense in family and noone to leave any legacy to. It’s hard and it’s raw.
My blended family are reluctant to blend. A family of two halves. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I had the best childhood and the most loving and supportive parents any child/teen/adult could of ever wished for and now im a mum im making sure my son has the same childhood i did.
When we were children, staying at my Nan’s, my brother and I used to be sent to get a pebble from the beach every day before we ate dinner to make sure we’d had some fresh air and exercise. It was about 10 minutes each way – across the road, over the railway bridge, wave at a train, down on to the beach, find a good pebble and back again. My brother and I are in our late 50s now and just travelled down there to do it again!
My Grandparents… My safe place…. Where the words ‘Now then sunshine’ from my Grandad whenever I walked in meant safety, unconditional love and the lovely feeling that in their eyes I was the only person in the world for the time I was there. My aim is to create that same feeling for those who visit my home. That for the time they are with me whether friend or family they are the centre of my world, my focus.
My grandpa used to smoke Senior Service. He’d always reach for the safety pin that he hung on the mirror above the fireplace and he’d prick the cigarette near the stub. Not sure why he did that, but a thin streak of smoke would always escape from that tiny hole. And if he ever ignored my grandma, she always used to say “He won’t be teld” The best treat was ‘bread and dripping’ they’d dip a big hunk of bread into left over meat fat. It was all congealed and brown, but we loved it.
Family is safe, family is warmth, it is trust, accepting of who you are and love!
When I first became a grandparent, someone asked me ‘Do you feel old now, and worried that your life now is limited?’ I replied that I felt more part of the human race, part of the human family perhaps, than I ever had done before, more than even when my own children were born. I felt that something had been passed on to continue the future of the human family.
That neurodiversity is beautiful! I have a non verbal autistic son and a trans child , they make our family more connected, empathic and patient.
I spent entire summers barefoot, doing flick flacks on the grass, digging holes, making fires and setting up a Swallows and Amazon camp. My brother would make me climb the highest of brick walls on the rifle range and walk along the top. He taught me to throw a ball, but we played catch with a caravan tyre. His room smelled of solder and was lethally strewn with transistors. I would pick them out of my feet as I tried to understand the lyrics of his Planet Gong and Steve Hillage albums. My sister baked cakes with me, read fashion magazines featuring Twiggy, had controversial platform shoes with plastic straps, was a bridesmaid in a peach frilled frock and sometimes hid in the attic with her friends to talk about boys ( I think) and drink tea. We listened to Season’s in the Sun on Radio City and I’d ask her if she knew what love was all about.
My brother and sister both had trips abroad and I can still feel the anticipation of them unpacking their stories and suitcases on returning. They gave me sugar pebbles from Germany, trick pepper chewing gum from Paris and the craving to follow in their footsteps. I couldn’t wait to smell the goat dung of the French mountains, the car fume and perfume sophistication of cities, the adventure of a hazy bus journey, eating figs on Greek beaches and treacherous scooter rides. Family gave the freedom to explore, family allowed vicarious travel. But here in Formby came the hottest of summers when the grass disappeared into hexagonal cracks across the garden and swarms of ladybirds washed up on the beach. There came the coldest winter when there was so much snow, we built an igloo that lasted for weeks and the heather bushes untwisted their trunks as the sap froze, and now it was ice washing up in waves along the shore as the sea froze. Magical.
There was always radio. We had one in the kitchen for the Shipping forecast Sailing by, football scores on a Saturday, Letter from America, Thought for the Day with Rabbi Someone With A Kind Voice and the Archers. There was another in the sitting room, with two enormous Wharfedale speakers either side of the fire. I would stretch out on the hearthrug with the dog and listen to Doctor Finlay’s casebook. Our first telly didn’t appear for many years, was black and white with bulbs and dials. It was once fixed by a violin teacher using a piece of Meccano.
Sometimes family was a screaming match between siblings; pulled hair, kicks and scratches, Chinese burns, spit dribbled above my face as I was pinned to the floor, me pressing my feet against my bedroom door to keep them out. Sometimes it was just a look. That could be the worst.
The dog settled most of the arguments. I spent a lot of time curled up in his basket. Mother never tried to sort things on our behalf, she had (and still has at 93) a placid way of sweeping aggression away. My father could have a fearsome temper, but it rarely emerged and disappeared in an instant. I learned how to fight my own battles and of the curative properties of walking. We were blessed with miles of dunes and beaches nearby. But generally, arguments didn’t last long between us siblings and if you fought with one, you could ally up with the other. My parents had less than three disagreements their entire life together. One of them was about how to iron trousers properly and didn’t even involve a raised voice. So rare though, it scared me even more.
University drew that decade to a close and family became Christmases and phone calls and growing up stories from the outside world, parties and grim realities, drugs and diseases, unemployment and riots, tragedies marring the view of the fascinating and furious lives we wanted to live. But we stayed close, because most of all, family was an ever-open door.
The poem is a recollection of my childhood in the 1960s, my closeness to my grandmother in particular.
Family is not just what we are born into, they can be created when children cant live with their birth family for many reasons and i wanted to share memories of this…from adopters bursting into happy tears after meeting children for the first time, a look of pure joy from an older boy meeting his new dad which will stay with me forever, the young girl who took a year of patient, unconditional love to be able to tell her adopter she loved her. I have dealt with the flip side too so it is not all wonderful, having to move a child from an adoption placement that was wrong and the damage that can be done when a long term foster placement breaks down. When it does work though, it can be amazing.
Family is seeing a deep fragility in my Mum which no one else was seeing. It is a childhood trying to help and protect her. It becomes an adulthood working in mental health to displace all the childhood sorrow and grief that I could not do enough. I believed I was not enough. I am glad that I can see this now. Family is becoming a Mother who is determined to break the cycle. It is a prayer that my now adult child can be herself, not responsible. Family is finding myself, slowly becoming, after all these years.
Memories of my family, bedtime stories, ‘winning’ running races with Dad in the park, weekend trips to London museums, church on Sunday (even on holiday!). When older mum and dad working full weeks in a couple of days to be with me through cancer treatment, singing along with Fleetwood Mac and the Everley brothers with mum in the car. Now we have the next generation and the wonderful excitement of my niece and nephew at Christmas. We are a small family, but close.
My family is large and sprawling – and yet I know and am in contact with so few of them. My mother side including my mother – not at all because she was abusive. For me my immediate family when I was growing up was more like a trap – and the scars still hold me back today. I want to be free but don’t know how. And yet I was fortunate because I have a brother and Grandfather who I love and see and until recently a Dad who I was closer to than I realised. Now that he’s gone I feel more lost. Family is complex. I like the idea of your big family all connected with our experiences. It all comes down to love in the end – either experiencing love or experiencing a lack of love, or both.
When I was very young my Grandma died. She was devastated to know she would never see me grow up. She had always wanted a daughter but ended up with many sons and grandsons and then I came along and she had all these plans. Things to do, places to go, a world to introduce me too. Yet it was not to be. Instead she left the next best thing. A gift. All the books she would have read to me or lent me or introduced me too for me to read as I grew up. Stories and pages that had meant something to her. She passed part of herself on with that gift. I was not old enough to know her well, yet when I read these books, I know that they had meaning to her so therefore they do for me too. I know that the characters must have made her laugh, cry, hope and root for, how she must have followed plots and wondered how they would pan out. So why she may not have been here physically, I find little bits of her between every page. The most thoughtful gift – leaving many worlds for me to find her within.
When I was very young my Grandma died. She was devastated to know she would never see me grow up. She had always wanted a daughter but ended up with many sons and grandsons and then I came along and she had all these plans. Things to do, places to go, a world to introduce me too. Yet it was not to be. Instead she left the next best thing. A gift. All the books she would have read to me or lent me or introduced me too for me to read as I grew up. Stories and pages that had meant something to her. She passed part of herself on with that gift. I was not old enough to know her well, yet when I read these books, I know that they had meaning to her so therefore they do for me too. I know that the characters must have made her laugh, cry, hope and root for, how she must have followed plots and wondered how they would pan out. So why she may not have been here physically, I find little bits of her between every page. The most thoughtful gift – leaving many worlds for me to find her within.
Family is for me the joy of connectivity with souls like me born into our extended family . We have benefited from having creative grandparents who were part of the Arts and Crafts movement beguiling us with their lifestyle and desire to make ,paint and craft their lifestyle .Introducing us to DIY creative culture and entertainment . Living with their paintings rugs textiles and sketchbooks offers us a family archive for the here and now and future generations 🔥
I lost contact with my family after my ex partner died of suicide in January 2015. I hope we can all meet up again one day.
My father worked long hours in the city. We saw little of him during the week, he arrived home after our bedtimes. Each Saturday he took my sister and I for a walk, in Hilly Fields, White Webbs and Forty Hall – the places he had played in as a child. He pointed out how the trees were changing and how the seasons inexorably followed one another. He showed us there were buds on the beeches even as they shed their leaves in the autumn, how catkins danced in the winter winds waiting for spring when they lengthened into “lambs tails”. Each snowdrop and daffodil was a promise of longer, sunnier days. On Saturday evenings he read us poetry. I had no idea as a child in the early 1960’s that other fathers might be less involved, less able to communicate with their children. My sister and my father are gone now. Each spring I see us all observing the unfurling of the leaves and remember.
Our family is blended, some of us are blood related but some not. We have step, half and ex relationships and live across many miles. It’s not always easy but family is a choice
We come from a scattered and broken family,care system was our main family but even they abandoned us but from that came light. Thou we have no blood family,weve created a family from friends and social media…tik tok is now were we found our purpose and tribe…
Music was always so important in our house and I remember my parents would listen to soul records on Sunday morning. My dad has dementia and I miss his advice now he can’t talk. One day I was clearing out a drawer in my house and came across a handwritten list of songs he’d made… all his favourites, from Motown to Eminem. Every single one was about love (if you count Stan as a love song. Which I do.)
Growing up, my family comprised of two loving parents and one hating older sister, plus biannual visits from paternal grandparents. Upon marrying, I gained three stepsons and a bucketload of ‘in law’ relations. Suddenly family became a whole lot larger. In the early days I sometimes struggled to adjust to this, but now I’m able to embrace it. I love the reality of the ever-growing tribe, as the children have grown up, some have married, and the next generation is on the way.
Family is the most important thing, to feel one belongs in a group of people. Whether blood, step or in law relatives makes no difference, it’s being in a clan.
I still dream about my grandmother’s house. I wish I’d done more for her in her final years. I go from room to room in my head, imagining all the things I would have done for her – taking her food shopping, preparing meals, cleaning her kitchen, changing her bedding. I loved her so much.
My dear parents married in July 1950
They arrived post war, they’d been deported from Poland…mum as Slave labourer to Germany… dad endured deportation to Archangel north of Russia, his odyssey took him through Persia, Iraq, Italy…. Throughout my childhood i knew mum and dad had had a family… we remembered tham at Christmas and prayed for their souls… i never had but yearned for granny, aunties, uncles and cousins.. but no joy… until 2000 when my parents were celebrating their Golden wedding…. Thanks to political changes and modern technology… my mum was reunited with her sisters… there are so many stories to hear…. but some pieces of my family jigsaw are being put into place… and offering a sense of belonging…
I grew up in the suburbs of London – in Surrey and later in the borough of Kingston-upon-Thames. I recall visiting my Grandmother and her sister frequently at weekends. From our home, we would drive past the cricket green in Mitcham where my Uncle, who I assumed was really Ian Botham – although his name was different – because he had the same hair and beard, played at the weekends. We would arrive in Brixton in time for lunch which was classified by my grandmother as either ‘hot’ or ‘cold’, as in “it’s nothing fancy, we’re only having a little bit of cold today”. It was years later that I realised that the hot or cold referred only to the meat part of the meal. If we were having ham which had been cooked the day before, the meal was ‘cold’ – never mind that there was a mountain of piping hot buttery mash and steaming peas to go with it. She loved strong flavours my Nan – her colemans mustard was mixed with vinegar instead of water and her tea was so strong and particular in taste that a mug of ‘nan tea’ will take me to her instantly. She and her sister lived next door to each other – there was only one year of their lives when they were apart, when my great-auntie got married and moved to North London. She only lasted a year, and was so miserable she came back to live in the house next door to Nan. They were both small women, and by the time she died my great-auntie’s head would nestle in my bust when I hugged her. I am only 5′ 3″. They both felt like special women, women who did their bit in the war, but mostly were at home caring for their husbands and my father and his sister – my great-auntie too as she did not have children of her own. We do not know why – it wasn’t talked about then. But I believe she put her energy into being the best auntie and great-auntie she could be. For me it was like having a second grandmother. I named my daughter for her. And so we go on, creating our own family, making our own stories, like the time my son appeared to have Wolverine type healing powers and didn’t require stitches for a huge gash on his head, or when my daughter protested loudly “I don’t want a BIT of chocolate I want ALL the chocolate” when offered the ice cream choices which included bitter chocolate. I wonder what they will remember of visiting family members and what feelings these memories will elicit in them. I only hope they are as warm as mine are of my nan and her sister.
Multi-generational. Ties that can join you to another person; even though you have grown up on different continents of the world.
On rainy Saturdays, I’d take a book and sit in the garage while my Dad did DIY, sawing and sanding and sorting. It smelled of sawdust and dustdust and damp leaves. The old strip light flickered overhead. Once, he clad a wall in old wooden boards, measured and carefully hammered in nails at just the right intervals to hang all his tools. Some of the tools had turquoise handles. Those were the ones he inherited from his dad – my grandad – painted with leftover paint from an ancient greenhouse makeover. I would sit in the old striped deckchair and pretend to read – but really I was watching him, soaking up his company, wordless, no demands. I have a trowel in my garage now, its handle painted ancient turquoise.
Jason N Smith
At Christmas I am alone and so work through it by helping prepare festive meals at work in a residential setting. This gives something like being with family, i little.
This is a story of my grandma, from Wigan, and one we still still share. It happened about 55 years ago when I was very young. My grandad was a miner and my grandma always made him a fried breakfast when he came off shift. They lived in a small back to back 2 up 2 down terrace. The stove was right next to the sink and one day my grandma accidentally cracked an egg into the sink instead of into the frying pan. Without a moment’s hesitation my grandma dashed out to the yard and deftly caught the egg in her frying pan as it emerged from the outside waste pipe heading towards the drain. She then just as swiftly went back into the kitchen and fried the egg for my grandad as if that was all perfectly normal.
The flowery, china teacup rattled against its saucer as Parkinson’s disease took over. ‘Grandad likes his bread buttered right to the edges.’ Grandma gently guided, when every week I helped to make the Saturday tea. Dear dad says I remind him of her, his much-loved mother, her smile and mannerisms transferred through genes. And grandad was a writer too, from some ancestral research it seems. I feel so fortunate to be me and to have descended from the more stable side of my family tree.
I’ve written a piece about my family in the form of a letter to Lemn, dated 1979. See attachments.
My father was Anglo-Indian coming here after Partition in 1950. He always didn’t talk about his memories of that time. This space I have filled with my own thoughts and suppositions. What isn’t a mystery is the ancient seachest with his initials clearly on it. It smelt of mothballs and spices and something very musty, unknown
home for me is my uncle, i am adopted, was in foster, and he was my foster carers son, sadly he died a few months ago but he has allways been nice toword me, he was allways my safe space, he listend to me, i remember his cheeky laugh, or his really warm hugs that warmed you inside and out, or hear him cheekily swear then remember his mother was in the room and go “oops sorry “then gigles, i remember how he used to let us go round to his house and let us have food thair, i remember how he would smile at you, even on youre worst days, he would smile and you had no controll over it and you smiled back cos he made you feel loved, i remember how he used to enjoy music, he loved watching baptism vidios aswell, he has a whole colection of them, and he would watch them over and over till they were physically unwatchable, i remember how when i used to play the piano he would tell me to stop and then when i did so he would say “awww” in a way that says “please carry on ” i remember his little i love you’s and how he would allways have a twinkle in his eye when he said it, i remember watching his carers strugle to feed him but when i tried, he would do it right away, i remember how his eyes lit up when you walked in the room, and how he would allways ask how you were, i remember every little rinkle in his face that he has got over the years, and his silly tie colection but you loved it, how every week he would have a new imagenery girlfriend and you talked for hours about them , how you could talk to him about anything and he would listen and not judge, or how you could sit in silence but not be bored, this, this is home to me, and i dont think i will every find anywhere quiet like how he made home feel, i will forever miss him, but i will thank him every day for keeping me going, i will never forget, this is home.
My family is African, native american, Irish, Welsh and Scottish. My great grandfather was a slave. My maternal and paternal grandparents were farmers from North Carolina. My parents migrated to New Jersey. My parents were working class but gave us the facade of a middle class life. We had lots of teachers as aunts and my generation had opportunities our parents never got. When my parents retired, they returned to NC and built a house on the land my native american grandfather owned. He had nine daughters and six of them built houses next to each other. I was able to visit them all in one fell swoop. My adult life was spent in Switzerland and Africa working for the UN. My nuclear family became my Ethiopian husbands ex wife and her husband and their friends and family and we put all our four children together and made one family. Our family is complicated as friends’ say but it works. We spent lots of time together and all holidays. I am the second mother to his ex-wife’s three children ( one by my husband) and she is the second mother to my son. We have shown others that you can find different ways to love one another even through divorce.
Fallible, adjustment, magnificent, irritating, loving, yearning.
Links to my family….
Family is love, companionship, cooperation, empathy and understanding. There is nothing on earth that I love more than my three children and they know it.
I remember my dad and I would play a game where I would say tip and he would say top, and each time we would say it in a different voice which I found hilarious. He died when I was 7 but this memory has stayed alive for 23 years and always brings a smile to my face 🙂
After 40+ years I finally cut my mother out of my life. I strive every day not to be like her. I’ve created my own family with respect, love and tolerance – everything she hates. I know who’s happier!
When my daughter was first sent miles from our home for mental health treatment it felt like a catastrophic rupture in our family. Being sent so far at a time when she was most vulnerable and needed to be with those who love her caused so much trauma for her and us her family.
It felt to me like my heart had been ripped out and the thread connecting us was fragile and could easily be broken. Although we are now all back together we are still all recovering from the trauma of such a difficult separation. It has helped me to write about the experience and have recently written a chapter in the book ‘They Died Waiting – Stories of Loss and Hope’
I have attached the embroidered heart below which symbolises how I felt when separated from my daughter.
Nan wasn’t one for showing happiness, pride or love. She didn’t hug, kiss, send notes. She cleaned, ironed, dusted. She was broken inside by a failed marriage, that ashamed her and forced her to lie about it for years. As she grew older, her face set, she twitched the curtains, called about how windy it was, moaned about trivial things, never seemed to have a good word to say about me or my mum. Never had a word of pride, it all seemed to go over her head. She did not seem to care. But maybe because care, the love she had, had got her nowhere. We didn’t confront her, or demand to excavate, to dig deep into why. We let things lie. And fester. When she died, we had to empty her house as you do. Deep inside the cupboard under the stairs, we found a shoe box. Inside clippings she kept on mum’s achievements. through the years. Care she had, carefully hidden as if she was ashamed of feelings. Or maybe because she was afraid of feelings, so kept them tucked away in a box.
Knowing that there is someone else out there that see’s the world similar to myself. Even if they only see it a speck of the way I see it, that’s comforting.
my nana had formica kitchen cabinet that had a pull down work surface. It was light blue formica. She had 2 non electrical kitchen appliances that I loved. One was a ribbed piece of glass which she placed in saucepans and it would rattle when the water came to boiling. She could then turn the gas down to that it would simmer, rather than boil over. Because of its noise we called it a Jugger Jugger. The other item I loved was her flour sifter which looked like a mug, but had a moveable handle and a sieve for the bottom. It was so exciting when she let me sieve through the flour.
My pub lunches with just my Dad, where I could talk to him about anything. He listened, he didn’t judge and he made most things so much better. One memory is of him eating pork ribs and getting covered in the sauce! But also helping me to deal with an abusive relationship. I miss him so much….
About 6 years ago, my dad drove me to a flower farm in Kildare. I asked him to because I cannot drive. There were piglets and rows and rows of seedlings and plants in several greenhouses. It took me far too long to choose. I remember the fritillaria meleagris, the bell-shaped flowers, with purple, snake skin petals. I took lots of these. I chose the narcissus hawera too, the baby daffodils.
We stopped in a cafe in Kilcullen on the way home and ate a full Irish breakfast together. I got a half portion. I took the flowers home, wrapped them carefully and sold them on Baggot Street, on the Saturday before Mother’s Day.
Last Christmas, while we were in the car again together, I reminded him of this. He did not remember at first. He was happy to remember, happy to hear me tell this story about him and I. He said he sometimes feels he only remembers the bad days.
I was not raised in my mixed Jewish/African & Caribbean family, but as an adult I was told that my Jewish grandmother lit the shabbat candles evry friday and I am now living in my father’s ancestral home in T&T and feel connected to my family here.
My family are so kind. #TheJanuaryChallenge
We’re your family, we always wanted a family of our own.
They couldn’t look after you, but they loved you so much they gave you away.
You used to have another name but we changed it the day we got you.
You’re so lucky to have found people that love you, you were so wanted (by us)
Don’t you miss your real mum?
Why do you have to bring this up? We’re your real family.
Why can’t you get over this? You ungrateful Little Bastard. They’ve given you everything.
Who am I really?
Guilt, shame, sadness
What is “family” anyway?
I guess everyone thinks their family is a bit weird…but mine really is, so weird in fact that at first glance they appear utterly normal.
Family is something we work on keeping together, whether we’re born into one or intentionally form one ourselves. #TheJanuaryChallenge
We have a shoe rack called Dave. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Two halves, one is Welsh the other part English, part Scottish. Two languages, Welsh and English. I was lucky to know both sets of grandparents and to have lots of aunts, uncles and cousins and to have kept in touch with some of them as we’ve spread out geographically. My own children and grandchildren are close and value not just the concept of family, but the heritage that comes with it – history, art, music – and love. We are lucky.
It’s the people who will always, always try to understand you. They may not achieve understanding but they love you enough to keep trying. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Four generations of strong women, one precious son, connected through skeins of love across time and geography. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family brings love, laughter, safety and support as well as challenges, disharmony and heartache. It’s an ever-changing juggling act that brings daily lessons for growth. #TheJanuaryChallenge
family. Such a loaded concept.
I am childless not by choice. The concept of ‘family’ can be so wrapped up in children and, increasingly in my friendship group, grandchildren. I am fearful of the future and who will advocate for me, who will inherit my skills, knowledge, life? Who will remember me?
My existing family is not in contact with each other and I didn’t know uncles, aunts, grandparents growing up. There is a lot of anger in the older generation. So I am connecting with cousins and meeting them now. So I have a family which I’m finding includign one beautiful cousin who I thought would be lost ofever as she was adopted.
So family …. a loaded concept, but one tht I can now at least answer.
My friends are my family.
As a teenager I was sexually abused by my father. The one man you should be able to trust. Finally he died (no I didn’t go to his funeral) and he never apologised or acknowledged his behaviour. I left school part way through my A levels so I could get a job and leave home. I’ve spent my adult life trying to explain away why I didn’t go to University
I wasn’t planned or wanted by my father and it has had a massive impact on my relationships. I have told my children “you were planned, wanted and loved” so often that they roll their eyes and take it for granted. I’m really proud that my children take for granted that their mum loves them.
My family has been an ultimate point of support. I recently got married and realized that my family was indeed home, I missed it so greatly after I moved. We weren’t so perfect. There was the occasional shouting on children to be better and displeasure at parents for being too hard, but those are all elements that make us unique. It was always fun to go on outings together, especially the long car rides to wherever we were going which allowed time for history to be shared.
Some of my favourite memories are travelling to Saki from Ibadan and learning the stories about the mountains on the way and the little villages we had to pass by, or the times I sat with my dad and siblings to a game of scrabble and learnt one of the most profound learnings of my life “Never be jealous of those who had help to win when you did well with your best efforts”.
The moments in the kitchen with my mum and sister, making all kinds of local delicacies and sharing stories and updates on extended family members. I hope my children and husband have as much fun with the family as I now get to create as much as I did with mine.
Dad was in the British army so we moved around a lot as young children. In the 1970s, my brother sister and I went to The Lodge. The boarding wing of a very large, comprehensive School in Southeast London. From then on, we were no longer a family unit. As I write this today I am 60 years old. It is the 16th of January 2023, and my brother and sister are in the process of taking dad to his new care home because he has dementia. It is a sad day for us.
Since I was eight years old and family did not live as a unit together. I now live with my husband in the north-east of England. Still don’t get to see the other members of my family often enough.
I have a really bad chest infection. My sister who is far away in London is praying for me. We don’t believe….but she is praying hard
My husband and I live on our own but we both have 2 adult children each. I have one grandson. My husband and I are lucky to still have both sets of parents still alive #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family is that feeling of being truly at home, relaxed, not having to perform or be anything but yourself. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I’m about to become an aunty on my side of the family for the first time, and I’m so excited. My brother and his wife are currently referring to the baby as “Bean” until they’re born.
The other day, I remembered I had my Nainie’s charm bracelet (given to me in 1997), and on it is a tiny silver bean. There were bite marks on this silver charm made by my Dad when he was a baby.
So now, I’ll give this little bean to my new niece or nephew when they’re born so they can always have a piece of our family history with them.
Me and my brother and my 2 older cousins were brought up by our grandparents. Not because we were in care, but because our parents worked long hours. We were never rich in the financial sense but in terms of love we were millionaires. My granda used to knit – we would all wear grandas knitted jumpers, hats, scarves, gloves and cardigans – all identical so none of us felt left out until we were teenagers. One day a teacher commented on our jumpers. The following day granda appeared in the classroom with his metal tape measure and made her hold out her arms while he measured her for her very own jumper. I wish I’d kept something he knitted. He died 20 years ago. He taught us that we were all the same, but individual. He showered us with love. To this day we are all best friends. And we miss him. #TheJanuaryChallenge
To me, ‘chosen family’ is everything. My closest friends and I all have endearing nicknames for each other that only we use – amongst these are “Kizzle and Sizzle”, “PP” (never fails to make us giggle), “Ol’ Gregg and Lil’ Vince”, or “Patsy and Eddie”. To me, my chosen family can be anyone blood-related or not, but if you’re one of my chosen family, you’ll know about it.
I want to talk about my lovely nanny Jane . She was born Jane Bridle. I know little about her. She had two brothers that were both killed in the first world war. She was a scullery maid in London and met my grandad, Fred Farr, who was working there too. She was sacked when she became pregnant so they got married. He was an abusive drinker, so I’m told. I never met him.
Nanny lived in the same street as me and my mum and dad (her son), so I went to see her everyday right up until the day before she died in her sleep age 90. I was 14. She worked in laundries and took washing in for most of her life. Her hands were gnarled and painful from arthritis. She had a tough life and never complained. She was a darling. Every Sunday morning I’d go to visit when she was preparing the Sunday lunch. She made the custard early in the day and I got to scrape out the pot with a sliver spoon. (I never knew what happened to that spoon). My parents wanted to send me to boarding school and I didn’t want to go. My nanny summoned them and said that she would have me if they didn’t want me. I was hoping to live with my nanny from that day on but I just stayed with my mum and dad. I still miss her. She was my champion. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family was never honest about mental health, so I couldn’t be either until after my Mam died. Growing up I was never sure which Mam I was coming home to and when the darkness came, I tried not to take it personally, tried to keep her fed when she was not looking after herself, tried to look after my brothers. But I loved her and kept looking after her as I got older. When I had kids she was the best Gran and they only have positive memories of her, so I won’t be honest with them either. But I remember. When she was dying, I held her hand and sang a fragment of a half-remembered hymn from my Catholic youth “Be not afraid”. She spent her whole life being afraid, not trusting her own mind, never knowing when it would let her down. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife but if there is, I hope she’s fearless there. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My father left home when I was in my teens. My mother was wonderful. The house was always filled with friends of my brother or me. We had a snooker table up in the dining room for weeks on end. When my father was dying, she took him back into the home and she and I cared for him until he died. I owe her so much. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My parents first separated when I was 4 and I went to live with my grandparents for a few years. When I was 8 I witnessed my father attack my mother with a hammer – it was in a vehicle and he leant over me to do it. I watched her walk away, leaving me alone in the truck at the side of the road, and I was 32 with four daughters of my own when I watched me walk towards me again. Throughout all that time I had my Nana, God love her. I loved her. Beyond measure. We get very excited, understandably so, about babies’ first words – what they are, and who was there to hear them. Well; my Nana was alive on this earth for 95 years and 10 months and the very last word she spoke – about 15 minutes before she died – was Susan. My name. My grief at her death was immense but the comfort I took from her knowing I was there, from me being in her thoughts right up until the end, is incalculable. I recently had major heart surgery – I took a photo of her with me as a young child into hospital just in case, so she’d be with me at the end if things went wrong. As it turned out, she was there propped up on my hospital table looking back at me as I recovered. Her name was Hilda. She was one of four girls. God love her. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family is about trying, over and over again to be there for each other. It’s about learning how to love the people who love you.
It’s definitely more than blood; family are the people who make up your constellation, and what’s beautiful is that it grows. And, as every living creature on this planet had one original source, we’re all family here:) take care of one another and this planet – our collective home
I trusted my mum, I lost trust in her, I have been trying to build that trust again, it has been a journey that has changed my life… and made me be where I am today. Family for me is a collection of memories… #TheJanuaryChallenge
Yes – A letter to the visitor
You have arrived to meet me and know who I am. My mum says I am often away with the fairies in a land of my daydreams, my mum is a talker and tells you everything about me. I don’t know who I am yet so trust her to speak and tell you the rest. No one asks me about my daydreams or what I like to do so I nod and say yes, seems the right thing to do. Later in my teens after a few years, I get over my fear and become bold and strong. Before to long I decide to fly the nest at 17 thinking I know best. I find lots in the world both good and bad. I understand that not everyone had the family that I had. My outspoken mouth just like my mothers I began to feel shame when talking to others. But as I met my husband and saw how his family worked I understood I could change and become someone loved and adored and this is what I have passed on I would like to report. My children are cherished and now full grown and I am whole with friends and family, love.of my own. My mum passed a long time ago, and while I hear her echoe, I know I am strong and bold as she taught me to be, I will not feel shame and own who is me. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Last night’s family tea:
3 children – a toddler and twin 6 year olds
Colouring, card games, setting the table, balloon football…
5 adults – 30s, 40s, 60s
Laughing, listening, sharing and supporting…
3 pasta bakes – 1 veggie, 1 halal lamb, 1 non-halal beef
All cooked by “Grandpa”. Delicious…
3 takeaway leftover parcels to 2 nearby houses
Sleepy children in the car…
A regular – but always special – Sunday evening.
A friend who is half Egyptian half British with family around the globe, recently told me that I was ‘exotic’ and ‘unusual’ and she ‘got goosebumps’ because I told her that there are five generations of my family living in my hometown of Colchester, who I bump into regularly along the High Street. The eldest is 96 who is my Great Uncle Jack, the youngest is my great nephew who is 18 months old. Great Uncle Jack carries around a piece of paper in his pocket with the words written on it “Do something brave every day”. He’s carried this motto around with him all his life, and I try to practice it every day too. It was my Uncle Jack’s parents who first settled in Colchester. They were miners from the North East who were attracted to the South East through the land resettlement plan, and farmed the land for two years for free before being allowed to live here. They toiled and strived for their right to be here in Colchester, and I think there has been a strong family connection to this land and landscape ever since, that pulls us all back when we stray too far!
Families can provide love, build you up and keep you safe, but families can also be a place of possibly the greatest harm, abuse and fear. I have lived a lifetime undoing the abuse by my family, unfortunately the impact of the abuse still impacts me today and has caused my disability.
I now have my own family and can see how fantastic they can be. I wish my parents and sister could have felt the same way but they will never know how amazing a loving family can be. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Sorry – it’s a poem (and I wrote it). Unforgivable.
Let your family
Be something good,
Open and warm,
Not ruled by blood,
And, large or small,
Let your arms hold.
Work hard inside,
It’s not who you are born to, it’s who you connect with as you become your own person in the world. It’s not big gestures or declarations – it’s the quiet hum in the background of every day, and the knowledge that no matter what happens there is always someone who cares.
Sibling relationships can be very hard. Family is a very different experience for each individual. If you are younger or older or the favourite or not. My sister and I although on some levels we were close there was a constant battle. She was very gelous of me. She hated that I had taken parental attention away from her. She told me I was not allowed to do things. Things I liked doing. I probably was very annoying and wanted to do whatever she was doing. I wanted to be more grown up like her. So it was an oppresibe toxic relationship for both of us.
The photo I have posted I feel sums it up pergectly . 🤣
In a family you don’t always have to be nice. You won’t be shut out if you aren’t palatable. I often wish I could be nicer to my family. But niceness takes a lot of energy and family is the only place I don’t feel obligated to perform it all the time.
My Grandma was precious. She was fiery and spiky, she loved to laugh, she was sensitive and proud. She had passed the 11-plus as a child but her parents couldn’t afford the grammar school uniform. This and other humiliations meant that on her watch none of her pack, of her people, would ever have to endure that experience and those feelings and she would work and work and work to make sure we could all go as far as our abilities allowed.
I went to her house every Sunday from when I was a baby to when I went to university at 18. There was a period when I was about four when my Mom and my Grandma fell out and to punish my grandma, I was kept away. I remember being in my bedroom and crying at the window because I longed for her. I longed to sit cuddled next to my Grandad as he told me the same stories about his sisters and his Mom and Dad which he had done every week. I longed for the smell of their house after their Sunday roast. I longed for the heat of the gas fire which was always on full in the front room and lightly toasted everyone’s polyester clothes.
I’m grateful now for that horrible enforced separation because I was then doubly grateful for every story-telling, kit-Kat eating, weak-tea drinking Sunday after that.
I keep her photograph on my wall at home now. I talk about her all the time and when I’m with my step-children, talking to them, listening to them, it’s her love that flows through me, mixes with my love and is given to them. I’m so grateful that I have people to pass her love on to. It was fierce love and it demands to be felt in the most wonderful, life-giving way.
That absence of a long-lost grammar school uniform has meant so many people have had so much support and now have so many qualifications. Thank you, Grandma.
Every unique life in my family is so very precious ,We have ups and downs but with love, trust and compassion we travel through life together sharing our journeys and overcoming any obstacles thrown in our paths head on as a collective ,Everything we do is based on love,,kindness ,empathy and gratitude .
As a child I dreaded losing my family. As a teen I could not wait to get away from its ties and restrictions. My sister felt the same, and for the next 60 years we shared a home together, though we still loved and cared about our family until they died. Five years ago this month my sister died, and I now have no relatives, live alone and am in my mis nineties. Lonely? Well sometimes when I have been out and about and there is no one to welcome me back. Otherwise I am not lonely, I have my church which is my family, and a wonderful circle of neighbours and friends, both locally and in the many places I have lived and worked..I have cancer and this has shown me again how loving and caring people can be. Basically we are good, and I feel richly blessed.
My mum will be 94 this year and people frequently comment on how much younger she seems. She’s interested in fashion, always looks trendy and loves company. She smiles and laughs a lot! My relationship with her has changed / improved over the years. My Dad died 2 years ago. Despite the obvious grief and trauma associated with his death, she now seems free to express what she thinks and feels. Although he was caring, my Dad was a very dominating, controlling character. Everything was on his terms. He died at 90 and developed Alzheimer’s in his last few years. He was my hero until late teens, when my child-like relationship with him changed and I began to see him more from an adult point of view. I became aware of his controlling nature, and the way he dominated my mum. Their relationship and his personality is the reason why I never wanted to marry / live with someone in a long term relationship..
However, in my early 30’s I did marry (and still am married). We have two wonderful, kind, caring sons. Relationships with my siblings have changed in various ways over the years, but although spread across the country and the world, we remain connected.
We love countryside and a simple life.. We love to sing and teĺl stories. Our history is complex . We are not monetary rich but rich in our care for each other.
It was while waiting outside the delivery room of the hospital on the night my first daughter was born that I had a sudden realisation of what it had been like for my parents to have watched me grow up and eventually leave not just their home but move thousands of miles away … the pain and worry I had put them through, the ups and downs, the happiness and joy. But most of all the sheer intensity of the love it is possible to feel for another human. My life and my view of the world changed forever in that moment.
My family, my family isn’t blood. It’s the people who have been there and supported me in everyway possible. They are the people I go to if I have a problem. They are the ones I rely on. When I’m down and need a hand it them that has it. Its my foster carer’s (all 5 of them). Especially my last foster carer who taught me to grab every opportunity in life no matter what. She taught me that our past doesn’t define our future.
I am one of 7 children Cornish ethnicity and through the relationships we have added talent, colour and diversity to the family. I am particularly proud of my Newphew Jordan Charles (@jazzyjords) and his partner Gracie Blessing (@gracieblessingart_) who are both performers. Gracie is a poet and love her work.
For me now, family is watching my parents age. Seeing them become so ill and vulnerable is very painful.
When I think of family, I think of us playing games together. We always have, through all the generations and new branches, and we still do. Charades, Monopoly, RPGs, escape rooms, cards, Jenga. Whether it’s my Grandma’s terrible soreness at losing, my Dad’s famous, “That’s what I said. Gladiator,” during charades. (It was Troy) or my son-in-law’s introduction to the wider family being a game of ring toss onto inflatable antlers worn by my brother. We love a good game!
In a family there is a driver. When that driver no longer exists, much of the family tries to grab hold of the wheel, making them swerve and screech from side to side, and almost crash. Perhaps it is only when everybody has a grasp of the wheel that it begins to work properly again, or perhaps it is when everybody let’s go. I’m yet to find out.
Family is both unconditional love and unfortunately, sometimes hate. The luck of the draw decides which. Maybe a bit of both. Family is secrets and muffled chaos hidden from the outside world, but sometimes it explodes and leaks out of the walls of your home. Everyone takes on a different role in the family- protector, teacher, entertainer, provider. Family is choosing new additions.
I never had a strong, constant, traditional sense of ‘family’. However the most beautiful and painful thing that ever happened to me is a perfect example of what it means to be family. I lost my second baby in pregnancy. My then 81 year old stoic Grandad sobbed on the phone with me. I had never heard him cry before. The oldest generation mourning for the tiny life of the youngest.
I’ve learnt the unconditional love I feel for a few members of my family is also there for some of my friends. The love I should’ve had for some family members is instead poured into them. I have ‘family’ all over the world now, and they fill my soul with more love than I ever thought possible.
Ps. Lemn. you take on some of those above roles for people all over the world. People you don’t even know. People straight out of care & perhaps those with a ‘different’ family. By sharing your pain you have freed thousands of people from theirs. I hope you know how universally loved you are
There’s me, my husband and our 2 wonderful adopted children
Family fluctuates along your life’s journey.. members leave, members arrive, it constantly changes and somewhere along that journey you realise that family isn’t just about blood but includes those you choose as part of your family and you are chosen to become part of other families…
My family were not there for me. I sought out other families but of course they can never live up to what we are told a family is and so I have spent my life constantly searching.
My home is your home.
Family is a state of mind- that says these people are always worth the trouble. Some of these are born family and others become family. Those people about whom we say ‘she’s more like a sister than a friend’- this is because they’ve crossed that line of trust.
My family are my reason to keep going. They surround me with love.
Family is some of our most difficult but important and ultimately precious encounters with the world.
I have two older sisters. The three of us never seemed to learn to communicate between us. I was very lonely at home growing up. Over the years we have tried to get closer at times but with the death of my mum recently, communication has broken down almost completely and I suddenly find I have no family at all. It makes me sad to realise this.
Family should be a safe place and isn’t always. But parts can be rebuilt with courage. It can take half a century but the love can come through again when it’s truly needed.
My Granny Mary –
tan tights over bandaged legs,
Dad called her ‘Red Rum.’
Family is everything. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Having lost both parents by early adulthood, I believe family extends beyond sharing the same name, bloodline and genes. For many, it has to. When there is no family living close by, friends bridge the gap. We meet partners and have children but remain as one network. This is definitely the case for me. I believe family are those you share the load of life with at any age.
For me family is about unconditional love. It doesn’t matter what mistakes are made, their is no judgement just support, understanding and love. Having a safety net and knowing someone will always be there for you, catching you when you fall, fighting your corner when you face life’s struggles and celebrating your achievements.
Disparate parts of a whole
Some you choose
Some you don’t
Blood ties unnecessary
No matter how dysfunctional
Square pegs fit round holes
Lives shared through
Love and loss
All feel grief
All feel joy
Harry Unsworth 64 ½
The family I was born into likes to say they’re there for each other, we take lots of pictures and say lovely things, but I didn’t feel like I was a part of a family at all until I had my child. Family is sometimes a word people use to avoid putting any effort in.
My Granny Mary –
tan tights over bandaged legs,
Dad called her ‘Red Rum.’
Family hurts or maybe I should rephrase that – loss of family hurts. After losing my mum at 12 years and my dad at 18, my family shattered.
With no living grandparents, and aunts uncles living in New Zealand and Canada, there was no family to catch me. I am the youngest of four, and my brothers and sister had left home years before, I was alone.
Friends became my family. And years later I am now 50, friends still are my family. My siblings and I are now in touch, although the relationships are still pretty difficult. I guess our model of family had been ripped apart, early on and those scars remain. My experiences were very different from theirs.
I’ve missed mum and dad all these years however I am mainly at peace with it now. The loss of my family has enabled me to become a therapist and help people with the loss of theirs.
Family is full of contradictions, the light, laughter, warmth and safety. The clash of personalities, points of view, and petty arguments. Banter, shared history although remembered differently by each individual. Family is not just blood it’s your people the ones you meet along the way and pull into the fold. Family is a weird but special place., it has elements of love, beauty, duty, competition and compassion.
My Mum died last year and the grief comes in waves however nothing prepared me for how life would become and continue to unfold without the presence of an earthly Mother. A sort of reclamation of self. Reclaiming Ruth. Mothers, I was once told (thank you Maria) , are the CEO’s of a family. I now mother without a mother… rest peacefully Mom 💚💚
My family is complicated. We love each other very much but we struggle to offer each other care and nurturing. There’s generational trauma that gets in the way. It’s hard to come to terms with the hole that’s never really going to be be filled with the kind of love I think I need. Though I can be grateful for knowing in our own ways we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got x
Family is memories of people never forgotten, their names and stories. Family is my happy place, full of laughter, “do you want a brew?” and big strong hugs. Family is taking turns getting the vegetables from the pan and asking anyone if they “want some more gravy?” Family is my favourite thing. A support network as strong and intricate as a spider’s web.
Every day I realise how brave and inspirational my parents were to emigrate from India to England in the 70s. And every day I see how brave and inspirational my teenage mixed race children to grow up in today’s mad, mad world of political, social and environmental challenge. Every generation and all their experiences matter, we should learn from them all.
With love and patience we can make a difference to a member of our family. If they know you are there for them without judgement it can help them fight their demons with you walking alongside and giving support
It can be hard to learn this but as a parent you have to step up.
Our father and mother have instilled values of human rights and equality. We are all public servants, working to improve communities. We all argue with each other, and fiercely defend and love one another. We are very close. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Our father and mother have instilled values of human rights and equality. We are all public servants, working to improve communities. We all argue with each other, and fiercely defend and love one another. We are very close.
I was lucky enough to have two great grandmas at birth and to have visited my great grandads war grave in Couin France. My grandparents I simply loved and we couldn’t have done without when my mum died young , but my dad …well he was the best dad to me & my younger brother and then became the best grandad. Family is very important to me it means love and with that also brings heartache. #TheJanuaryChallenge
The older generation is stuffy, typically white British and clumsily racist and sexist. The middle generation is split between an image obsessed (but lonely) social media obsessive and an academic trying to change social work (fighting Conservatives). The younger generation is bright…hopeful and energetic. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My dad died when i was 23. He and i were able to have a chat together 2 days before he died. He said that being a dad was the highlight of his life (he was adopted and had had a pretty good upbringing). He said he realised that he realised as a parent you never quite see where your parenting has gone. If you do it right your kids have you as a safe space so dont always show you their best side. Like a wall you lean on because its there, its solid and dependable. You kick against it and it gives you feedback. He said you see the result of your parenting as your kids go off and show themselves to the world in all their human glory.
I miss my dad immensely. His spark, his energy, wisdom and all of his human traits that made me hate him as a teenager. He was my wall. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Polly May TODD
Family is where our parents used to say to us as children “don’t fight with your brother or sister, they will be your best friend” fast forward to today, we all remain close and connected. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Sometimes not what your born into but what you make. Sometimes what you’re born into you need to work at ❤ #TheJanuaryChallenge
For me family is about strength, love, hope, encouragement and most of all Love. But it’s also about sadness, heartbreak, frustration, forgiveness and acceptance.
In 2019 I lost my Dad, he was man so full of love and great joy, with a few inappropriate jokes a long the way. A colourful character with crazy patterned suits and a car full of stickers, his essence was joy and man he liked to spread that stuff everywhere he went.
I’m the 3rd child in a family of 4, my sister and I were very much a tag team throughout the weeks, leading up to my fathers death. (It still feels hard to write those words and believe that they are true) But on the day he passed we were all together, all of us in the same room. Even my mother who had split with my Dad some years before. My sister felt she couldn’t be present, but Dad held on for her and while she was stood in the doorway he took his last breath. I was holding him because I didn’t want him to feel scared and over the years his embrace had my comfort and my strength so many times. Incredibly sad yet incredibly beautiful.
Losing my father was/is such an immense feeling of grief, you actually feel that a piece of you is gone, missing and you know you’ll never be the same. The world is a little less joyful. Yet you also grow, you reflect, think and you change. Not in a bad way but in a way that really makes you embrace life for all that it is, you grow confidence to speak out, you contemplate your own mortality. Losing my father made me want to live for him. Grief doesn’t go away but you accept that you’re different now, you learn to accept and manage your low days. Allow those tears to come when ever they need to, it’s just all the love you feel. My Dad did everything in life to keep his family together, it was the most important thing to him. I feel it’s our job now to live his legacy, all such different characters but all loved and accepted for who they are. Our weird and wonderful family is strength. #TheJanuaryChallenge
On the surface my family looks respectable with one or two “bad eggs”. My parents were hard working, they have strong values and have been married my whole life. However, my family carries generational trauma, we are divided, hurt and angry, for some of us their trauma from belonging to our family has ruined their wellbeing, their ability to parent, their health, their relationships with others. I remember once asking, why is it that our family is so messed up? Why cant we have a normal family? My parent replied “behind every closed door is dysfunction, only some are better at hiding it than others. We are normal”. I resented that answer, i saw people at school, wealth, two involved parents, siblings, friendships, they were the happy and smiling kids in school. You couldnt tell me that we were the same as them. Over the years the fractures have become severed bones. I am pretty much alone, only dipping into family when theres a crisis or im needed. I know im loved by them, and i do love some of them but i cant show it to them and i cant cope with day to day life with them. I work with children now and sometimes i see it in their faces, they feel that i must come from one of those families that were perfect. How else could i be sitting in their home, making decisions about their family? Sometimes i find ways to share that families all have their secrets and struggles. Dont judge a book by its cover I say! I wonder if they accept that idea better than i did as a child… #TheJanuaryChallenge
This is my Family #TheJanuaryChallenge
Our family was brought together by adoption. To the outside world we look like we don’t belong together, but we do. #TheJanuaryChallenge
When I lost my mum and dad in middle age I felt like I’d been cast adrift and the pain was so strong and never really leaves you but does fade. But I was lucky I have a husband and two kids and it brought us closer and strangely more time together in our little unit. For years our family has also included friends who are closer than blood relatives. And our kids call them Aunty and Uncle. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Family is like your body. You’re born with and into it and stays with you forever. You have to nurture it and be kind but also sometimes work really hard on it. Family is unconditional love which manifests itself in a plethora of ways. #TheJanuaryChallenge
I grew up in the 1950s. My parents parted when I was five and I never saw my mother again. #TheJanuaryChallenge
We laugh together, spend time together and celebrate the small things. #TheJanuaryChallenge
For me it is identity, running through my veins and back through time, holding me and reminding me who I am. It is who and what I am made of and is possibility, the potential to live and grow. I bury down into those roots and project to the stars. #TheJanuaryChallenge
Perfectly imperfect. #TheJanuaryChallenge
How confusing it is, even as a grandmother, to be an adopted person. #TheJanuaryChallenge
My family, my chosen family, as Armistead Maupin says, are my world. They live in a little lifeline of group chat in my pocket. They are my strongest believers, my champions and are by my side forever. I never take the luckiness of having them for granted, as we laugh, cry and rage in those tiny text boxes from our far flung corners. Thank goodness for internet. Thank you Tim Berners-Lee, I owe you my sanity.
I just wanted to talk about my maternal grandparents and my own parents and how they met etc.
My Grandfather was Murray Thurston Titus (1885-1964) and Olive Glasgow Titus (1884-1967) . They were American Methodist missionaries who first went out to India in 1910. Murray was born in the small town of Batavia , near Cleveland , Ohio and my grandmother nearby in Ohio.
Apart from their home leaves of one every eight years they remained in India until 1955 when ill health forced them to retire.. Their work took them to Lucknow, Bijnor, Moradabad,Hardoi and Budaun.
My grandfather while working for PhD spent time in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1930 he published “ Indian Islam: A Religious History of Islam in India”
My mother Carol (1924-2017) was born in Naini Tal, India. She married my fatherwho was Donald Hardy (1912-1977) . My father was born in Middlesbrough and went out to India in 1935 in a career in The Indian Civil Service ( British Raj) . My parents married in February 1946 in Nagpur India. My parents left India in 1947 and subsequently my father took a position in the Colonial Service out in what was then the Gold Coast (now Ghana) . My two older brothers were born in Accra and Kumasi respectively. In 1955 my parents came to live in Cambridge in England where my father had a post at Selwyn College. He then decided to become ordained into the Church of England and became a parish priest near Cambridge until his death in 1977.
I was born in 1963.
My family is a mixed family beautifully combined where the words step, foster, half just mean welcomed into my family
We are a family of five, one child has a step dad, one child is adopted and one child has two birth parents. We know you can love differently but equally .
2 + 2 = 4, heartbreak and hearts full of joy. Tears of dispare and tears of love.
I live with my wife and foster daughter. We’ve all had experiences of being let down by birth family and struggle with the word. sometimes we prefer to call ourselves a team. We make a good team
At 62 I ‘ve found a way to live alongside my Mum without worrying what she thinks or trying to understand her. I have realised and accepted that I have no emotional attachment to her, no sense of belonging and that this is OK. I can be the dutiful daughter and I can respect her wishes, ensure her life is comfortable and do anything required to help her. The relief is enormous.
My mother was of the task based generation, where time management was crucial and all tasks had measurable outcomes, preferably visual. Shining the step with red polish, sheets out to dry before work, windows cleaned, children bathed and fed.
Parenting was also task based. My sister and I were kept in line with stern looks and threats hissed through gritted teeth. We didn’t question it. Nothing was negotiable. We were fed, bathed, sent to school and taken to visit grandparents every other weekend. A lost Thank you or a missed please were jumped on, vanity was frowned upon and ‘lying was the ultimate sin resulting in early bedtimes and loss of freedom. As we grew older her world was still very black and white, judgements came thick and fast and my kids were wary of her. Disappointments made for tense family get togethers and my sister retreated into the shadows 15 years ago. I remained struggling to understand her take on the world, her relationship with Dad and the overwhelming outpouring of emotion she lavished on the dog.
So I have now accepted it and I am grateful not to follow in her footsteps, to have showered my kids with affection and to have given them freedom to make their own mistakes but above all, I have engaged with life, sort things that challenge and questioned routine reactions where she sits behind high walls with few visitors ‘nursing her wrath to keep it warm’
A First born’s story
I am the firstborn of five siblings. I grew up moving from place to place in Ethiopia because my mother was a teacher and needed to move around because of her career and family. My father and mother died when I was 16 and 17 respectively. They left behind a 7, 9,13, 15 and 17 year olds behind. since then, and way earlier than this, I have been responsible for raising my siblings. As a first born, I was my mother’s helping hand. Thank my mom for influencing me to be an independent and strong woman. I became a teacher following her footsteps and that meant I was able to provide for my siblings. We nested under a small roof, relieved that we did not disintegrate, attended school, held each other’s hands through the bad and the ugly and survived the orphanage. I attended continued education, my siblings finished school and completed some post secondary.
Life is full of turns and twists. I started my own family 13 years ago and immigrated to Canada following my husband who studied here. I had to make a tough decision leaving my two younger brothers behind(my two sisters were adults by then). They were attending the last year of high school.
As a firstborn, I accepted the mother figure life has made me to become. Though my younger sisters and a half sister decided to take on the responsibility of supporting my brothers when I moved to Canada, it’s not been easy for me to leave them behind. With the pain of settling in a new country, I also felt that I abundoned my siblings. I left my job backhome and I had a baby in 6 weeks after arriving in Canada. So I don’t have any income to support them. Even after I started earning income after a year of arriving in Canada, marriage meant supporting the new family and making compromises- I was not able to help. I suffered silently: always worried about my siblings, instead of being grateful for my food, I often cried imagining my siblings going hungry. I was not satisfied with the very minimal financial support we were able to provide. I often say to myself I am a firstborn and there is a heavy weight on my shoulders. My husband is a last born and his philosophy in providing financial assistance is completely different. So I felt like nobody will understand me. Not my husband, not my children, not my family backhome. Everyday, every moment, every meal makes me think of my siblings. I always tried to crack what I can to help with the university, medical expenses or life expenses. But I objectively know that I am not doing close to enough. Now, is a firstborn’s marriage supposed to be tough because of all this ? I left my siblings behind, but not the responsibility, not my unconditional love, not my commitment to their success until death do us part.
This meant though, working so hard to change things in my life, arguments, negotiations, …so much more. This meant, my marriage is struggling, our love is rotting under the rug! I felt incapacitated. Life for me becomes continuously contemplating divorce, always wanting to help but not able to, living like one leg in and one leg out, not being able to fully settle, bitterness.
The saddest part since my mother’s passing has been loosing one of my brothers in January 2020. He has been unwell for a while. I prayed, hoped and thought that death will give us some time, at least to try our best. In the 12 years I have been away, I only visited my family two times and spent time with my brother in hours. He has been working so he has not been available during the day, I had to move around to visit family and friends. When I saw him after his illness, I knew that he was really unwell. I cried, he told me not to cry or he will leave me. I took him to a public hospital, the day before I came back to Canada, with my three little ones and visiting others everywhere, I didn’t get enough time to spend with him. I pleaded for more time but I was unsuccessful. We did nothing really in the one day we had at the hospital. They referred him elsewhere. I also told my siblings to facilitate a referral so we can fundraise for him to get medical help abroad. I advised him to follow up and update me. I knew then, unless he gets advanced treatment, things might get worse. Despite my daily prayers, a year after I saw him, I learned that he is gone, gone too early(at 30) before he started living, death beat my plans and I felt God abondend me. What happened to my worry and my prayers? Why?He is gone, I was not on his side, I heard his passing just like that and I am living on! January 12,2020, I was 8 months pregnant, March 2020 Covid-19 shutdown! He has no idea that I didn’t even bereave with my siblings yet and I don’t know when I will be going. As if I didn’t hold him in the pocket of my heart since he was a baby, as if my dairy is not full of his name, as if I didn’t fight for him, he is gone and I am here. The last messenger text he sent me says thank you to my two children then and me and my husband.
Now I am living with the agony of grief: losing a brother I raised like my child, not being able to find him better treatment, shame for not being rebellious enough to save him, shame for being too submissive to my life and anger for facing all this alone. I realized that as much as I am grieving him, I am grieving my own life. I felt that I gave up on matters very dear to my heart got my family to stay in tact and I am living the consequences. Regret, loss of interest in life and purpose, remorse and deep pain and sadness.
I keep my brother in my heart and soul every day and every moment. The weight of his loss feels like I am carrying a crocodile in my belly and this beast is waiting to swallow me. It’s roar would deafen me, it’s move would crash me, it’s spit would poison me but yet I am carrying it, I am cuddling it until death do us part.
A firstborn’s burden! I couldn’t save my mother because I was too young and had nothing to help with. She died of illness and poverty at 38. I couldn’t save(at least) try to save my brother because I had to give in to the will of my marriage. The next and last tragedy will be my younger sister who is struggling in poverty with three young children and who in fact had to care for and bury my mother and brother as I was away both times. I am a first born living with remorse, lifelong burden, shame and guilt. I grieve alone, I might die sad!
Family is home. Wherever they are, whenever they are with me, I’m home.?
I wish I’d spoken to my mum about her heartbreak. She wrote it all down; several times. I read and I feel her pain, the torment, the disappointment and mental anguish. I wished I’d been there for her, but now she’s gone. I hope she knows.
We are a fostering family, our hearts are bigger than we ever knew!
We have grown our family with a small, funny, cheeky, girl who challenges us with all that she has been through, she however also makes me and my heart so proud of everything she achieves everyday!
It’s just me and pickle. But there’s enough love to give some to the rest of the world
Just into the ambulance Dad looked at me and said “You are harming children”. His eyes flitting away and back, he said it twice. It was the only madness of the journey away from his hometown to his care home: this thing he didn’t want to happen. “Errors” – he talks of making errors, like this cruel disease is punishment. Our family overthinks, overanalyses, lets the fear grow roots in the cracks of doubt. Fear is the most debilitating force in our family. It shrinks courage and it shrinks possibility. Our family has held onto a misconception that mental ill-health is a luxury or a punishment. My grandmothers held grief and shame close to their hearts in harsh times, until they became confused with love.
I think in my view, family is the smallest unit of a country population . In other word, family is the foundation of any community,society or the country as a whole. So to have good family is to have good citizens in any given country.
Family is complex, confusing, childish, defensive, quick to judge, vicious, hard, dismissive and rejecting.
Our family is a kinship family, we have 4 grandchildren we are guardians for, as hard as it is we would not change having them,.it can be stressful but it’s also full of so much love and laughter too. X
Much of our family has been broken without realising. It has trickled down like a leaking pipe collecting at the bottom. I am the puddle, the flood, the crumbling walls of the years of it. I am drying out, recasting the foundation onto solid ground, replacing all the rot and pipe work and dodgy electrics to finally make a home that is safe. It is not my family’s fault. But I have splinters in my hands and plaster thick like sand under my nails from scratching at the walls and clinging from the gutter. The house is heavy with it, and I am not a plumber, plasterer, carpenter, electrician. I am only me, their blood in my veins and trying to make peace with it.
Some people’s houses
Have no love, like a desert.
Mine’s a rain forest
Family is love, struggle and resolution, unconditional, expanding and contracting, safety net and launch pad, rest, joyful, celebration and commiseration, compassion, always evolving
Family is complicated. My daughter is adopted and has many siblings whom are also adopted. She sometimes asks if she’ll get a new mummy because of all the change she’s experienced. She is constantly testing the attachment. But family is strength, grit and determination, you push yourself to the furthest limits and realise you’re capable of so much.
Family is standing up for someone, hearing things you don’t want to hear but sticking by them no matter what. Family is pride, love, and bravery but it’s also tiring and hardwork at times.
My family is a middle class .we are 5 sibling. My mothe age half of My father was government worker.my mother was housewife.i have 3 brother and 1 sister. Due to age difference both my families need different. My mother more moder than father.but he is one of scholar of Orthodox church.
As an Ethiopian diaspora, the pressure of family responsibility when I am supposed to take care of my entire family has been stressful for for last 20 years. This is something we Ethiopians and probably other immigrants suffer with quietly.
And so she lived with the Irish woman in town when her father went away to the mine. She’d dress in her white blouse and have her hair braided into two long pigtails on school days. She liked to learn. She was quick with ciphers and they told her she had beautiful handwriting. The boys sitting behind her never could resist dipping the ends of her long plaits into the ink well, often ruining her blouse. The Irish woman would not believe that she never noticed these shenanigans. “Stop fibbing, Viola” she’d say, “and go and clean your blouse, again.” She’d much rather have been wandering the slopes of Anvil Mountain, collecting alpine flowers, or find some wild rhubarb, outside in the fresh air. She missed her dog. She missed her mother. She missed not feeling so alone.
My paternal grandmother was born in Silverton, Colorado (a mining town at 9k ft elevation, high in the San Juan Mtns) in February of 1908, the only daughter of Italian immigrants who were original settlers of the town. Her mother died when she was 6. She often talked about how she would spend her time as a child, outside, alone on the hillsides, playing with her dog or other animals, amongst the wildflowers. When her father died in 1925 she came east by train to CT to live with her only known relative, her mother’s sister and never returned to her beloved moubtains. But she shared her stories with her grandchildren, and when I had the chance to visit Silverton in 2011, the land knew me, and I knew it. I wished I could have visited with her.
Family is time spent with my brother who played action man and Barbie with me as a child, building parachutes to throw them from the bedroom window and watch them glide to the ground. Family is writing to him every day he was away in the British army looking out for children in far off countries. Family is watching him spend endless hours with my own children recreating joy and wonder. Family is having an adventurer who brought love and compassion to our lives. Family is sharing the grief of loss when he is lost to us and yet seeing him live everyday in others. Family is live, joy, caring, sharing and sometimes loss. But always remembering. If we remember we never truly loose.
My birth family was the centering force of stability and love in my life – something I didn’t fully appreciate until after my parents died in the late 1990’s.
My grandparents are originally from Ireland and the North East of England. My uncles used to work in the coal mine in Boldon Colliery near South Sheilds and Whitley Bay. My grandfather took part in the Jarrow March. My uncle fought in the Korean War. My grandmother lost her husband when she was 51 years old, she remained single and worked two or three jobs at a time. She wallpapered my kitchen when she was 82 years old. She loved Hawaiian music and said she could have written all of Catherine Cookson’s books. She would be very happy to know I have two published poems so far.
I was brought up by my grandmother, and at her funeral I spoke about family being all about shared stories- something I’d heard at a talk by you a few days before. I also spoke about what a cool grandmother she was- staying out later and partying more than me when I was a teenager- much my embarrassment!
I live in Surrey now, but I was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I wrote a poem about all the wonderful memories of my childhood at my Grandparent’s house. It’s called ‘The Lullaby of Wallsend’
Listen very carefully, can you hear that train go by?
That’s the sound of my childhood and I’m about to tell you why.
That mundane monotonous sound might not mean much to you,
But it brings back happy memories to me and all my crew.
My Grandparents lived by the Metro line in the wonderful North East,
Many Sundays spent there while Nana would cook up a feast.
Homemade Yorkshire puddings the best we’d all agree,
Lots of laughter and music and endless cups of tea.
Stottie cakes, horse racing on the telly, Grandad’s strong cigar,
Smells and tastes of my upbringing, the happiest one by far.
Pork and pease pudding sarnies from the butchers down the road,
Family popping over, the conversation always flowed.
Grandad telling stories from when he worked at the local shipyard,
I have so much respect for all those people who laboured so hard.
Holding our breath through the Tyne Tunnel, one of our favourite games.
All the neighbours welcoming, knowing each one of our names.
On the streets armies of black and white kits proud of their local team,
If Newcastle had won the match that day it was every magpies dream.
We’d often stay the night and hear the Metro doors “beep beep”,
That was my sweet lullaby that sent me off to sleep.
My Grandparents may no longer be with us but I will forever have these special memories to keep them alive.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my story.
We have an exhausting dynamic where we always end up ‘fighting’ and it is difficult to be oneself as we misunderstand so often; and yet we have a very close bond, for better or worse. And it is in its own way founded on how passionately we all feel, about love and decency even if on the face of it, it might not seem that way to an outsider or indeed to all of us and often not all at the same time. Sometimes some of us get that we love each other when others don’t!!
When my mother died and I was standing next to her, I thought: now she will never know her father. She was adopted from abroad, knew her mother once she was an adult, but could never trace anything about her Jewish father. I felt so sad for her.
My Grandparents are both from Saint Lucia,
A place that tourism is used ta.
Now I am in the UK I feel all alone;
But for me St.Lucia is a place I call home.
My skin brown like the bark of the tree,
that keeps that soup and the leaves.
Mangos falling all across the streets floor,
My Uncle Mal would always eat one on the sea shore.
I met an aunt of mine in a place called Gros islet gladly,
it was her that showed me a whole tree of family.
I was shocked to see cousins with slanted eyes like mine,
a wide nose like mine and the same precise lip designs.
God is truly good, and I realized we must share the same blood too;
Green fig and salt fish is our national dish, one of few.
every christmas I yearn to spend there as the days lessen,
would you believe we spend the whole day listening to country and western.
The elders dance to Quadrille in Creole printed fine fabrics,
I am a child of Saint Lucian lineage with Saint Lucian habits.
The Patios we speak, outsiders call it “broken French”
and insiders call “the Sulphur springs” an “awoken stench”.
Our landmark is the two pitons that I call Saint Lucia’s podium;
yet not a day goes by that others ask if I am Ethiopian.
My lineage must go back further than I know NASA,
but it explains why I grew up with an affiliation to Rasta!
Families can bring out the best and the worst in you. They are full of love and hate, you need to recognise the latter to ensure they feel the former!
My dad passed away in September last year. He and Mam had been married for 67 years. Yesterday was the first time, since Dad passed, that I saw pure joy in her face again. We are in London visiting her grandchildren (my adult children.) The love is palpable. ❤️
“you don’t know your born”!
That’s how lucky I am. I know, and am so grateful.
A family, freedom, a home and love.
My parents worked hard, doing their best for my brother and me.
Only now I am grown up, I realise the effort.
To care, provide, nurture and guide.
We were blessed. To be close and ok. To be there. Together.
My grandparents were brilliant.
To me, they were love and family itself.
Saturday’s at Nannie Besties. Watching wrestling or snooker on TV. She did the pools. Would take us to Disney if she won .
I remember the smell of tomatoes in the greenhouse. Her soap.
The patterned carpets and her slippers.
Visiting great aunties. Slobbery kiss!
Wipe it off! But so sweet and comfy.
Half term at my grans. SE22. 185 bus., Bacon sandwich, blankets.
The telly had doors?!
The bath was in the kitchen. Joany lived upstairs.
Skate round the park with a pull along dog. watching Why Don’t You and Top of the Pops. Electric blankets. The smell of germoline.
Now they have all passed. Memories so dear. So so lucky.
Here we are now. My parents are old. I’m getting on too – truth be told!
My dad’s in a home. I miss him so much. Mums heart is broken.
We feel guilty and sad.
He is well cared for but alone. No visiting for so long. He is vanishing. Family. We need to be near. To hug and to kiss. To sing and listen and clap along. Comb his hair. Feed him treats. Is he sad without us.?
I pray he is content. His memory is gone. We hang on to ours.
My role is reversed now. They need me to help them
Gladly of course. I owe them the world.
And a family of my own too! I still can’t believe! A husband who loves me, and two beautiful girls.
I hope I am enough. That I am up to the job.
I’m tired and emotional. Scared and in awe.
But so so thankful.
To be loved and to love.
Drive eachother mad of course.
But that’s a sign we care huh?!?
Love is the thing.
Hug, smile. Tell them. Share. Play. Listen.
Our family grew from 2 to 3 in January 2021. Miles has brought such joy and happiness to our extended family after such a difficult year of being apart
My Nanna crocheted a blanket for each of her grandchildren.
Granny was our anchor in turbulent and unpredictable times. My sisters and I would spend a precious week or so of the summer holidays with her and Grandpa. It was kind of like a retreat for us slightly unruly kids – time out of a challenging family life at home. She made proper meals – from scratch – plate pies were a favourite (with gravy of course). We would line up in the yard and she would pass pancakes through the window. She’d also cut our fringe too short, mend our clothes and make us go to the church next door. Thinking about it she’d covered all the bases! She used to take us swimming to an outdoor pool in her wonderful old Volvo that she polished with pledge. We would cry when we had to leave, but her love would sustain us until the next time.
Family, it’s complicated. Isn’t it meant to be where we all go home too? But it’s not, is it? Family is complicated.
I could tell you of the stories, of the lies, of the loves, of the suicides, the children, the adventures, the gardens and the flowers. I could look at the betrayals across the generations of my family or the dedication and love.
Maybe I could ponder my own sense of attachment to family, or my need to break free of its constraints.
I tried to think of one family story to share with Lemn, but I couldn’t. It’s too big to squeeze down into a soundbite. Family it’s complicated, isn’t it?
Perhaps that’s it’s greatest asset.
P.S. I still don’t know if it’s true that we all (girls that is) turn into our mothers and I’m 55. Do boys turn into their dads?
Family is a feeling, a memory. My close family members are no longer here, but I am standing on the shoulders of giants. My family supports me and pushes me upwards. In my family, some are members by blood, others not. My dad, funny, always looking for a laugh (often down the pub), my step dad – so calm and kind. On my mum’s side, a large East End family: my great aunt, foster mother to many; my grandmother, my memories of whom are faded, but who was kind and nurturing, and alive every day in my mother. And my own mum, recently lost, and whose absence is almost unbearable. I include friends in my family – my first boyfriend, not seen for decades, but who helped to shape me nonetheless. My family includes the unknown – the child who was miscarried, and the adopted child my partner and I hope to welcome. My family is evolving – it feels like I have been loved, and I want to pass that feeling on.
I love my family. Sometimes they frustrate me but they are everything to me. I now have twin nieces and I love them so much.
Family is my way of coming back to my sense roots no matter where we all are in the world and however many years later.
My brother and I lost our parents before we were 25. We only have each other now. We have no other family members. That which should have made us close, holding on to each other, in reality made us insignificant and irrelevant. We no longer speak without the glue to hold us tigether.
What a wonderful idea to share thoughts of family – you are welcome to join ours! I
I do have the incredible opportunity of being an identical twin(female). We have two siblings (male). My parents have passed on after a hardworking, simple life that became full of joy for them. We all were brought up near London and later in life all moved on to Sussex. We chose to live very separate lives, but near each other. A family is a responsibility, like THE MOST PRECIOUS JEWEL AND REALISING DURING YOUR NLIFE YOU HAD BEST NOT LOOSE IT !! Where does family stop though? An international organisation called SERVAS – set up to encourage Peace and Friendship worldwide – gives me the opportunity to make everyone like family. With love
Christmas was very special when I was little. My mum, aunt and their cousins would take it in turns to host. Boxing Day was always my favourite as it felt more like a party and all the extended family would be there. Each family member would take their turn to sing, and I remember just watching and taking it all in, and loving it. We don’t do it anymore and I still miss those huge family gatherings with the loud chatter, song, laughter and endless plates of meat and potato pie.
My family on my Father side started in Southern Ireland and then came to England; In the first part of the 20th Century.My Granddad changed his first & last names so he could find work at 14 in the mines of West Yorkshire. Being from Ireland he didnt always find England a welcoming place. He went on to have a large loving family. My own Father, my Grandad’s son who was brought up in Yorkshire emigrated to Australia when he retired, so in my lifetime we have spanned several continents. My Mother’s parents came from Ireland too and settled in Sheffield. One of my Mothers sisters emigrated to Canada in the 1950’s so I now have many cousins and relatives in Canada too.We once had a family gathering on my Mothers side in Sheffield and in the community hall were over a hundred of my relations; all looking very familiar to me. Family means having lots of loving brothers and sisters and many, many cousins. It means never been alone; there is always someone to phone or write to. Family are the ties that bind you to a place and people forever. They are our connection to our past and our future. Growing up our household was noisy and I could never have any space to be alone but I wouldnt change that now. Coming from a large family which travelled for work means that I have an outward positive view of the world and that I dont believe in International borders. I believe that newcomers are just family that we havent met yet! I have friends who I count as part of my family too. I feel very lucky and I cherish my family.
If I visualise a happy, safe space, my brain takes me to my parents kitchen of my childhood home. There, 6 (or more) cats would be settled around the Aga, or on the chairs with at least one dog under the kitchen table. My grandfather would be sitting in a chair, smoking a cheroot, or off to the sitting room to watch ‘Egg Heads’. And tea, always tea. Perhaps the kettle would be on, perhaps the tea would be in the pot, brewing, but it would never be far away. And there, I would sit, and relish the warm mug in my hands, a cat in my lap, and my mother nearby.
When I lived in Canada as a kid every summer my parents, brother and I would go to Algonquin Park, canoeing and camping in the wilderness, with our guide and friend Trevor. One evening my dad was chopping wood and cut his thumb almost clean off. With blood spurting we were left with two options: either leave immediately and canoe through the night to the nearest hospital, or go to sleep and do it in the morning, bandaging his thumb up as best as possible in the meantime. We went with the first option. The five of us packed up our bags and tents, loaded them onto the canoes, and set off.
Through the blood, panic and chaos, we found ourselves paddling up a still lake in the dead of night. All you could hear was the trickle of water falling off the oar with each stroke, and the call of a loon in the distance, as the moonlit mist settled around us. My dad paddling at the back, deliriously exclaiming how beautiful it was and how proud he was of his family pulling together when it was needed. It ended up being one of our favourite memories.
I miss my family back in Manchester and Kent, but I love my smaller family here in Northern Ireland too.
I feel blessed to have more than one place to call home.
Family is not anchored in a place it’s a feeling of safety and love. And I’m lucky to have been loved by family members around the globe.
Love in a Shoebox
Every New Yorker of my generation has an Aunt Gladys.
Mine was big, beautiful and never short of an opinion or two. She never married, and my brothers and I became her surrogate children. She regularly took us on thrilling outings – to the Bronx Zoo, to Broadway shows, days out at the amusement park at Coney Island, and the like. When she died at the age of 86, I assumed responsibility for clearing her apartment. Believe me, this was no small task. Gladys’s apartment was pretty much a Black Hole – nothing that entered ever left. I chanced upon a shoebox at the back of a wardrobe. It contained a collection of old love letters, amongst which were six blue envelopes held together with a rubber band. These revealed the story of a short courtship that took place between November 1945 and January 1946 in the Greenpoint neighbourhood of Brooklyn, where Gladys was born and grew up.
The letters were from a G.I. who had recently returned from the Pacific conflict and spotted Gladys helping out in our family candy store/newsagent/soda shop. Apparently smitten at first sight, ‘Bob’, who didn’t want to embarrass the young Gladys who he thought too beautiful not to have a boyfriend, wrote her a letter of introduction. Subsequent letters revealed that they spoke on the phone a few times and eventually went to a movie where they held hands. His letters, long and with beautiful penmanship and not a single crossing out, were written in the ‘Brooklynese’ of the time and in Damon Runyon-like prose that jumped off the page – befitting the New York Daily News tabloid journalist that Bob was. The letters tell the story, not just of a courtship, but also of his bitterness about the war. He writes:
“Go ahead sucker pick up that 60-pound pack and that rifle. Chase the Jap, dodge bullets, run, bleed, suffer, die, put your young life on the line for 50 bucks a month. Go ahead dope, sweat, fight for that democracy stuff they scream about back home, live, and sleep in mud and see dead men all around you, hear your heart thump and break out in a cold sweat as you stand your ground to meet the Jap at close quarters as they come screaming crazily into your lines, age 100 years in one night, sucker!”
In his sixth and final letter, we find that Gladys has “dumped” him, claiming that she felt guilty as she was still corresponding with a boyfriend who had not yet returned from the war. Here we find Bob to be distraught, seemingly suicidal. He has quit his job, he says, as he can now see no future for himself and no point in carrying on.
Was Gladys telling the truth? I think not. My wife, upon reading the letters, immediately said “Gladys was spinning a yarn”.
What makes us think so, you may well ask. Quite simply, it is inconceivable that Gladys’s parents, my grandparents, would have ever been allowed to have a relationship with Bob if they had known about him. And why not? One simple clue: my grandparents were very religious orthodox Jews, and included amongst the small cache of Bob’s letters was a Christmas card along with his photograph.
No New York Jew would ever have sent anyone a Christmas card – probably not now and most certainly not in 1945!
We are a mixed parentage family of 5 – Paul, Jackie, Harvey, Maddie and Ethan. We live in Norwich and have been here for 19 years.
Summer holidays in West Cork. Each family member is represented ; either in the frame My dad and i ,or by my sisters reading book ,my brothers fishing rod and the smile we are giving the photographer ,My mum!
Carefree memories we all share
That keep us together despite our grown up varying paths!
A packet of Quavers evokes such a powerful memory for me.
My parents got arranged marriage in Sri Lanka in the early 1960’s. My mother was 19yrs and my dad 26yrs. They never met before the wedding day. My mother was the eldest child of 5 other siblings. My mother wanted to continue education but that wasn’t allowed.
My parents came to the UK and had 4 children a year apart starting in 1965. My father was a heavy smoker, drinker and ate meat. My mother a non smoker non drinker and vegetarian. My father was very violent to all of us as an alcoholic. My mother got night shift work and other jobs to help feed us.
Unfortunately the violence started straight away. My mother begged her parents in Sri Lanka to help but they couldn’t do anything. Both her parents died within months of each other tragically leaving her siblings as orphans and her helpless to support them given her own terrible situation with husband and 4 small kids – no money -violence – strange country.
Growing up we never had parties or went on holiday and friends and family mainly shunned us.
On Mother’s Day one year my father drank so much we again had to all leave the house. My mother couldn’t drive so we walked everywhere. He fell and hit his head at home. He was found by a relative and taken to hospital. We didn’t realise he was taken to a mental institution for 6 months and they did a front lobal lobotomy. He changed when he came out and didn’t drink again but his personality changed and acted as a tramp picking up cigarette butts in the street. We as children pretended he wasn’t our father when we saw him.
Anyway a memory is my mother taking us four children to the corner shop to get bottle of whiskey for my father as she was forced to. We enjoyed being out of the house and a real treat for us was a bag of quavers as we were often very hungry. We loved quavers. It was special. Bittersweet memory. I buy quavers for my daughter and tell her this. She has no idea. Thank god. Fortunately me and my siblings have all done well in life. My father died 2003. My mother is still alive and well. Quavers is such a gift.
Desperately trying to plot a route back to the UK to be reunited with my family this summer.
You don’t choose your family and as a child you don’t have any say in how family dynamics operate. Many kids have aspects of their family life they would not choose. As a teacher I’m aware of just how many kids have challenging family circumstances and often no one to turn to to alleviate those circumstances.
As a child I did get frustrated with my parents specially my Dad who influenced my educational choices in a direction I would not have chosen if left to myself. As an adult I realised how lucky I had been as this was pretty much the only negative aspect of my upbringing. Yes, there were arguments, differences of opinion and sometimes more serious clashes but overall our relationships were positive.
My parents were non practising Jews, politically very active – left of course – culturally very inclusive and had a large social circle that included my aunts, uncles and cousins. My sister and I had the freedom of playing in a neighbourhood bombed site with other local kids, were often taken to the theatre and musical events, encouraged to engage in political activities, to form our own friendships and bring home any of those friends.
I was the first one in the family to marry a non -Jewish boy, my parents welcomed him into the family and gave us the biggest wedding celebration party. Some of my aunts and uncles were not so happy about me marrying ‘out’ but it did eventually help my deaf cousin when he chose a non -Jewish girl to marry.
We moved to Brighton when my husband got a job there and bought our house because it had a very large – for Brighton – garden and a four car two story garage. Eventually we had the garage converted and my in laws moved in. Some years later my father -in -law died but my mother -in -law stayed on living in the garage. A couple of years later my husband died very suddenly. My mother -in -law was very domineering and tried hard to influence how I lived my life. I wasn’t complicit and when she had the opportunity, she moved out to live near her daughter.
My son moved into the garage very soon after she left. Twenty years later he is still there with his partner and three lovely daughters. Again, an overall very positive relationship that we both work to maintain. I wish that were true for all the kids I’ve worked with and children everywhere.
My family and I have had our ups and downs. We have fallen out, not spoken, made up again, shouted and screamed at each other, but the love is still there and always will be.
When I was 8, my ma left my da, taking my sister and I early one morning while he was sleeping,, leaving my eldest 3 siblings who were later in their teens and at a stage where leaving for 200 miles away would have been disruptive. Let’s just say he and whisky didn’t agree.
In those days (the 80’s) there was no internet, mobile ma didn’t exist and we made do with occasional calls to a red telephone box.
All these years later, we continue to get on like a house on fire, perhaps partly shaped by or even because of these events.
Initially I was angry in my teens and throughtout my 20′. Over time I’ve come to realise that being in your 20’s and having 5 kids and not a lot of money would have been tough in those days and it’s far too easy to pass judgment. . Better to have empathy.
Family to me means being there through thick and thin.
Family is the people you choose to love, whether they share blood with you or not.
When there were thunderstorms at night, we’d be woken up and given chocolate. Just a gentle tap to wake us up, a coin of chocolate during the storm and then off to bed.
My parents separated when I was young. I remember crying myself to sleep shortly after, as I found a postcard of a sheep that my Dad had sent me when he had been away when I was a baby. But then I did get to go shopping and choose a new duvet set, to 6 year old me that was healing. I am so fortunate that now, 32 years later, my parents remain friends with each other.
I am living at home again now, with my mum and dad. None of us sleep well because we are all anxiously listening out in case one of us is unwell in the night. If one person goes to the loo the other two are then awake on tenterhooks for the next 15 mins. None of us discuss it. It’s sad and also sweet.
Jason Manford (by Lemn Sissay)
It’s Lemn Sissay here. I saw Jason Manford’s tweet about family and I asked him if I could post it on this site. He replied “Of course brother”. So here it is.
My father moved over from India as a child in the 60s, and grew up in Crawley as the eldest of 5 children. He married my mother, a white woman, after they met at Cambridge. Though my grandparents didn’t approve of the marriage and did not attend the wedding, over the years things have softened and our family is gorgeous and mixed and so full of love. We have people from all faiths and all backgrounds in our wonderful chaos and I love every bit of it.
Dad arrived in the 70s in Teesport from Cape Verde one day. An intelligent ships navigator, big hair and big flares. Influencer James Brown.
Not much of that in Middlesbrough then. Met Mam with big hair and skinny jeans (she’d faint in them). Her brothers had big hair and flares, but they were ‘accepted’ in a unique Middlesbrough.
Mams family were proper –
Town centre, Over the Border, Grove Hill. Doors always left open and sat on the front. Life changing stuff happened on those fronts. Monney borrowed, children fed, children stayed over neighbours… sometimes for decades.
My Nanna took ‘kids in’ and ‘made things right’. She protected her own and everyone elses. She watched snooker on the black and white TV. Knew every colour but hated that little young spotty player Steven Hendrie -easy Nanna, easy…
Allsorts of ‘can’t mentions’ happening all the time and not just the crime but the time that it took for somebody to look at what needed to change in family.
1979 and I come along. Grew up in the best street with my asian mates – Michael Jackson cards, Hubba Bubba and cricket. The food… the scraps… the car dents… the cennectedness.
Dad worked in security after the ships cause his Intelligentness wasn’t recognised then – big man can work security and chase the ‘border’ kids. Jesus. A black guy doing security in over the border – if you know you know…
Dad connected though. He talked, he listned, he fixed, he helped, he laughed, he held babies, he had a cuppa. Those border kids grew and had families themselves. My Dad proud as punch of the Border Kids.
He retired a service manager in our council – well respected and knew loads. His intelligence was used up.
Dad’s from Cape Verde islands. My great Grandma I met once. Didn’t say much. Used to sit in the chair and whack everyone across the face. I rocked up in 1997 for my first visit and got face strokes and smiles – miss you Untia Gran Vu Vu.
Cape Verde Grandma, Vu Vu, Dads Mam. She’s lush like. She’s the rock of the Cape Verde Family. Money kept in the bra or stashed under the… (can’t say she’d flip).
Vu Vu toom kids in… stayed for years… Grandad Vu Vo was a nice guy. Parkinsons took him. He gave us all the hairline and lots of other relatives too. Family is family.
My sister’s so nice, the best sister. Not around much but we couldn’t be any closer.
So me and my Wifey and bestie we have our 3 blessings, our children. All I’ve ever wanted was my own family – no other aspirations.
My Ma and Pa (my in laws) love them to bits. So caring and kind… that’s good for my kids. They’re fully functional. Played life with an A*.
My jobs is working for Middlesbrough children and young people. I love it. Always will do. I’m a Middlesbrough lad and the town matters so much to me. I guess… no, they are my family too.
My Dad taught me that every person was of equal worth, regardless of their status, race, colour, gender, occupation, intelligence, financial worth and that everyone deserved the same respect. I was much older when I realised what a gift he had offered.
I didnt know my father growing up. He left when I was just a few months old.
Sometimes I would sneak a look at his photo in the draw, trying to see if there was anything of me in his face.
When his mother, my grandmother, passed away my mum went to the funeral and came back and said she’d seen my brother.
I didn’t know I had a brother (I was in my twenties) and I’m an only child.
I had always wanted siblings and suddenly there was this new relationship.
Following the funeral we made contact and started to build a relationship.
Unfortunately before we had an opportunity to meet he died suddenly.
I also had a half sister and we did meet but it sadly wasn’t like the TV tearful reunion. It just felt strange.
I’ve not built a relationship with my biological father. It’s been attempted but again these things aren’t simple.
He was adopted and didn’t know his birth parents so my history on one side of my family is completely unknown.
But I have the luck of being brought up with loving parents.
Whilst I didn’t know all about my past, (and my mother’s family also have their own story of losses and grief), I feel no losses.
It’s important that whilst we need to acknowledge the past, we don’t feel we have to take that baggage into our future.
We need to acknowledge and forgive the past and move forward with Love.
My family mean the world to me and i dont know where I’d be without them.
We have been through more than id like to think about but we’ve stuck together.
Thank you my family.
Miss you dad.
Mum was from Simons Town she was sent by her family to see what England was like as her Grandfather was from Birmingham. Dad was working in London, was two years younger, late for work and buying a paper and some tobacco. He set eyes on Mum and decided that was the woman he was going to marry. Mum took a little persuading but they were together 60 years. Dad was always deceptively determined once he set his mind to something. He persuaded her with the temptation of further travel as he had his National Service call up. There was also strong urging on the part of Mum’s Mum – (she and Dad had an immediate rapport Ma was adopted and had a tough childhood, Dad had a quiet father and a difficult mother.). Needless to say they married but Dad failed his medical. However the urge to travel remained strong so we became £10 Poms and left in the late 60’s for Western Australia. Later Dad’s sister came to live with us before she married. I remember watching the Moon landing in the front room of our house in Kelmscott. I remember Mum being alerted to the presence of a large Iguana in the garden by one of our dogs. I remember our surprise to find the front room window full of frogs during a rainstorm and eating navel oranges and passion fruit from the garden. I remember my brother and I darting in and out of sprinklers on peoples lawns on our way to school. I remember Christmas on the beach. We had many experiences together that made us who we are and different when we returned to the UK. Here is a little mosaic of our family, our parents gave us riches in terms of love and life experiences. Gone but never forgotten. PS the painting is by my brother – I found it whilst we were clearing Dad’s shed ❤️
My great grandmother always told a story about how my dad as a little boy tied up her cat so it would stay with him. He hated this story, she told it like he was cruel or odd but he said he loved the cat and had just wanted it to stay. When I was little I put our cat in the wicker washing basket so it would stay in my room. I never told my dad but I think he might have known. I think I was a bit cruel to the cat, but I loved him too
I am one of 7 children from two marriages. We ways had Sunday roast together and then watched Sunday night TV. My step dad would give us a not from his wallet and we would walk round to the local shop and buy as many bars of chocolate as we could. My dad would then hold the bag high above our heads and we would have to lucky dip for a bar.
My growing up could be described as a bit of Just William, the Beano and Dandy mixed with Saturday Cinema, rolled up in a chip paper. My Mother and Father were so loving and full of good things and tried to give us all education and free ideas, in a rural agricultural idyll. Post-war, rationing, not a lot to live on other than the land and what we could make of it. But we did. My dad was an entirely resourceful independent man. Had been at Dunkirk and never wanted to say much about it. The other side of that Lemn, and whoever reads this was fear of losing their children. Or whatever the psychologists might write in that order. The love was suffocating for me, so as much as I could, I was with school friends and their families more than my own. Out on my bike, across fields through the woods on adventures. Not in a knowingly harmful way to Mum and Dad but I knew my ‘place’ was somewhere else – others might say growing up wanting to find your own way. My father’s mother had come to live with us after her friend died and she became my confidant and storyteller in a way, reading to me when I got home from school, going for walks in the warm summer evenings and not so warm evenings but then I was quite young. Toast in front of her fire. Telling me things of other times and other places. She had even chosen my name, my mum had said. She passed away in our front room [her bed-sitting room] after not being right during the day and my mum had phoned the doctor, who said give her some aspirin and I’ll call in, in the morning. I wasn’t that old about seven or eight I guess. And couldn’t understand why she was taken away from us [meaning me mostly, probably]. It’s affected me my whole life. Then, as the others of my small family have gone, my other grandmother, my mum, dad, brother, uncle and just a few months ago my beautiful sister. And friends from school, art school, former colleagues and pub-pals it goes on. Then, as things pass through the grip of our fingers like grains of sand, sometimes, it’s just so hard. to bear. But my family were never the type to talk much about some of these things. Just tightened the apron strings to hold on to what they had. ‘Just keeping on,’ was one of my dad’s expressions when asked how he was. So I kept on doing what I wanted and needed for me, not the family, even though our love for each other was strong, I was on the other side of it.
I would pretend I was asleep and squeeze my eyes tight shut. I could hear him shivering, then talking his wellies off and the squeak of the back door. I had butterflies in my tummy. His whistling would start with a different tune,Monday was always a Beatles song! The bucket handle rhythmic pinging made me squeal silently with joy and go right under the covers. I felt him draw breath as the door handle turned, a gasp of fatherhood I reckon, he whispered ‘ we’ve been blessed by another beautiful day, are you waking up to dance with me in it again? I’d titter; he’d pretend he hadn’t heard. He scratched and rustled about his business and we together and apart waited for the draw. Then the smell, especially if it was wet coal and then my nose tested the warm flames as they stretched upwards and my arms mirrored with a yawn. ‘Hello beautiful, you’ve made my day with those eyes, my girl… it’s a riproar today, porridge is on, best get to your brother…’. And then the magical wink, I wanted to burst! I put on his cloak of complete and utter love as I followed in his footsteps to once again dance through my childhood days. And the frost melted away from the inside of our windows as our family breath gave heat forever after.
Family is all of us together. Spirits and souls that will live forever. Family. The ones who were, are and will be.
Started as nuclear: traditional husband, wife, son, daughter. Now blossomed into wife, female partner, son and daughter, who are also part of father, father’s partner, half brother and half sister. At the heart of it are mother, son and daughter who love, laugh, challenge and fight like crazy 😊 Family is a sense of belonging whilst still searching for that untouchable essence of what it is that’s missing. Family is chosen. Family is challenge when you need it, judgement when you deserve it and security at all times.
True family are the people who love you more than words can ever say. There’s a deep connection that can survive even when it’s never spoken about.
My grandma always said ‘a family who plays together, stays together’ and so we always make time for a game, no matter the occasion.
When I’m not feeling well I just want my mammy’s cool hand on my forehead and her to make me poached eggs on wheaten bread toast. And all my 4 brothers and sisters are the same even though she’s been dead for 2 and a half years now. There is no other hand or no other poached eggs the same
Family isn’t just about blood. I have been so welcomed by my husband’s family for the last 25 years l can’t imagine life without them. My paternal and maternal relationship was poor to say the least and my Nan and Grandad were my saviour, both sadly are no longer here but l have my extended non blood family who are my world. I cannot talk about family without the biggest shout out to my wonderful husband and my amazing 16 year old son who is becoming a young man in his own right!! 💕💕😍
My grandfather, my love. (uploaded wrong photo on previous story)
The respect we have for each others difference blows my mind. I’m a family therapist and see all the things we could have done better and all the things (of which there are many more) that we have surpassed the majority. Our love is full we try (and sometimes fail) to encourage the beauty in each other and walk beside each other when our ugliness shows.
I ended up in Chile on a whim, deciding to extend a backpacking trip by going further south still, thinking that I might be able to land a job in the wine trade. This was so long ago (1991) that I was even able to sell my plane ticket back to the UK to someone else who flew back as me – no tight security controls back then and it wasn’t an uncommon practice!
At some point, a new friend I made at the English Language school introduced me to friends of hers. And as it happened, the original friend eventually cut ties with everyone in Santiago and moved away, and those friends of hers became so, so close, that they are to this day my Chilean family. Who’d have known that we would become so close…???
In those early days, there was no email, no whatsapp, no zoom; a 1 minute phone call home to the UK cost the equivalent of 10 GBP which was a lot of money then. My sister was herself halfway across the world on her own adventures, so contact was by postcards, occasional parcels home and Poste Restante (methinks today’s generations would have a hard time with this…!). But the relationship that developed with my Chilean family was not one of replacement or substitution – I was lucky to feel very solid ties to and have the support (moral) of my parents. Instead it simply flowed organically, and without realising it, very deep and caring bonds were created in parallel.
And over the following years, in fact, both families met and now they always ask after each other, equally assimilated into my life. And the values and traits that make both my family are the same: love, acceptance, care, forgiveness, being there whenever, whatever and whyever,
I’m back in Europe now (Spain), so it’s been wonderful to be nearer to my Uk family (now spread to Morocco and France), but I miss those in Chile tremendously.
When my daughter was 6, I would get up very early in the morning sometimes and write at my desk in the quiet before the day starts. She slept in my bed often at that time, and on occasion she would wake and wander, more asleep than awake to look for me. When I held her and kissed her hair the smell of her, all warm, wrapped in slumber, hair muzzled was so intense, it was a transcendental experience. I breathed in big lung fulls, knowing that no other smell in my life would come close.
Family is try to love people even when they are difficult to like.
Family is like that cup of tea made when you have just woken up from a nap and are drowsy – perfectly brewed tea leaves marred with either too much or too little milk, courtesy of loose sleepy hands. Striving to be ideal, mostly missing the mark. Many don’t even have the luxury of that cup of tea, or even a bed to take that nap on.
It’s so terribly sad when some family members choose to exclude siblings, nieces, cousins and close relatives just because the deceased said so.
My relationship with my mother was always volatile towards me even though I spent much of life up until my 40’s providing for her financially and emotionally whilst my siblings moved away and rarely visited her except, it seemed, when they needed something such as a place to stay or…babysitting (which she called me up to help with anyway and offloaded my niece on to me – not that I minded, I loved/love my niece).
For my mental well-being and the sake of my own family (my temper was terrible after a session with my mother) I had to let go and be free of her narcissistic personality. This meant that she now leaned on my brother and sister for support and I guess they finally had a taste of her qualities. I was quickly dismissed from any contact with them event though I tried to maintain contact, they never replied.
On the death of my mother, my brother in law rang to tell me – with an amount of glee I feel – that she had died and that she had said I was not to attend her funeral. So … that’s what the did. They didn’t invite me, or her grand daughter, because, as my bother-in-law said ‘then I’d know where and when the funeral would be taking place’ and ‘they didn’t want me to make a scene’.
I don’t hate them. I actually feel very sorry for them that, on her orders, they carried out the last evil action of my mother towards me. I have forgiven them but they will have to live with what they have done.
Funerals are for the living.
The dead have moved on.
It’s a shame that some of the living can’t or won’t.
Our family was 90% pets. Rescue dogs, feral cats, other people’s abandoned creatures – whoever needed a home, be they four-legged, six-legged, one-footed, furry, slimy, scaly, they were welcomed into our house. The giant African land snail who would only eat the middle of the cucumber, the gerbils we looked after while my sister’s friend went on holiday only for her to not want them back when she returned, the stick insects who multiplied until they were countless and my sister sold them for a pound each at school. Until I was 18 and left for uni I had no idea what it was to go to bed and not have to share it with someone fluffy.
To me, pets are family, and pets make a family.
We lived in the hills. We had a big extended family of the sort you’ll find all over the world where cousins are like brothers and sisters, where in my Mother’s family the oldest had left by the time the youngest had arrived, where someone died young, too young and others last forever, where everyone worked with their hands and the women became nurses, where someone had to stay behind to look after the parents, where everything was out there somewhere and took years to come back and it was all gone, where choices and not choices cast you into an adulthood that is away out over the sea and only the faintest soundings of home are possible and language has to be reinvented daily to recognize the world at all. They told us to come in at night or the fox would get us. We knew the names of the fields. No one lives there now.
We all feel that family is forever but that is not the reality
For some families are incomplete, that’s what happened to me
The eldest of five, 3 boys 2girls, a mum and a dad
But since 1987, there’s a space where there used to be a 7 yr old lad.
It was xmas time , a time for laughter and joy
Though was not meant to be for this little boy
On his way back from school, just off the bus
A car out of nowhere, tore the heart out of all of us
So yea, family that’s what we are, a group connected by blood
Has it’s ups and downs , it’s bad times and good
We may not have him with us but he never left our hearts
And surely that’s where the meaning of family truly starts
It’s the people that we care for, whether they be kith or kin
Open up your heart to them, let those people in
Tell them that you love them, show them every day
You never know the moment when they will be tqken away.
Family can be painful, family can be love. Family can feel like a duty and being in one is sometimes tough. But where would i be without one? I would be lost.
Neither of my parents loved me. I walked away when I was 21. I’ve always struggled to accept love as an adult. The pain never goes away.
My family’s secrets are still tumbling out, 50 years after the death of my mother and seven years after the death of my father. It is both bitter and sweet. Last year, I learnt of yet another new half brother, who is an utter joy! I previously learnt that, after my mother died, my father told his side of the family that we’d gone to live with my mother’s side of the family. I’m fact he put us into care and visited so rarely that the last time I saw him as child, I did not recognise him.
Family to me is about truly belonging. Growing up, our house was all about ‘Dad’s music’. My brother and I used to complain about it so much. It was so uncool. But these days, those are the sounds of my childhood. Neil Young. Bob Dylan. Today, those artists are some of my favourites, and I sing those songs to my own young children as an invisible thread from one generation to the next. I can’t listen to Birds by Neil Young without a pang of nostalgia and often a tear in my eye.
Your mum stopping your siblings sitting in your seat when you’ve only gone to the toilet! 🥰
Our family would not be complete without the dog and cats, they are the glue that holds us together.?
My Grandfather died 31 years ago when I was 11. And for that short 11 years I knew him I think he had the greatest impact on me above anyone I have ever known and his love has carried me through life. So many songs I hear now that he would play to me, only this morning Sugar sugar by the archers came on the radio and im right back there with him, he loved that song. We planted flowers together, collected wildlife stickers together, enjoyed a sweet cup of tea together, he would hide 10 pence coins amongst the flowers so I would find them and tell me the butterflies left it for me. So many memories of him, I can still smell him and hear his laugh and the older I get I cant quite believe I only knew him for 11 years, he is there imprinted on my heart.
When my teenage children are out and about my heart is in my mouth until they are home safe. They will never know about my fear.
I’m one of 5 sisters, when we were little we went on a family holiday to Butlins. My mum entered the Glamorous Grannie competition with me! We got 2nd place and she was made up!???
There is a strong family look shared between me and my cousins, from my mother’s side of the family and I love the feeling of connection this gives me. I know I am lucky to have it. My dad’s side of the family are all deceased so I cherish feeling part of something bigger.
Family, like home, is a loaded word. I have one child. No partner. My Mum is dead. My brothers are estranged, from each other and from me. I don’t feel like I’m part of, or belong to anyones family. The rhetoric of “friends & family” during the pandemic has left me feeling very isolated & alone. Family size food packs. Family discount. They all exclude people like me. Families should be about love, and I love my son fiercely, but he is all I have. I am his Mum, Dad, Grandma, Auntie, sibling, cousin and everything else in one. There is no one else to call on. There is such pain in the loneliness of not belonging.
My family are fu***d up. The woman are fat and single.
My father came to the UK in 1975. He was 25. I’m not sure whether his dream was to come or whether he needed to come to support his family back home. He came from India where he was a bank manager with a first class bachelor of science degree in Physics. I’m sure he told me that he sat some exams for his brother too. He used to revise under a coconut tree. When he arrived, he needed to hit the ground running to support his family here as well as in India so he took whatever manual work he could find. He could not pursue his profession and worked incredibly hard as initially a Train Driver in London and then a Postman in Leicester, where he remained until he retired in 2013. He once had a drink at the pub near the West Ham stadium, Upton Park, back in the 70s and was racially abused by some fools. His black West Indian friend protected him and stood up for him. Solidarity. I thank that man for protecting my father. When I think about my father, I think of love and sacrifice. He has sacrificed, along with my mother, everything for us. He started this journey of sacrifice way before he stepped foot on British shores in 1975. After the age of 25 he only saw his mother and father a few more times. Can you imagine only seeing your folks 3 more times after you turn 25? I can’t. Now, at the nimble age of 70, I wonder what goes through his kind brilliant mind? What memories he recalls and what he thinks about the future? I hope that he knows that many people love him. I’m sure that if all you reading this met him, you would love him too. Well, maybe you know him a little bit now too 🙂
I have several families. The one I grew up. The one I created with my son and his mother. The one I created with my daughter and her mother. And the small family of friends I hold dear. Unconditional love all around. And all these families are connected through me and give each other sustenance.
We had an amazing great aunt who lived in Chorlton Cum Hardy and we used to visit regularly from Wigan. My mum didn’t drive so my brother myself and mum would travel there by bus and train. It was like a different world coming into Manchester Victoria station. We would always have homemade cakes when we got to her house and in the summer would put on shows in the garden with an old sheet as a curtain. Auntie Mabel was the one who introduced us to the game Boy, girl, flower, fruit, which we still play to this day.
You’re the open smell of clothes dried in the summer sun,
You’re the violet light between night’s death and the throes of morning,
You’re the cotton blanket in the closed drawer,
You’re the silent repartee in this novel of longing.
You’re the perfect peeled potato,
You’re the siesta at the beach cove,
You’re the stone sandcastle
And you’re the love of love of love of love.
At one point in our house we managed to have four completely different diets yet we still had no problems all making our food and eating it: I was vegetarian, my brother completely kosher, mother Type 1 diabetic and father a total omnivore who just ate from a continually evolving pot of soup that he just added more ingredients to every day. Proud we could all be so different yet get along fine!
I have a small family on my mother’s side which is both precious and difficult. On my father’s side, who is the son of an Arab immigrant with many names, my family is imagined. It is both everything and nothing. I know nothing about them, so they don’t exist. But they’re also the zenith of family as I’ve dreamt up everything about them.
My mum and dad had 6 kids and their childhoods were blessed and blighted in equal part. Our kids are doing better. We hope.
My family like to sing. My mum’s family is from Ireland and my dad is Scottish and when we all gather together we sing songs – old, new, a capella or with a guitar. Some of my best memories are sitting round the table singing with them all, everyone a bit tipsy, a fire in the grate, harmonies flying off the ceiling. I want this for my children too. I want their lives to be full of song.
Just before I turned 40, I discovered I was adopted as a baby
When all else fails, food brings us together.
My mother’s cousin was Bill Millin, he was a Commando in WW2 and Lord Lovat’s piper, and one of the many heroes of the D Day landings and battles in France.
Bill used to stay in our home town in Scotland but eventually left and settled in the south of England, but he was fond of my mother and visited us often over the following years. As a small boy I would sit and listen to his tales of marching across Pegasus Bridge, bullets whizzing past his head, killing his colleagues, but none hitting him.
Various explanations were offered for this, that the German troops were sure he must be crazy so didn’t shoot him, but it seems more likely that the German commander was so impressed by Bill’s bravery that he ordered his men to avoid shooting him. I always liked the latter explanation, that a vestige of honour was maintained even in the midst of madness.
But what I did not discover until fairly recently was the impact the D Day landings had on my mother.
As a young woman in central Scotland, born into a large mining family of 15 children, she found work in a munitions factory, driving a crane. Around this time a cousin from Canada came over with the Allied troops to join in the D Day landings, and along with a group of his fellow Canadians, visited my mum’s family home and spent some time before going off to fight. Sadly her cousin was killed during the Landings and was buried in France.
By this time mum had moved to the Scottish Highlands, asked to come up to look after one of her sister’s family. And it was here that she met my dad, got married and settled down, raising three children. Decades later mum went with my dad to France to visit her cousin’s grave, just one young man amongst an uncountable number who fell in that foreign field. I still have some of the photos mum took of this trip. It was obvious that for some reason this particular event was significant, for reasons other than just the death of a relative, but I never discovered why.
Later in life my dad suffered severe ill health and passed away when only 70 after a miserable retirement punctuated by mental illness, but an illness which revealed many aspects of his life he had kept concealed. Mum gamely carried on and eventually, when in her late 60’s, decided to go alone to Canada to visit the remaining cousins she’d never met, several of whom were older than her and infirm and she wanted to see them before they died. She met up with some in the Saskatchewan plains, and then traveled to the B.C. coast to meet others. She had a great time.
But more than ten years later, and starting to show the early signs of dementia, mum quietly revealed a story she’d concealed for almost 60 years. I’m not sure of her motivation….maybe a sense of her failing mind, the love of ‘the story’, a feeling of guilt, or perhaps and more likely, just closing a circle that had for too long been left unattended….
Biting her lip, a glass of wine in her hand, and her eyes focused somewhere distant, she told me the story of her trip to Canada…….
“I didn’t just go to see the cousins………och…..John it’s a long story…….” and a tear welled up in her eye….“..when the Canadians came I fell in love with one of them……and we got engaged……”
….then…a long silence. Another sip of wine. A tear wiped before it started to obey the inexorable pull of gravity.
“He….well…he…bought me a ring, we were engaged, and I was so happy…. But then he had to go to war, off to fight in Europe, and I went to the railway station to see him and his fellow soldiers off, to wish them well. And then…….(a long regretful sigh)..and then……..my mum, your granny, and one of my big sisters appeared, and they pulled the ring off my finger and shouted at him…..and I just remember them throwing the ring at him, telling him it would never happen between us and the ring CLINK CLINK CLINKing and rolling along the platform towards him, and I was pulled away and he left on the train……….I can still remember his face, so sad, I could see it through my tears as the train left…..and then…..I never saw him again.”
Another silence, thoughts being lined up, emotion swelling and choking……both of us
“And then I heard nothing more from him, and I moved north and met your dad, and we had a family and…..and….”
A long pensive stare out of the window.
“But I discovered only a short time ago, after your dad died, that my Canadian soldier had written to me, had written many many letters, but they never got to me, your granny or my sisters destroyed them, didn’t forward them to me, never told me he’d persisted trying to get in touch…..and he kept trying and trying….he never forgot me……and…….and……I never forgot him either….”
I’m utterly silent now, transfixed as the story unfolds….
“But I knew roughly where he’d been born in Canada, so when I went to visit the cousins all those years ago what I didn’t tell you or anybody was that I bought a bus ticket and went to the nearest small town to where I knew he came from, hundreds and hundreds of miles from where I should have been going. I didn’t know where to start – it was only a small plains town, a farming centre, but spread out, so I went to the Town Hall where they had a small tourist office and asked. There was a woman at the desk and she smiled and I asked her if she might be able to help me locate someone. “Who is it?” she enquired so I said, just a Canadian soldier I met when he was in Scotland before the D Day landings, he was with my cousin, and I just ….well…wanted to get in touch with him again.”
“What was his name?” she asked, so I told her……”
“She smiled even more broadly. “He was my father-in-law!” she said.”
Mum stood and listened as the woman explained that he’d survived the war, came home to Canada and eventually met his wife, a local girl, and had a family. But, with emotion cracking in her voice continued ….“…..sadly he died…just last year, I’m so sorry.”
A circle closed. Letters written, never received; a love lost against a backdrop of a war that saw the loss of many. But each one had a story, and it took many many years to discover just a fraction of the story of my mother’s experience.
And when my son is old enough I’ll tell him too. About war, about love, and most of all about the importance of stories. About keeping them safe. Then passing them on to family.
During the Summer of 1976 I remember Grampie taking us for a walk to buy us Strawberry Mivvies. On the way we popped tar bubbles that were forming on the pavements due to the heat.
My family is unique. It’s made up of two dads and two mixed race boys. A wonderful mix which works perfectly.
It’s like many flavours you wouldn’t expect to work creating the most wonderful taste.
There is a recurring impact of the story of my first family where I am daughter and sister to my family now, where I am wife and mother. Sometimes, this is a wonderful blueprint and sometimes it is a terrible hindrance.
I can remember the day that you were born, and the day after when I visited your mother in the hospital, my sister. A baby niece, Matilda, lifted out from your mummy’s opened tummy. It hit me then, like it hadn’t before, the fact of you.
I remember too, when we stayed together at Christmas when you were 1. We played together, you and me, with colourful cups that stacked to form a tower. I remember you looking up at me, and how we stacked them over and over. My sister said to me, ‘I think you’ve made a friend’.
Later we would ‘sew’ with shoelaces, thread them through a colourful board that we could decorate with animal shapes. Each time I visited, you would ask me, ‘can we sew’? We would sit cross-legged on your bedroom floor. You would thread the coloured lines, and I would tie the knots.
More recently we laughed together, stayed up silly late playing a game that we couldn’t put down. Babysitting you, supposedly, I told my sister I forgot myself, that time slipped by as it can do, was outrun by our play.
Now, it’s been a while, and although I message you sometimes to wish that I could hug you, this time apart has shaken me. I think I am supposed to say that it doesn’t change anything, or that something about family is unshakeable.
So I’m writing this message to you, to our being apart. To how I love you, albeit unbeknownst to you, to try and show the fierceness of the good you give to me. Your bravery.
My family growing up had highs and lows but taught me how to love and be loved. My mother showed me a sense of family that was always open to others, willing to include and accept even when she didn’t understand what or how to embrace. Because she knew what it felt like to be rejected. I’m imprinted by her heart. There are many in our family who have joined us along the way on this journey of life. The love and care makes them family.
My family are of Spanish origins – there’s a long history of colonialism and pain cause by and inflicted upon my Peruvian family, but my Arequipeñan mother was raised by a strict but kind matriarch, and a slightly bumbling but equally loving father, who lived only to go fishing and used to swear that he was once cursed by a witch to never be happy in love.
My mother wanted to be a diplomat like her grandfather, a socialist political exile who fought for the less fortunate and was persecuted for it. However, by the time she was old enough to go to diplomatic college, terrorism was abound in Peru. She moved to Canada, where she started a different life, a different career, and was put on the path that led her to England, where she had me and my younger sister.
Both of my parental lines include decendants from the island of Ireland
Before I was born, my parents were looking for somewhere to live in Paris.
My dad was strongly against living on the other side of the ring road, while my mum didn’t understand why they should buy a tiny studio instead of a 2 bed just for a postcode. My dad explained that it was because his family was from Montmartre and he was really proud of his history. They took part in the Revolution, in the Commune avec much more. Eventually, my mum found a flat in Ivry-sur-Seine, just outside the ring road, after much discussion, she convinced him to buy a 2 bed there. My dad was a bit disappointed but knew it was a sensible decision.
30 years later, we’re in a pandemic and I am bored. A bit randomly I decide to do my family tree. Luckily, most of French archives have been digitalised so I can find nearly all the information I need. I do read many stories about my dad’s family in Montmartre, all cramped in a tiny flat with view on the Little Crown train line. But they moved there in 1920’s. Before this, half of them where in Libya, the other half… In Ivry-sur-Seine.
They were there physically, but not ‘there’ in any other sense. We have contact occassionally, but I have lived a different, better, more fulfilling life
The C*********’s – they were Tom’s family. My best friend at school. A split family. Mum living on one side of Balham. His Dad, his step-mum and sister Alice living on the other side. I was living in a children’s home in Roehampton and had stopped going to school. One day I was at Tom’s house (his mum’s) and she asked me why I wasn’t going to school. ‘They knock on my bedroom door in the morning and ask if I want to go to school and I just say no now and they leave me and just go and knock on the next door’. I remember Helen’s face, a mixture of sadness, shock and anger. I don’t remember hardly any time passing before she said ‘What if you came to live here, would you go to school?’ I dared not think it was even possible, but of course said yes. Imagine being able to live with your best friend. Helen get in touch with my local authority. She spoke to my social worker. Went to meetings, filled out forms and jumped through every hoop. She made no promises to me except I could stay until I completed my mock exams and then we’d take it from there. Her honesty meant everything and in a few weeks I was living with her and Tom and his little brother Joe. It was like a dream come true. Weeks passed. I kept going to school and in that time Tom’s dad and his family also took me in, so when Tom and Joe would move between their two families I would move too. At first I felt like an extra, a plus one, and odd-end, but both C********* families never made me feel like that, that came from within myself. Being abandoned by my blood family created a hole that is hard to fill. I knew I was different within the C********* family, but I was also the same. Closer to them then I woulld have expected. I felt their care, I felt their love and when us boys got out of hand I felt their disappointment equally with Tom and Joe as we sat that on the sofa all being read the riot act. A part of me loved it. Getting told together, having barriers thrown up around us, expectations being thrust upon us and the three of us like brothers sat on that sofa taking the heat. There was not a single moment when I remember crossing over from a friend who had come to stay for a little while to becoming part of the family. Blood I would have once thought would have been the ultimate barrier, but it never got in the way. Blood is chance. Blood in coincidence. But this was more. It cut through those barriers. The C*********’s opened their doors, their hearts and their arms and let me fall into their family, now my family and still my family twenty five years later. I stayed with the C*********’s for another two years before I went to University, but even today they’re never far away. Just a post code away, a WhatApp message away, two stops on the train away, a recalled memory away…most importantly their part of me and I carry them all, isn’t that what family is about. There is no escape and I love it.
Family is feeling known and seen. It’s seeing yourself in family members, past and present and them seeing themselves in you. It’s not having to explain. It’s deep, ancestral, spiritual and sensory knowledge and understanding of ourselves and each other. At times it is too much, to be seen and have yourself reflected back at you. It can therefore be challenging, maddening and even depressing. I guess that’s why families can feel so difficult yet so fabulous all at once- the deepest love mixed with the deepest hate. It’s also where we first learn about ourselves and others and how we can exist, show up and interact in the world around us. Like a microcosm of everything.
My sister taught me confidence, how to navigate the world in my twenties and how to have fun. I miss her everyday
I was the youngest of 7 children. I came to England when i was 24 years old. My mum died in January.
We are here part black, part white. Sometimes all around seems dark as night. When all feels hopeless and nothing right, you turn to family to find the light.
My father 1912-1977 was born in Middlesbrough and my mother 1924-2017 was born in India . My mother was the daughter of American Methodist Missionaries posted out to India . My father and mother met whilst out in India where my father was an administrator in the Indian Civil Service from 1935-1947.
I am writing this because photographs of Lemn Sissay as a baby reminds me so much of my Ethiopian adopted grandson. The resemblance is amazing. Liam my beautiful grandson born in April 2014 was abandoned by his mother or family for unknown reasons. He was found in Addis Ababa by a Security Guard on a grass bank covered in a white blanket crawling with ants. He was said to be 2 or 3 days old. The Security Guard gave him the Ethiopian name of Dagwali. My son and daughter-in-law adopted him and named him Liam Dxxxxxi. He lived happily in Dubai with them until he was diagnosed with SSPE a rare condition that develops after measles infection destroying nerve cells in the brain.
The Doctors a Great Ormond Street Hospital told us on Liam’s third birthday that he was terminally ill. He died in July 2019. Liam had big brown eyes and big smile and was full of fun and laughter. It gives me comfort to think Liam would have grown up with the same big smile and similar looks to Mr Lemn Sissay.
I think of Liam everyday and loved him so much. He is in my heart.
My loveliest memory is so simple Going to the launderette with my nan – the washing in an old pushchair. The ride back was sooo good – sitting on a pile of warm and dry washing – it felt like a carriage!!! Every nan seemed to have an old pushchair for washing and shopping !!
I always knew I was adopted, but not in a ‘special’ way, more a ‘saved from the gutter way’. My adoption and that of other adoptees in the family was not a good experience. Let’s leave it there, I’m not writing about that per se. My husband Roger has researched family trees for over forty-five years, as a hobby; but I’ve always said no to my family tree. However, when the laws changed back in 1976, after a few years we traced and met my birth family, or rather, my father (on several occasions). My mother wanted to keep the secret from everyone still, including her two subsequent children. My full-blooded brother and sister; my birth parents married each other when I was six years old.
Fast forward to January 2017, both adopted parents now dead and after yet another adopted family rejection by my godparents/aunt and uncle I said to Roger, I need to know where I’m from, I want to know my bloodline and so he started tracing my family tree one evening when I out. By the time I got home, through my father’s line he was back to the Plantagenets and beyond. This finally inspired me to but fingers to keyboard and writie my journey of finding me…
Chapter Extract: – finding My Birth Certificate
One of the ups of the ups and downs of Roger’s work as an offshore Pipeline Engineer was the ‘being entertained’ bit. It was August 1990, a lovely summers day and we were being taken to dinner at the rather swanky Greenhouse Restaurant; Gary Rhodes was head chef at the time, sadly both restaurant and chef are no longer with us. I organised our baby sitter to come early and meet the girls from school and I took the train into London. I would have been dressed in my best, probably a Laura Ashley dress back then, and feeling good. I went to St Catherine’s House on the corner of Kingsway and the Aldwych which at that time housed the Births, Deaths and Marriages records for England. That too is no more. It closed its doors in 1973 and became the headquarters of an oil company, Exxon Mobil. Civil registration began on 1st July 1837 and originally records were kept at Somerset House. It wasn’t the first time I’d been to St Catherine’s House. We had taken Rachel and Lou to show them their entries in the big registers. And they really were big, old, dusty leather-bound books. Each book held records for quarter of each year. There was row upon row of plain, no nonsense bookshelves housing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of registers. I can’t remember whether the entries were handwritten or typed but you looked up your name in the register for the quarter of the year that your birth day was in and there you were – except I wasn’t. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be in the register along with Roger, the girls and everyone else since 1837.
I, along with every other officially adopted person since 1926 was excluded from polite society, kept separate, we were on the naughty shelf. I still remember the feeling of indignation and hurt, on behalf of us all, that we were side-lined. I’d like to feel that that made us special, not being among the great rabble of society; that we had a special place because we were special. It didn’t. I felt the tears prick my eyes but I stuffed my feelings down into my shoes on that first visit because I was there as a mum, not an adoptee. This was a family outing and afterwards we took the girls to The Chicago Meatpackers (another long gone); the girls loved watching the trains zoom along the tracks above our heads, I loved the pulled pork sandwich with and apple coleslaw. This was family time.
But on that August day, I was on a mission. I now knew my original birth name, and of course I knew my birthday, which meant I could now look me up in the register. I was definitely discombobulated excitement and trepidation; I got confused about where to look and had to ask an assistant to point me in the right direction. It was really quite simple. I found the register for June 1956, my finger traced up and down the pages until I saw me: Patricia Bxxxn. My finger clung to the entry. Me, a different me, an other me, but still me. The overhead fluorescent lights still hummed as the world stopped spinning while this monumental moment materialised before my eyes, ink on parchment page. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I was screaming, inside my head – I’ve found me, I’m here. I’m not a secret, this is me. Look everyone, Me. I’ve found ME. No one looked. Heads continued bobbing down in private searching.
I took a pencil and carefully filled in the form with the reference number, went to the cashier’s window and handed over my money. I had just ordered my original birth certificate. The certificate for me; before I was adopted. My certificate valid from 10th June 1956 until my adoption certificate was issued on 26th November 1956. Another existence, before a file and a ‘chop’, as they call it in Malaysia; chop seems more fitting. One life, one future was chopped off and another began with an official stamp on official paper. Northumberland was swopped for Suffolk, both coastal, both with rivers. How different would my life have been without that chop? Best not to dwell ‘some’ would say, ‘some’ have said…
I waited for my birth certificate to arrive. When it did, I was stunned to discover that Roland’s name wasn’t on it. A blank where my father’s name should be. Why didn’t Ann acknowledge him, it seemed a scandal in the making to leave it blank, as if she didn’t know; what would the neighbours say if they found out? Was it to put ‘me’ of the scent? I now know that its all down to good old-fashioned bureaucracy, if the father’s not present when a birth is registered, his name is not on the certificate. However, a father can register the birth without the mother being present, arcane English law at work.
Birth certificates are required to have the details of the biological mother and – where possible – the details of the biological father.
In other words, if you’re not married to the child’s mother, you need to be present at the birth registration to guarantee your right to parental responsibility.
It is usually the mother’s responsibility to register the birth, but the father can do it on his own if he is married to the mother.
Ann was in Lowestoft, I’ve no idea where Roland was. He just got a phone call and the matter was never spoken about again, ever, until I showed up.
It’s now 2021, it’s taken me another thirty-two years to get to this point. I’ve started many times. I’ve written on the terrace of the Red Piano Bar in Cambodia, on a balcony overlooking the Andaman Sea; on a five-mastered clipper in the Caribbean. I’ve ripped up the pages and binned them in airport lounges; deleted the files from my computer in my study and definitely hit delete sitting on the deck of a friend’s house in Bozeman, Montana. I’ve taken writing classes up front and personal and by zoom in the pandemic. Friends across the miles, across the years have said “when are you going to write your story”, my husband says it a lot.
My maternal Grandmother is Welsh , a small pretty woman with delicate features. Little but fierce and so ahead of her time. From this Welsh speaking female 5 children were born and raised children of their own resulting in 4 grandchildren with their growing families in 🇺🇸 America , 3 grandchildren with their growing families in Australia 🇦🇺 1 grandson with his family in Thailand and myself who brought up my children in Wales 🏴 . While some emigrated to England . One small Granny can change the World 🌎 and it is truly round
We flitted to Scotland after my dad was found in a caravan with a neighbour – she was a social worker. This little village was an oasis to grow up in. Fields, fish farms, farmers and fun! We had snow in the winter and swam in rivers filled with the rain from our surrounding hills in summer. I believed the collection I could see from my bedroom was actually a sleeping, friendly giant. My older brother used to push me around our house on a Sindy beach buggy, as I dodged the jagged Artex walls.
My mother and father died within two years of each other, they were our everything. My brothers and sisters (6 of us!) are very close and we are convinced that our parents are always nearby when we need them, two magpie birds visit and let us know all will be ok.
I always assumed my mixed ethnic background was Indigenous, Spanish and probably Arab from northern Africa. Recently, I found out that I am also descendant of Sephardic Jews that were expelled from Spain in the 16th century. I like to think that my body carries many stories of colonialism, hope and resistance. I like to imagine those stories and think that my body brings them together to remind us that we are one, that we are simply human.
Family is love, laughter, eating together and holidays.
I remember camping in the summer with my family. Us kids would run wild, climb trees, explore new places and old alike. It was pure heaven!
Family is your heartbeat. We dance in time to eachothers rhythm. We sing in harmonious embrace. Without family, my heart ceases to work as it should do.
It’s 2.45am and I’m lying awake with so many thoughts, worries & memories racing around my head. Even though I’m exhausted & need to be up in 5 hours with my best smile on and my ears wide open. I’m Zoe, a foster mum so our family changes on a regular basis. The three main characters never change in our ever evolving family. There’s myself, my husband and our beautiful 18 year old son.. So why am I struggling to sleep? Well, our youngest family member has been with us now for 4 years but on Monday he leaves us to start the next part of his family journey. Don’t worry it’s a very happy reunion but I don’t mind admitting it has been a very, very difficult 4 years. He will be returning back to his mum after 8 long years of only seeing each other once a month for an hour in a grim contact centre. I worry if he’ll cope, if he’ll end up back in the system, if she will cope, will the support we fought long and hard for him to have just fall away without me there at the helm? So many, many worries. We will wave him off with his box full of memories as he disappears out of sight in a strange car with only his social worker by his side. We will sit round the table that night for dinner and talk about all the things we hope we did well, what we could have done better and contemplate who will arrive next needing a safe place to call home.
I learnt how to share early on, before most ever do. I learnt how to share in the womb. Two heart beats, two bodies in one perfect room, a magic box of baby talk between me and you. Its easy to share when you know how to. Easy peasy, it just takes two – two babas babbling like a river running through their very own beautiful boogaboo world. Every mystery a frontier we chart together. Every treasure, every story better shared. A secret language of laughter and dancing hands, of understanding she’s got my back, and my nose, and my eyes and the way our smiles crack when we’re tired, the way we curl up together and lean in, soft and warm and almost one thing, but two. Not as easy learning that duplication is unusual. Freaky, even. People stare. We get asked so many questions – what is it like, being a twin? Oh! Look! So strange, so odd, look at those weirdos! Did you ever?! What is strange? The world seems to pull us apart with their expectations of singularity. It’s hard saying ‘I’ when I want to say ‘we.’ You may find this hard to believe, but I’ve never quite understood the word ‘me.’ Sharing is all I know how to do. It’s hard being one when your rhythm is two.
Together we are stronger. We havd just lost nan but we grieve as one
I have two amazing children, that I haven’t been able to see because of the pandemic. Jessica and Steven are my world and I miss them so much. I am so lucky to have two such incredible people in my life.
Also I miss my lovely parents, both of whom have recently passed. If I got to spend just one day with anyone, it would be my mum and dad, for just one last hug.
My great grand uncle Charlie was the most colourful character. Charismatic, handsome, always immaculately turned out, he had a louche, languid charm, a razor sharp wit and a predilection for beautiful women, a good cigar and the inside of a casino. He brought a heavily pregnant croupier to the door of my grandparents, asking them to look after her until she had the baby. He talked his sister into giving him her half of the company they had inherited from their father, and promptly lost it at cards. He was jailed at one stage for a gambling debt (the family explained it away vaguely by telling people he had “got lost”). But somehow, everyone loved him. He was a gifted magician and would entrance any children he met with his close up tricks. I am sure that there are many, many more stories about the extraordinary life of Uncle Charlie, and I wish I knew them.
When i was a child i liked to watch old black and white pictures on the tv with my Grandmother. She would always get very involved in the story and says things like ‘ hes a clever actor. He’ll work out she lying.’ It made it so entertaining
Our family history research shows my great-great-grandfather Simon Jacobson was a translator in the Russian Merchant Marines. He married Rose Jusman, and they lived in Liverpool.
What i would like to share is a memory of a short few years i had a cat, her name was smokey and she meant the world to me, she showed me such love and commitment that wasn’t available to me from my family,my family set up was very dysfunctional, my deepest memory was when smokey was pregnant with kittens and i stayed with her throughout the labour i was only allowed to keep one of the kittens and the rest were disposed off which horrified me. I named my new kitten cinders, i remember their soft fur and gentle touch and the melodic purr as she cuddled up to me as i hid away in the green house reading books, Love comes in unexpected ways and smokey helped me through a very difficult patch in my life i will forever be grateful to her.
For many people a smell can relocate them through time or space. Not so much for me but an image? Certainly. And this wooden green door set into a wall draped with ivy transports me back through time to my primary school years when my love of reading was embedded into my very fibres. The book? The Secret Garden, of course. What else could it be? A mysterious door set into a high wall through which there is no automatic entry.
Some books I read and truly never think of again. Others stay with me in the immediate aftermath. A rare few I carry with me for life and so it is with this classic. I loved the challenge of reading the Yorkshire accent – I was fascinated that language could be written to represent true speech. As children we are accustomed to reading grammatically correct pieces – “Yes, I am going to the shop. Would you like to come with me?” rather than the vernacular – “Yeah, I’m goin’ to the shop. You comin’?” I remember the teachers who would make me repeat myself if I dared shorten the we are to we’re or you will to you’ll. This was my first exposure to a written dialect and I struggled with it at first. I sounded the abbreviated words out loud and pondered their meaning. I recall hearing the accent on tv and knowing instantly that that was what I had been trying to read.
The character of Colin – the sickly boy who had been confined to his bed – infuriated me. I distinctly recall wanting to shake him and to tell him to give over his egocentric ways. I had little patience for his moaning. I was more fond of Dickon, the free spirited animal lover. I fantasised about living his life, free to roam as he pleased and to make friends with all manner of wild creatures. I admired his respect for his family and the maturity he showed. The wild boy had much to teach the wealthier cousins of the story.
And I identified with the heroine, Mary Lennox, of course. The book begins with her being orphaned in India and sent to live with an uncle in, well, Yorkshire. Just as Anne of Green Gables was fostered from the mainland, Emily of New Moon and Pollyanna are sent to live with aunts – as is James of Giant Peach fame. Oliver Twist gets adopted. Harry Potter was orphaned. We never know the origins of the dark haired, ill tempered Heathcliff. (The Secret Garden had been a wonderful introduction to the moors on which he and Cathy lived, loved and died.)
I blush to think that I was well into my 30s before realising what so many literary heroes of mine have in common and why they held such interest to me. As an adopted child I was accustomed to wondering what could have been – most people are born into their family and that is the only place they could ever belong. Yes, I was born to a set of parents but from there my life could have taken any number of turns. There was another girl adopted into a family living in Arklow the same week as me. I do not know her name but I know a little of her story and it could easily have been mine. Her father died from suicide when we were still teenagers and I remember feeling so grateful and then guilty that that was her fate and not mine. Afterall, what factor decided which of us would go live with which family? That I even grew up in Arklow was not a predestined given. Adopted from a Dublin agency I could easily have ended up anywhere on the eastern side of the country. I might have never met my Arklow born husband and raised my own two Arklow born children.
But my love of reading – where was it born? In my Saturday trips to the library, walking up the steps into the echoey tiled entrance hall, the books cradled in my arms. Each week I would gaze at the large marine bomb on display in fascination before entering into the library’s hushed tones. I stood at the brown counter that gradually shrank as I grew and would pass over my small pile of books to one of the two elderly ladies behind the desk. Then I would do my rushed library walk – a quick step movement denying energy but unable to hide my enthusiasm – to the children’s shelves to eek out authors I loved and unread tomes, while frequently glancing over to the adult shelves for reassurance. There, eeking out loved authors and unread tomes, would stand my mother, holding books close to her face to read the first page or so to gauge interest. As the years passed the text in her books became larger and my books morphed into young adult material but for years we both honoured our hushed ritual of the choosing.
And, apart from poor troubled Heathcliff, those characters I loved all lived happily ever after. As, for the most part, did I.
As an only child, of my parents (though I had much older half siblings) my playmates were always hugely important to me. I remember long warm summer days, where I only seemed to go home for meals. We would play in the street: British Bulldog, May I, Farmer may I cross your Golden River, Budge, Tiggy on High and so many others. We gave ‘baccys’ on bikes and some dads built go-carts. As we got older and roamed a bit further, we often got into bother scrumping for apples, falling into rivers and streams (or being pushed) when fishing, with our jam jars and nets, in Meanwood Park and The Hollies. Halcyon days full of fun and freedom.
My family is flexible – it is not a static concept, the very essence of it and of its boundaries is blurry. In stories of immigration, loss and diaspora, it is hard to keep in touch, recognizing others as part of your own family. What is it that ties us together ? Memories, places we left, feeling, the shape of an eye, photos ? We need something that binds us. In Judaism, it is the family that is at the epicenter of religion, not the synagogue. Sacrality and ritual: we find them in family traditions and stories. We create space with ties, memory with love. Family is learning how not to forget.
Because of the family I was born into, I have always been scared my husband would leave me, that I wasn’t good enough to be loved by him. Then I had my daughter, and I stopped being scared, because she is a special kind of glue, the most precious, glorious person I have ever met.
I want to tell you about my grandmother, who died in January of this year aged 96. She made ice cream for literally anyone, and regularly used to beat me when we watched University Challenge. In 1939 her Canadian stepfather moved her and her younger siblings to Canada to be safer, and after she finished university early, she snuck onto a Belgian arms ship to come back to the UK and do her wartime duty, fixing radios for the WRNS. During her lifetime she lived in North London, her older brother in Switzerland, her younger half brother in Seattle, and her younger half sister in Israel. She was the last one of them left for many years. I feel too far away from my sister while we live on opposite sides of London. I can’t imagine the isolation she must have felt during her lifetime.
I underestimated my family. They have proved to be amazing to me. All the years of doubt – should my parents stay together? Would we ever learn not to explode into arguments when together? – We’ve all learnt what each others’ limits are, I think, and don’t push each other so far beyond what each person can handle. My parents have done everything in their power to help me make a home for my children and stand on my own two feet. We hung in there. We’re not all cosy together, but it’s strong in its own way.
My father fought in 1st World War in Palestine. my mother was 30 years younger than him.. she had had TB and spent 3years convalescent on The Isle of Wright .
Family. My family has changed a lot throughout my life. I lived in Shetland with my mam and dad until they split up when I was a toddler. Me and mam moved to the mainland, life was happy I seen my mam as my best friend but addiction took a hold of her and at the age of about 7 my dad won a full custody of me in the courts with the help of his mam and dad my grandparents, we moved back to Shetland. I cant say I liked it much to begin with, I had missed so much school when id lived with mam, being stuck inside all day learning over the summer holidays was the last thing I wanted to do, especially when id been used to an amount of freedom that wasn’t very normal for someone my age. Me and dad lived with my grandparents at first in their big Victorian home, we had taken my kitten Kiara up to Shetland with us and it made the summer indoors bearable until I met new kids after summer.
I ended up having a very stable and loving family network me and dad got our own home and granny and grandad always had space for me, as did my dads brother my uncle. I still missed mam and seen her in the holidays. When I was ten addiction got the better of my mam and she passed away. I wont go through the sad details of the funeral or the experience of death. I will however share the bonds that followed. I think hardship does bring people closer together but my dad became my hero and a beckon of strength for me during the weeks, months and years that followed. I was torn up as any kid would be but dad just kept feeding my soul with knowledge, books, media and most of all love. He had endless encouragement and understanding which I think is what a good parent should do but doesn’t always manage- we’re all human at the end of the day! But my dad did manage it. People who knew me and dad always commented on our ability to know what each other was thinking without having to say to each other. My dad had a saying for everything too, whether he made it up or it was a common turn of phrase; if id behaved well as a kid to I was as good as gold, when I stumbled my toes running up the stairs dad would say, if you’re going to be dump you gotta be tough. My personal favourite was one he made up on the spot when I was a teenager, your life by the magic of rhyme, don’t worry sweetheart there’s plenty of time. My granny became my stand in mam of sorts and it suited me just fine that she didn’t try and encroach trying to be my mam. She took me through the woman hood side of life and was always starting creative projects with me way into my teenage years. Grandad was just always there I suppose. I don’t know how else to put it, he has always been such a calm and serene soul. I never ever got shouted at by grandad if I ever got into trouble he would sit me down and talk calmly through what I had done wrong, why I had done it and what could be done to make things right. I was nurtured so much by my family and I truly see how its made me into the woman I am today. The times when me and my dad would go to my grandparents for Sunday dinner were the times I have felt most at home in my life, sat round talking about the week that had passed.
When I was 21 my dad died. By that stage my grandparents had divorced and the beautiful Victorian house was sold on. My grandparents are still a big part of my life though and I speak to them on the phone a lot. I have a boyfriend, his family and some friends who love me. My idea of family has been changed again since my dads passing. I feel like I’m looking through a thick glass windows to normal families when I go to a wedding, or being invited to something as simple as a Sunday roast. Don’t get me wrong I want to be invited to these things and I love being around the people who mean so much to me. I’m just trying to figure out what family means to me now that im reaching my mid 20s, and to be honest nothing I feel now comes close to the security the word family brought me in my mid teens. There is a place that has helped fill in some of the gaps in my life that I have been looking to find, the Whocares?Scotland family has given me so much. Its not just an organisation to me its a place of nurturing, somewhere you can find yourself through the compassion of others. The sense of connection surprised me as I really didn’t think you could be this close to people you hardly knew. Some might try say that its solidarity that brings people to WhoCares?Scotland but for me I was a lost soul looking for a family and an identity and the family at WhoCares?Scotland are the ones who found me and brought me into the fold.
I am learning how to connect, I’ve always known how to empathise but my attachments have been unhealthy in friendships since my dad died. Ive wanted my friends to fill that family hole that was left but really the surface level friendships that we manage to build can only go so deep. The love can be real and returned in full, but the exception to be able to rely on in life is going a bit far. Thankfully I do have a couple of friends that I can rely on in the real world when things get tough and they are my family. When it comes to building me up and nurturing me I think my couple pals and WhoCares?Scotland, with them by my side I can keep on going through life and keep my head above water.
My dad had undiagnosed ADHD. He had crazy boundless energy and he was exciting to be around. Nothing was ever boring if my dad was involved. I, on the other hand, grew into a calm, chilled person. My dad helped me develop patience. I am a better parent because of him.
My family are my life
My family is dominated by my mother. I have always searched for but never achieved her approval. She is sensitive and brutal, fierce and fragile, loving and unkind, god fearing and judgemental, demanding of the highest standards of herself and others but never feeling as if anyone achieves them including herself. Her feelings which are out there and visceral have always trumped mine which are inward and repressed. I wonder what its like to be free of the shackles of maternal love.
This is a lovely project Lemn , Thank you
I have an ache like no other when I have not seen my Grandchildren. I actually feel a physical heart throb when I get a photo or video of them
I found my daughter on the bedroom floor of her rented house. Her 4 year old son lay beside her with his eyes tightly shut, pretending to be asleep. My 6 year old granddaughter was in her room. Every toy she owned had been pulled down onto the floor. She had been into her mothers room, she knew there was no response from mummy. Mummy wasn’t waking up.
They came to live with me that night and have done this past 3 and a half years.
“Are you my family?” the boy said after visiting their dad and his girlfriend and their young son.
” You have a different name to mine”
So I explained about his mothers name being that of my first husband, my name being that of a combination of my maiden name and my third husband, like his was a combination of his mum and dads surnames but that yes, we were most definitely family.
Family is blue skies then horizontal rain;
Out early and up through corries to plateau and mountain peak,
Squares of chocolate and hot squash,
Giggles when gloves won’t slip onto cold, wet fingers.
A kiss on the forehead,
A scream of frustration,
A waulking song,
Family is floating in blue spaces,
With the pull and suck of a paddle
Through smooth liquid seaweed.
Our eldest is a back-seat paddler,
Always noting inadequacies;
And so, a swap in the shallows
Curled toes in wet sand.
Family picks at its own scabs,
Rips stitches, slams doors in its own face,
And cries into endless pillows.
Family pulls its punches,
Presents a united front, a force to be reckoned with,
And curates a will of its own.
Family is honesty.
Family is tenderness.
Family is courage.
Family is fractal.
Family is hope.
Family is oxygen.
My family is crafted. Our ties are not blood ties, they are heartfelt bonds that are stronger than anything I could imagine in this world. The pleasure in my people is so powerful, it sometimes hurts. My adolescent son, without prompting, gives a fleeting and discreet peck on my forehead—pang. A friend has a lost look in her eyes, so I fold her in an embrace—crunch. Out of the corner of my partner’s mouth, comes the sweetest smirk—whack. Family conjures up the stormy and exhilarating tensions of pleasure and pain. Family is not a rare gem that is found but is a well-polished stone that uniquely glistens and sparkles with effort and care. My family is everything.
I want to tell you about my old Uncle Tom, he lived to 100! My granny’s brother, she didn’t speak to him for years, basically because she was a bit snobby, it was complicated, but quite sad. When I did meet Tom, as an adult,, it was like seeing the male version of my granny, which was very funny! But, Tom, he had lived a great life, he was a rebel, he messed around and didn’t do what he was told. He was in the Navy, and caught their attention for his bad behaviour, always breaking the rules. So they gave him the choice, youre out or secret service, let’s make use of that wild spirit and intelligence, seeking its own fun! He never told us about that service but he always had a twinkle in his eye. Their was a great story about rum! I’m lucky to have had great men in my family, those who are no longer here, like Tom, I aspire to have their spirit, drive and adventure in me. He had a great laugh too and when he turned 100 he was interviewed by Radio Ipswich and he recommended a fry up every day and a pint! Haha! I love and miss him, be kind and fun whenever you can. Take risks, tell stories, be yourself and have a twinkle in your eyes xx
Family is strange and some of it estranged, which hurts. But the burning I feel in my chest reminds me of how much I love the ones who are close. And a few of my friends have become chosen family. They help with the absence of presence.
For me, life and being part of a family is a journey where the whole array of emotions are evoked. Feelings that include joy, worry, fun, sorrow, frustrations, humour and anger. As individuals we mismatch and harmonise. Our personal histories are emotional and complex. Despite of and because of all this, the foundation maintaining our family is love.
My family is me and my three children who are 22, 21 and 17. They are each individuals but there are similarities between us. We are all creative people but in unique ways. We share family stories amd support each other through life. We are open amd honest with each other. I have learned about many things because of the interests of my children. I’ve also learned to trust them as they got older and consider the older two as friends (the younger one is not quite there yet).
Close bond , everlasting,, connected
We get by on love, chaos, humility, apologies, forgiveness, long walks, pizza and morning hugs.
there was so much laughter in our home. We have gone to Church all our lives and we still do… we avoid to look at each other even in Church lest we burst into laughter just by looking at each other .
Being in my family as a child was like being in a gang. We had our own language and our own jokes, our stories and our mythology. We were invincible and invincibly were ‘we’. As we’ve grown and moved away sometimes family has tugged and pulled uncomfortably, sometimes it has been an ear worm, a song which sings itself when I’m not directly listening. Always it has been a net.
A house stands bright at the top of the rise
As you climb through green bracken and gorse
Deep hedges conceal all its magic inside
And all of its memories of course.
This is my home. This is the place
Where I played as a child and ran free
Where I laid on the grass with a book in my hand
Where I knew that I could be me.
Where we stayed out all day, building dens, building dams
Then ran back home for our tea.
It’s not just the place but the people within
Those you’re attached to by elastic and string
Whose hearts chime with yours, who draw you back in,
Whose love you can trust, through thick and through thin.
And it isn’t just those that are there when you go
But all of the people you’ve been lucky to know
And share happy gatherings over the years;
They’re part of its fabric and part of the trees
And the shrubs and the flowers, the grass and the breeze
That blows over the forest and in through the gate
They’re part of the memories that make it the place
Where you know you belong, that is inside of you.
That began as a seed and grew as you grew.
Hide and seek children, barefoot on the grass
At family gatherings of many years past,
On garden chairs, with tea cups, the elderly dears
who are part of the magic that’s been there through the years.
From the very first visit when the grass dry and tall
invited us in to discover it all.
Over the gate we tumbled and ran
Exploring this place, the adventure began
Down paths through the trees where the well pump stood
to the shed with old paint pots and pieces of wood
The garden ran happily untamed and wild
Perfect for hiding places, when you are a child.
The house so neglected, forlorn and unloved
Arched windows and pillars, a red roof above.
And cascading wisteria bedecking its face
Twisting tendrils through windows to capture the place.
We sat on the porch steps and breathed it all in
Enchanted; a new life about to begin.
The roots that I grew here, grew into my soul
It’s a place I feel grounded and rested and whole
It’s the distance, in some ways, now that I’ve flown,
That conjures the magic that calls me back home.
My parents fostered 2 children when we were little. They came to us aged 9 and 12. We were aged 1, 2, 4 and 5. They lived with us until they were adults. I always considered them part of our family.
Dad was a natural comedian, people loved him because he was really quick and funny. He was also a really good singer and would get up at the ‘Go as you Please’ nights at the pubs and clubs. We grew up in a house of laughter and song. I love it when people comment that we, his 4 children, have his sense of humour, we can all hold a tune as well. One story my mam recounts was when they had an argument and he threatened to not make her laugh any more 😂❤️ Of course he couldn’t stay grumpy for long 💕Hapoy birthday Lemn xxxx
When love is shown it’s wonderful , when it’s not it’s painful
I’m a twin and will love my brother forever, though we are verg different. Family is about connection, with whoever we’ve become – because we garden. What we grow includes things taken as seedlings from our dear much missed dad’s garden – so there are plants nodding in borders all over the country. When I see them flower and glory in my garden, I’m with my dad, my twin, my mum, my little sister. Grown and growing together somehow, so when we meet up it’s like we were never apart and all that growing continues. So my image? Would be (if the system let me copy it in, which for sone reason it won’t) of something growing still, passed to me by my dad, the wise and funny gardener whose wisdom, humour and green fingers we now pass down the generations growing on from here.
When I wasn’t looking, Tom suddenly appeared. He is my older brother by four years and was born to our mother Aasta May when so many miles away from her family and home. Tom was adopted in April 1950, four or six weeks after his birth, and it took 65 years for me to learn about any of this. Since acquiring such knowledge, I have layered much of its warm and welcome certainty with surmise and deduction, each strand of imagining attached to increasing feelings of sadness for mom giving up a son I am sure she wanted to love. I can never know for sure why she journeyed the nearly 500 miles from Omaha to Denver to give birth, but researching reveals that at the Florence Crittenton Home where Tom was born, the rule was he, like all new babies, would be given up for adoption – mothers there for that very reason and with the dreadful motivation usually being concealment of a family’s embarrassment and shame. I might assume our mother asked the Lutheran Social Services to handle that adoption – one of three commonest ‘agency’ choices – but I can never know for sure why she christened my brother Michael, though I can also assume this was her reason for giving the same meaningful name to me.
I’ve learned that family is not just your blood relatives. Family are ghe people who welcome you with open arms, love you in spite of yourself and never give up on you. Family are the people who open their hearts and homes to you. Family, something i always yearned for yet felt i didnt deserve. Even when i had my own children i didnt know how to be a father or how to love them. Until one day people i didnt know made me a part of their family and taught me how to love my own. Family is where i am safest.
THE DAY ALL THE TOYS WENT ON A TRIP
It was a nice sunny afternoon. The Beatles were on the radio singing “Penny Lane”. I was three.
My older half-brother Graham said “Oh alright then, I’ll take you round the block” after me badgering him for ages to have a go in his motorbike sidecar. I was fascinated with it’s scale. To me in my little world it looked like a teeny tiny car. A short while later he was horrified to see I had crammed every dolly/teddy/glass animal/ I owned into his sidecar. We were off! How exciting. Three minutes later we were back home. I didn’t mind the trips brevity. Everything in my world was so small. It was fine. And a day I’ll never forget. What a trip! Thanks Graham!
When my Aunty, my mum’s younger sister (there was 3 girls) and always my Grandparents favourite, was a teenager she moved to Plymouth with some other girl friends from the local area. My strict Grandpa reluctantly agreed. Then he had a call from another parent one of the girls was taking the pill so Grandpa got in the car, late at night, drove to the flat and turfed Ruth out. Just a rumour one of them was on the pill was enough! She had no choice and had to say for weeks and weeks it wasn’t her who was on the pill to be allowed to return to the flat. Years later at family celebrations we laugh about this story, or we did, our family is all very fractured now but this shows how times change. I still loved my Grandpa; he was a man of his time trying to do his best and pregnancy when unmarried was one of his biggest fears for one of his three daughters.
A letter to my dad, my rock, my prayer worrier;
It will be almost six years since you went to your heavenly father so suddenly, leaving a hole I cannot fill. Doing what you taught me, your values and love of your family, community, and country—striving to honor you every day by trying to do my corner of the world better.
The last time we spoke, you told me to leave my life in God’s hand. To praise him through my triumphs and challenges, to surrender all to him, and say TEMESGEN!!/ PRAISE!!/.
You said, “leave your worries and surrender. Lift your hands and say I surrender!!” It has been hard without you, I see you every day in my son’s and my daughter’s kindness, my sisters’ tenacity and faith, my borther^s heart, my mom^s determination.
Thank you for praying for us , teaching us to have strong faith, love each other, share what we have, and do it all to honor God.
I miss you, and I love you.
Your baby girl
Family is the small things that aren’t small at all, and that you carry all your life. Memories to cherish, building blocks of your character and important narratives of who you are, your refuge when ever you need one. Here’s a small thing: my dad borrowed a camera from his colleague at work to capture a moment of me being awarded a prize at primary school.. On the way we found it didn’t work…my dad stopped at an electronic shop and buys a brand new camera he could ill-afford. He managed just one blurred picture of me getting my prize – he didn’t quite know how to work the damn thing. After the ceremony, I took a picture of Dad explaining the operating manual to my Mom. It’s one of my favourite photos of my youthful, loving parents whose adventures mostly revolved around what they did for their kids. The small things…
My Mam enraged me because she was paranoid about my car and wouldn’t let me drive it with my son in it. Then later my brother and sister in law told me that they were expecting another baby, and we had champagne. Mam is still wrong, but it’s because she loves us.
My mother was unexpectedly bereaved last March. We were not able to visit her at first because of self isolation and lockdown rules. My sister sent my mum a poem, by text, every night at about 11.30 pm for the first few weeks . At least one of them was by Lemn Sissay. Mum said receiving these bedtime poems from her younger daughter was one of the things that helped her heal the most in those difficult days .
We grew up in a big house on a square in London. I knew we had more than most people living in the area. My mum said that she had grown up in Ireland, but after she died I found out that in fact she grew up in Earl’s Court, above a butcher’s shop, and that her family were very poor. I wasn’t half Irish after all. And Mum had made it all up, because she wanted to escape from the world she grew up in. She went to grammar school and became ashamed of her family. I have met my aunt and 2 cousins now, and feel a sadness and anger that the class system in this country divided us and deprived us me of my family when I was growing up and needed them
5 marriages, 3 divorces, 3 sisters, 2 brothers, 3 deaths.
When people ask I have often said ‘oh my families complicated’, but it’s not really what I mean, and that’s just describing it be outside definitions and putting people in my family in boxes with labels that the outside world wants in order to understand – asks to understand by our ‘blood relations’, mother, father, step parent, half-sister, step brother….they are my parents, my brothers and my sisters, we shared parts of our lives together, we loved people together and we grieved for people together, differently but together.
At the heart of all that is my Mum, who has driven me crazy over the years, but who I love with all my heart. She’s at the centre, because without her fire, and her adventure and her challenge, non or us would know each other and actually for me it’s not very complicated at all. I have been lucky enough to have 5 parents and 5 brothers and sisters, and yet I’m an only child – how lucky am I! It’s not complicated because I have been cloaked in love from this big messy beautiful, dysfunctional family.
Each of us hurt and scared in different ways, and I know some deeper than others. Maybe I’m the one who see’s our family through rose coloured spectacles and, after all I was the who only experienced some of the drunkenness on the every- other- weekends and holidays, I was the one who still had my Mum as an anchor, and my extended web of family on that side when you lost yours.
What is family to me, a beautiful mix of wonderful different people, who I love with all my heart, who I would not have known if my life had been ‘conventional’ by other people’s standards.
This is not complicated, this is beautiful, and messy and love, and hurt, and let down, and love and sadness and joy and sharing and love.
My sisters are who keep me sane and smiling, even when we face difficulties as we have all our lives
It is the solid and secure foundation of my life 💕
I had a baby 7 weeks ago; mine and my partners first child. We are now a family. Within hours of him arriving I felt a love, protectiveness and attachment that I had never felt before, and imagined a loss, worry and failure that I could never contemplate before. I immediately understood my relationship with my parents more, and the idea of family became something else to me.
When my daughter was born I was so very surprised to find that from the very first second of her life she led the way in what she needed and I followed, rather than the other way round as I’d previously understood from the expression ‘bringing up a child’.
The picture is of my sister and me on Christmas Day 2020, taken by my daughter. There are only three of us in the country and we were determined to spend that time together.
The traditional concelt of family is somewhat alien to me. Of course, i grew up in a family. Quite a large one, actually. It was hard for me to see all of the other kids at school with their ‘normal’ families. Meanwhile, at home I had two alcoholic parents and lived my childhood flinching as a glass flew across the room. No extended family members helped or supported myself and my siblings – something that in hindsight (now having nephews of my own) is baffling to me. Stereotypically, family is supposed to love and care about you, but it felt the opposite. Then I went to university, and everyone got drunk and shared their own disfunctional stories of their families. Our crazy mums and dads became famous to one another. Being the only one left every easter, summer and christmas because i didn’t have a good family to go back to just emphasised to everyone else the need I had to be cared for – often traveling to stay with friends in their hometown and enjoying a few evenings with their families. The contrast was fascinsting. And then by the time I left university three years later, i had created my own family. A group of misfits who had just experienced some of the craziest years of our lives together.l. I still don’t know if a ‘normal’ family exists, but I hope I can give my children something closer to it in the future. Not all stories about families are lovely, and it’s ok to recognise and honour those who missed out on a fairy tale concept of family.
Originally from a farming background, my parents had four daughters. Two became nurses ( i am one of those) two became farmers. I am married with Two beautiful adult sons who have amazing partners. Believe in living for the moment
Born to young parents youth club sweethearts, married as teens had us 4 kids rapid. Our childhood was fun structured lots of freedom outdoors as we had to be out so as not to mess up the house or cause them bother. We entertained each other 3 of us shared a bedroom till my Dad bought outright our first house. He was driven by money you see. We hardly saw him but when we did he was fun and adventurous he would pack the car to ‘set off’ we went all over the north of England the 6 of us packed in the car to experience days out. Mum was the arty one and creative made amazing food. We went from rags to riches rapid and then boom our parents ‘lost it’ arguing and wrecking everything we had – Mum left us all & we had years of turmoil they divorced. I was angry with them for a longtime not now but its incredible how much we all care for them in their old age. As siblings we parented each other & we parent our parents. So family has taught me how to be resilient, how to channel drama, that comedy and story telling are my go to coping strategies. Family can be complicated unpredictable and emotional. Families are forever changing mum always said ‘nothing lasts for forever’ …… I expect very little from my parents as they remain highly needy and demanding!
Family is more than blood and biology, it is a circle of friends who’s love is so strong and supportive that it protects you from any challenge life throws at you.
My mother was Peruvian and my father was English. We lived in 5 countries so I was sent to school in the UK. However my mother’s bond with her family was so strong that we still carry it to this day even though she died 12 years ago. I am very close to my cousins in Peru and my brother lives there. Peru is such a big part of me and my siblings. I look English but peel away a layer and Peru is there. For me Peru is family.
My parents split when I was ten in a pretty dramatic way. We liked to do things in a big way in our family! Dad was difficult to live with, disabled from a life changing accident he had when he was nineteen on a night out in Brighton. Him and his friend, driving back to barracks fell asleep, the car crashed down the side of the coast road, dad went through the roof. He was told he would never walk again. Dad being dad had none of it. He dragged himself up and down the stairs of his council flat morning and night till he got his legs working. But the injuries went deep and covered other pain from a seriously dysfunctional family life where alcohol ruled the day.
Mum and dad met and fell in love. But very soon after the birth of first my brother and then me, the cracks started to appear and the bouts of violence. Women in those days couldn’t just leave, even though the divorce law was in place, you had to prove cruelty and bad treatment ans have the finances to support you, so mum was instructed to keep a ten year diary.
So, there I was, just home from school and mum says, ‘you and your brother, meet me in the living room as I have something important to tell you’. What could it be? worst case sinarios were playing loud tunes in my head – nan’s died, the guinea pigs eaten it’s baby, mums found the broken ornament under my bed!
Mum told us we were leaving dad and going on a new journey with a man called frank who we were to call uncle frank. We were moving to Gravesend and starting a new life. It all sounded so exciting that we didn’t have a chance to think about what we were leaving behind. The moment of dad finding the house empty haunted me for many years to come.
Looking back years later I realised that mum must have had so much courage to do what she did and leave an abusive relationship
Dad eventually found another partner.
Moving from a sleepy kent village and thrown into a mixed comprehensive on an estate in Gravesend was a rude awakening and made bad education look sissy. Every girl in my class was called Sharon or Tracey and they were tough. If you dared look at them you would get a punch. My defence against the dark arts was to eat and build body armour but this just made matters worse, self loathing amidst the chanting of ‘fatty foster’ was a torment that almost took me to the edge.
Mum decided to take me to the doctor and I got put on a diet of lettuce and celery. Be to honest this was a god send as I have always loved my greens to this day! Learning the shamans ritual of being taunted with home made chips waved under my nose whilst chomping on a carrot has had its benefits.
The diet worked, I lost weight and gained confidence. Nan, a brilliant seamstress who could magic a dress out of thin air, tailored made me a school dress that emphasised my new figure. I felt like the bees knees. The name calling vanished behind the cloak of immaturity and I gained respect. ‘The dress’ my savour, my chariot, helped me put on a ‘new me’ to step out into the world in and was to feature many times, in many guises, in the years to come.
The image attached is of my daughter modelling a paper dress I made from torn pieces of wallpaper inscribed with words.
KT – Kath W.
I was one of four – we were always busy, always had jobs to do, both parents working full time and grandparents to help out too across the road. My cousin says she remembers it was always noisy and she loved it. I have three chicks, always noisy, busy and happy. Three of eleven grandchildren in our family, all grown up, and we are now awaiting the arrival of number eight in the next generation. It’s still noisy and busy but spread out. Our house extended to accommodate granny in our granny flat, where it is quieter but often noisy as it overflows with love and chicks.
My great grandmother and two of her daughters were involved in the Belgian resistance during the second world war.
Buying the ticket
To catch the train
To gaze out the window –
Forehead against cool glass –
To peer past the gates
To family waiting
And into the car –
Smells of dog and rug –
And back to the house
And out to the garden
And toes in wet grass
Ignoring a thistle
In arch of a foot
An old cricket bat
And a tennis ball calling
The dog joining in –
One hand one bounce rule –
With the sun in your eyes
Try to angle the catch,
Gran joining in
In wait for a pause
In the game
Purple mouths purple fingers
Dew drop jean hems
Wiping bare feet on door mat
Not to bring in the dirt
Box of apples by back door
Stacked up high from the Fall
Telly loud for the parrot
Chuckling with the canned laughs
Biscuit tin full of bourbons
Orange squash by the sink
Running through skidding slightly
Rug moving like socks
On wooden floors –
Charles and Diana
Wedding glasses witness all –
Barrel straight into Grandpa
Arms wide, moustache tickles,
Cotton shirt collar worn down
Under sky blue v-neck
With holes at the elbows
Full of love and worn softness.
Buying the ticket.
I was raised by my grandparents, aunts and uncles!
For me it’s a feeling not a relationship. Feeling safe and heard and valued makea me think of people as family.
Dear Lemn Sissay, greetings! My mother is everything to me. This poem I wrote all about her life journey as I understand it. I shared it on poemhunter.com years ago. Fabric. Chapter 1. Rich farmer lots of children. Wife died tempo disrupted grief stricken. His half sister with issues of her own, abducted his favorite daughter, uprooted from her birthplace, one of her brothers was the accomplice, the eight year old changed her pace, new city became her new identity, was it the sugar cane? sweetening her life thus? she blended aunt diligently helped, sent her to school raised her good, rode bicycle to move around, at the paper factory she worked, whenever school closed, aunt didn’t mind. She met him there, he pursued her, she was only sixteen. Chapter 2. Defied the aunt married the man. Started journey without plan. Family unit strengthened thanks to first born. Happiness reigned, woman thrived. Half a year baby fell ill. Gone to heaven bereaved woman stood still. What made her trust life once again? What was the reason? Was it the love for the man? Was it the belief not to question? Accepting must be in her nature. Or! Support group helped her to move on? Comforting massaging her belly with butter. A little of this a little of that. Second child here let’s name her. Another town woman didn’t groan. Followed man loyally he’s her guardian. A baby boy oh what a joy! On second thought! So demanding. So draining. Pushed aside his sister oh dear oh dear. Chapter 3. On the move once again do not frown. Man is trying family is growing. To the capital city full of opportunity. Man struggled buckled but never surrendered. Happy family life sustained him good. Day time laborer night time scholar. The fourth child is so pretty. Sunshine befitted her beauty. The happy woman weaving her nest in earnest , welcomed her father siblings extended family members, frequently visited she radiated. Accommodating nature won her neighbors. Her house is full no distress. Regarding her husband who fought hard, couldn’t get paid as he should, he was forced to make decision. Gave up fighting for cause which wasn’t his own. Family comes first he was no politician. became a seaman fifth child wasn’t one. Chapter 4. Her life was lost without him, she cried hard life became grim. She endured a lot making ends meet., did Socialism helped or hindered? food was rationed. life was censored. Ethio-Somali war dictated everything to the war front! contribute yourself to the utmost, children had fun take heed. songs of war filled their head. staged and played out wars of their own. Re-enacting hilariously what went on.
I have always been fascinated by the stories behind the names of my aunts, uncles, and grandparents on my mother’s side. They tell such a poignant story of their journey. My grandfather’s name was Bishaw (if God wants). He was born months after his father died in a war. His mother, who was depressed and feeling overwhelmed, named him Bishaw as circumstances were dire, and so, if God wants, let him live; if not, let him die. My grandmother was Tarikua, which means her story. This couple’s and their family’s story is beautifully and powerfully written in their children’s names. Their first child was Desta – happiness – happy at their first born! Then came my mother, Tewabech, she became beautiful, and she IS beautiful! Then, two children were born – Besufekad (by God’s will) and Ejegayehu (I saw so much!). Unfortunately, these two children died while they were young. Two years after their deaths, Badege was born. His name means I hope he grows – a direct reflection of the pain and loss they experienced. After him, Alemayehu (I saw the world) in both the loss and the joy. Then, Temesgen (praise be to God – through whom all gifts flow), Tarekegn (God has reconciled with me), Genet (Heaven), and Yehualashet (the last seed), who was, in fact, the last born of this family. Names are powerful!
Today we buried my Mum’s ashes – born on 29 Dec 1932, died on her 87th birthday, 2019. The pandemic prevented her being re-united with my Dad sooner, and my sister, in Canada, from being with us today. A rebellious, individual spirit until the end, I’m glad Mum didn’t have to experience Covid restrictions. Miss you Mum xx
In my late forties my sister decided to tell me that our Dad wasn’t really my Dad. My darling Dad, who I grieved and missed and who had lived and cared for me with no discernible difference from my other sisters, was not my Father. He knew this when I was born, when he put his name on my birth certificate and in order to keep the family together kept his silence. The silence was to protect me and the rest of the family. After finding out I too have remained silent. To protect my Mother who would be destroyed if she knew I knew the truth. Inside I am screaming,
I wasn’t a planed baby and it was 1967 so my mum went through a scary time. But my dad married her and they’re still together. I’ve got a younger sister and loads of cousins. My extended family are also great friends of mine. We really get on and have a laugh together. I’m so grateful for them all. I’m a stepmum, mum, mum to a disabled adult. My life is full of love but definitely not easy. My youngest child is 23 this year, I already have two step-grandchildren and I love that. I’m happiest when I’ve got my children, nieces and family around me. I would’ve adopted children and given birth to more if my disabled son hadn’t needed so much extra help. The imperfections are what make it all perfect. Love is not easy, parenting can be tough work. Acceptance, letting go and gratitude can create magic, though.
I taught for 40 years, when I met my last tutor group, I told them that I would do my best for all of them to achieve their best, we made a pact, we learnt to trust each other and accepted that we could all make mistakes but with help from each other we would succeed. We talked all the time, before school, at breaktime, lunchtime, after school, we all did a lot of listening too. They often complained that I was expecting too much, that I was the only tutor who gave homework, that nobody else had to write essays every other week… They brought their parents for me to mediate when parents were too strict, they introduced me to them as ‘Madame B, my professional Mum’.
We did develop as a family, over a period of 5 years, When groups were halved for tutors to work intensively with their tutees, there was no way I could split my family, we stayed together, all 31 of us; a few had left to see how green the grass was on the other side but the majority came back, some came to work with me during a summer holiday to catch up with all the missing homework as they wanted to be in the best group in their last year, I ‘lost 2 weeks’ of my summer holiday but it was worth it. They all did really well in their exams.
I retired but we kept meeting on social media, I was invited to birthday parties, engagements, weddings, Chritmas reunions, they came to my house for parties, brought me their babies etc…My children were not the only ones I kept contact with, I have wonderful memories of seeing exhibitions with their parents, inviting 3 generations of their family for lunch in my garden etc…
This huge extended family of mine is a real rainbow, full of diversity, love and wonderful experiences!
There was always a long queue for the loo; if you were lucky enough to get inside that small, cold and draughty cubicle, you were even more fortunate to get out, because the door handle was rusty and stuck; and some smart Alec on the other side of the door was always ready to make sure you might never be seen again. And so I learned to climb through windows – narrow and high – and turned myself aged 7 or so into an escape artist.
When I look in, family is all about husbands, wives, Mums, Dads, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, nephews, nieces, Nanas and Grandpas. I’ve always felt lucky to have such stability around me.
When I look out, I see that family can also mean so much more than this. When there’s complexity or uncertainty or trauma, people often create their own family. It might look a bit different to what I’m used to, but the same things sit at the heart – love, security, support and a future together.
21 years ago today my son Frank was born, very early in the morning at St Thomas’s hospital by the river Thames. All my other pregnancies had ended in miscarriage and he was our ‘miracle’. We lived then on a street of little houses in East London, and when we raced out to our car at the crack of dawn, to my amazement several faces of women who were my neighbours popped out of their windows to send us good luck. How they knew, what woke them was a mystery, but a beautiful sign of that extended family a good neighbourhood gives you. When we got home his unofficial aunties were in straight away to see him and welcome him to the world.
I have 3 children now grown up – to me they are wonderful and are successful adults with their own children and good jobs. Despite some difficulties – 2 have fathers who have abandoned them, one is adopted by me and her father is unknown, they have grown into loving parents and I am so proud of them and they and their families are such a source of joy
I created a family when I had none. There was no mum, no dad, no grandparents, no uncles, there was just me.
I am now the proud and dedicated mother of 6 children, two of my sons are not on this earth anymore, and I miss them every day.
My other 4 children keeps me going, fills me with pride, with love, with strength.
I am a grandmother now, of a sweet little baby boy, and he has and will always have a grandmother, my children will always have a mother.
These children, this grandchild, they will always know love, because I will always be their fighter, their protector, their comfort and their foundation.
Family is love. Family is self sacrifice, family is true.
Family doesn’t have to consist of blood, when blood turns their back on you, go and create your own family.
I am a matriarch, that is how I choose to define me, I choose to rise and be who my children needs me to be.
I was a child without love, a child who was abandoned, abused, not wanted.
Family is love, and love keeps us alive.
I want family to be the brightest strongest thing but my reality is so different. I guess I am lucky I get christmas and birthday cards and a call once a couple of months. Family is just me and my son now and he is the brightest light in the whole world to me. I chose people to be my family, friends who are there, and his acceptance of them makes my heart sing.
On the day I brought my youngest daughter home when she was born , my middle daughter, who was 4 at the time, was so proud of her new sister that she went out to the front garden to collect all the children from our street to come upstairs one by one , into the bedroom where I was resting in bed, to show her off!
I always felt like I was not part of family due to being in foster care. I had “Real” and Foster family. I was not accepted by both but in both families they were shining lights for me My Aunt Julie in my real family and my foster sister they both have me feeling like I’m worth something and not feel like a nobody or nothing. Another person in my family was Nana she was imperfect set in her ways yet the world was changing too fast but she was loved and she loved.
My father was not in my life until my teens but was not interested in me he just wanted to marry me off so he his family gained dowry not in my life since was a child and left again at 13. Came back when I was 30 lecturing me. At least the advice I was given with respect and love from my Aunt, Foster Sis, Nana. My destain against my father is he is overtly religious and throws that down my throat like he is perfect. I have been disowned due to me speaking truth about how evil he was towards my mother and me. You need family even if you don’t have one. The help in times in need. Just don’t let it be all and end of all because you don’t have family. I don’t really see my family as much due to the pandemic and I feel more further apart and alone. I may reunite with My Foster Sister and Aunt. My not have a great mother or father or foster mother but I learned how to never treat anyone. Family for me now is myself until I create one or find someone who accepts me. That will almost certainly impossible.
My family made me who I am today. Early years and bonding is so important. The biggest influence in my life was my dad.
I try to remember the words that were pronounced badly or that my children did not understand. There are some that I remember and that make me smile.
When my brother died, we were all there. My sister in law, his daughter, me, my husband, my daughter. We held hands and talked about our times together and he just sighed and died. So we had a cup of tea and cried and laughed. Still miss him.
My mum is from Burma ( now Myanmar) but her family were displaced when she was a child during independence. Her family were Eurasian so were forced to denounce their European identity or leave. We have lost all links with any relatives back there. Burma has always remained in our family though, through food and stories. As we lose my grandparents generation we lose their stories too. I wish I’d paid more attention or recorded them. It has been bittersweet to now feel more connected with other Burmese people in the UK – as we raise awareness of the horrific attacks on the Burmese people by the current military junta. I often wonder about the family I do not know, who are living through that. My heart goes out to them. (The photo is of my mum and uncle as kids. We don’t know who the man was – family or family friend. It reminds me of our many lost connections).
For me there is no greater love, that moves me from inside out, than that for my (now adult) children. Apologies to my husband who of course I love very much too. But my love for my children is visceral and almost a physical feeling. My happiest times are when I am with them.
We are now part of a blended family. My children were quite young when my first marriage broke up. Some years later I remarried and my husband had 2 slightly older children. I feel that one of my biggest achievements in life has been the successful blending of our 2 families despite some initial teething problems. Our four adult children enjoy each other’s company and have relationships independent of my husband and I. They have fun getting together and sharing what thy consider funny stories about my husband and I!!! They like to time their Christmases so that they coincide their visits and we all share time together.
A couple of years ago when we had some spare money we decided the best thing we could offer our children was to rent a villa abroad off season and they could all dip in and out when it suited them and have a holiday. To our amusement they all wanted to be there at the same time. It was such a success that we decided to repeat it but the pandemic prevented it happening.
I am so happy and proud that I have a great relationship with my stepchildren and that my children and their stepdad have a very easy relationship too. Each of our 4 children have lived with us as young adults for extended periods of time (though rarely at the same time) for various reasons. We have enjoyed this very much and I feel this has been a privilege.
This all sounds smug and somewhat boastful and it is not something I express easily and freely but I feel it is one of the best achievements of my life.
I am English. But I am also fifth generation Irish, my family first came over in the famine. I am the first generation to marry ‘out’, the first to marry someone of English, not Irish, heritage. I don’t think the English realise how hard they are to assimilate with.
A group of people who live for and love one another in the greater circle of love.
A father who always provided his children with tender love. Who educated them beyond his means.
A mother who cared for her husband when life’s fortunes abandoned him and jumped left, center and right to cover his role towards his children.
Siblings and cousins who love and fight, care and nag, comfort and tease each other. Who remain kids to this day in the eyes of their parents. Who speak in an ordinary language but understood only by members of the circle, the unsaid included.
Family is my forever home. Family is hate. Family is love. Family is sacred. Family is a glove. Soft as a velvet. Hard as a stone. I learnt about function from dysfunction. I learnt about connection from disconnection. I learnt about friendship from being left alone. In my family. In my forever home. Thank you Lemn Sissay. You are an inspiration. May your light shine forever in this big, small world…
My family is extended a million times over. Anyone brings home a friend, new partner or colleague, you automatically become family and can never leave
Family, I thonk are Roots….but I della likes I have no Roots and this lets me feel like a leaf in the Wind, a child in a Square of an unknown Place She saw for the First Time at the Age of Seven….that feat Is Always with me although consecutive love although my own next family. I’m a woman, a wife, a teacher but i’m Always searching for my Roots.
I grew up thinking a ‘flodear’ was a real word meaning to spill something. But it was really “Flo, dear!” after a great aunt Floretta who always dropped food down her ample bosom and her husband would say, “Oh, Flo dear.”
Family for me is safety, unconditional love, joy. Mostly I think about my immediate family but there is an invisible thread that ties me to those extended and further away. I know how lucky I am to have the comfort and security of a loving family. My mother created this despite her own turbulent and challenging childhood. My father has always put family first. Family is everything to me, the love I can give and receive is like having a safety net, a bubble of love that I know will catch me if I fall, celebrate when I fly and walk beside me every day.
Family isn’t something I’ve always had growing up. Being taken from my own to somewhere that isn’t my own. Through being in care and experiencing different families, I had time to learn what family is and what it isn’t. At a stage in my life the system was family . I’ve finally connected a relationship with my ‘real’ family it may not be what I dreamt it would be but it’s reality and nothing can take away from that. Positive or negative that’s my family. I am in awe of the days i can make more memories with them. Establishing a relationship with my family has shown me I’m not merely another statistic of a care leaver there is more to life. Such as, embracing the culture and language from my home country where I was born in Somalia many things I have missed out on. Family is my safe place, it is has kept me hopeful. My family kept me hopeful in times of being broken. In multiple homes with a broken system with doubts of no where to call home. My ‘real’ family made it all worth it, through all the feelings I have endured in the name of ‘family’ However for me family is also a word that is still confusing. Maybe one day it won’t and that day will be amazing ?!!!
My Dad is Irish and my Mum is half-Irish and half-Lithuanian. Her Dad (my grandad who unfortunately died when I was three) fled Lithuania and was separated from the rest of his family – he never heard from or saw them again. I was born in London and yet I wouldn’t be here if my grandad hadn’t sacrificed being with his family in order to survive. Family is wishing us, it is brutal, it is heartbreaking, it is powerful. We have the need within us to create our own family anchors if we are without one.
An old Guyanese saying my Dad used to say that made me and my sister laugh when he said it in his resigned fashion when we’d upset him. “When your own lice bite you you’re well bitten.” Still don’t know what he meant.
Baci, swallows returning home and long manicured nails. When I was very little I didn’t speak much Italian, but I knew the word for kisses due to my obsession with the delicious bite size chocolates that each contained a short note about love; ‘Baci’. One day, before speaking with my beloved Nonna on the phone, I asked my Mum for an Italian word for a big number- she taught me ‘Mille’, a thousand. At the end of the call, I closed it by saying ‘ciao, mille baci!’ (goodbye, a thousand kisses). I’ll never forget the laugh my Nonna gave, I could feel her smiling down the phone. It became our special sign off, our secret shorthand for the love we had/have for one another. She was wonderful in every way, patient, funny, kind, with impeccable taste in suits and long manicured nails that she used to run through my hair to send me to sleep. The last thing she ever told me was to eat, I was 16 and I had been starving myself. I’m 28 now, and sometimes I wish she could see now how sustained I am, how full my life is with love and good food and joy. I think in some way she knows, or at least she knew I would be ok in the end. I sometimes see her in dreams – it’s very comforting, she is often behind a door, drenched in golden light and just holds me for a while. When I turned 18, my Mum and I went and got a tattoo together in memory of her. My Mum and Dad had just moved away to Greece and I was out in the world living independently. We each got a swallow on our wrist as we had read that sailors used to get them as a symbol of always returning home to their families after long journeys at sea. Under my Mums swallow is the word ‘Mille’ and under mine ‘Baci’. It’s my only tattoo and every day I look at it. It makes me think of my Nonna, my Mum and the strength that love brings to families who are far apart. We can connect to one another in physical spaces, in memories and dreams and that is how I return home.
1985. I’m 14. A Friday in September. Our family changed. My Mum took an overdose. Found by my Dad. I was sent to school. My Mum Survived. Six weeks in a local Psychiatric Hospital. Came home. Never mentioned. Never spoken about. At 49 I still carry the pain. The unanswered questions. Only my best friend from school knows as she held my hand as I cried in assembly that day. That’s my family. We don’t talk. We brush things aside. Still hurting.
When I think of my family I think of my grandmother. She had a tremendous impact on my teenage years where she was my refuge and I was her support and partner in crime. The was closer to me than anyone else ever was.
She was a single mum in the 1950s having split up with the father of my dad before he was born.
I grew up in a large house my grandmother jointly owned with her much older sister who also lived there with her family. Despite this, my grandmother was the matriarch, ran the household (well actually both), ran the fields and gardens, she was working full time and at some point took over the care for her sister and her brother in law when their child failed. Her loyalty to her sister, who struggled with mental health and its decline, inability to properly care for her family at some point, let my grandmother make enormous sacrifices – from travel to love.
She was resilient, humble, outspoken and when I was in trouble she helped building bridges and create perspectives. She looked after the teenage me and I looked after her and supported her when her health started to fail.
I miss her dearly but still can hear her voice calling me, see her standing on the landing in our house and feel the hugs we gave each other.
Making mince pies…..
Coerced into memory:
the pastry yellow under my nails,
every circular cut
a neat-edged summary
of Christmas ritual.
Before the wreck of age grounded
you on rocks of wild assertion,
dulled your mind and wasted muscles,
the top seat was yours,
directing willing and unwilling hands
for Christmas dinner.
Once done, our stomachs bulging,
table cleared, cheese
for any corners left unfilled,
your Christmas court included
party tricks, a song or recitation.
Yours, learned by heart, Excelsior,
the Banner with a Strange Device.
Then port passed clockwise,
cracker jokes read out in turn:
I say, I say, I say;
boum boum; kindly get off.
Christmas Day is signalled
by mince pies for breakfast.
Remembering now that once
they were shaped like coffins.
In the beginning, it’s rough green carpet and the smell of sweet spit and everything bright and sharp. Falling asleep in the middle of the road and knowing you’ll get to where you’re going anyway. In the middle, inconvenience, lumbering trail of the uncool, coiling embarrassment. The car waiting outside with its windows up in the cold. Then one day, looking up, up at the youngest, not down. It’s a packet of crisps at the pub, shared – willingly. Gangly elbows, winks and in-jokes. Seeing the road, and choosing to go home.
No one family is the same as another – and you put up with stuff from close family that you would never tolerate from a friend. That said it works the other way too !
WHAT A LEGACY: Celebrating my MUM ANNE b1922 epitomised FAMILY (not just her own but welcomed other waifs & strays). Came from Milltown, Tuam, Co. Galway during the 2nd WW. Trained & worked as a nurse: Psychiatric, General & Midwife (her best work love) Had 8 Children, 19 Grandchildren (only 1 deceased) & 18 Greatchildren. Died @ 98, Jan 2021: Alzheimer’s, Covid positive (not recorded). Loved her family, community, church: RC, anything green!, current affairs, spectator sports (especially snooker football & horseracing & anything else that had legs!). Devoted to us all, UK, Eire, Indonesia the world. Sadly gone but never forgotten. We miss you so much, not an easy life but lots & lots of joy! A truly loving, kind, supportive Mother & true friend to all. Thanks Lemn Sissay for this wonderful opportunity
For me the word family never meant much, family is a random group of people only connected by chance and some shared memories sometimes chance is merciful and good sometimes chance is cruel and sadistic. In my case it chance was good not amazing but good there are some things seperating us and some things uniting us; values, ways of living, self expression, sleep rythms and many more. We get along well enough and yet to different to be very close. Ultimately I’d say the most important thing about family is that they shape who you are and I’ve seen many good examples of this and many bad examples of this, people broken, abused or manipulated by the people who raised them. Words that always meant a lot to me are Love and Acceptance sometimes that is found within family sometimes it isn’t. I’ve always felt loved and accepted by my godparents, by some people at the church I was part of once, to a certain degree by my family and now also by my friends to me that is more important than blood and yet now that the health of my last remaining grandparent is slowly declining I want to call her more often.
I’m thankful that I grew up with over 15 brothers and sisters, all of which needed a loving home. I thank God everyday that whether they are brothers and sisters by blood or not, that I had an experience of family like no other because my Mum and Dad were willing to do something I wish more people would. There was never a quiet day in the household and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
Some people jell with their biological families, and some collect like minded people around them to love and to hold. The people that love you, are there for you when needed, listen to you – these are the people who make you feel safe in this world.
I lost my father about a month ago. I know you would expect that from most daughters in life, but my father was a hero (for myself at least and I think my 6 siblings would agree) and an inspiration for many people in my small country. He defined politics and the private sector in a way not everybody would agree but that’s life. He believed in integrity, diversity and integration in a city where more than half of the residents are foreign passport holders. He wanted all of them to have their say. To have their vote on the politics and public services that defined their country of choice and to whose wealth and economy they had all contributed. He came out with a vision for a green economy before anyone was ready or pressured enough to think about it. All of this took a toll on his private life. He was certainly not present very much. But he was there when we needed him most and he was a mentor. When we were kids, we would have regular Friday pizza dates with him and he would insist that we take 24 bites of each piece. It basically turned something so yummy like a pizza into a vegetable soup. He taught us about history, politics and music with the attention to detail and complexity of an academic. Knowledge humbled him because he knew he wouldnt be able to get it all. And that there were two sides to the same coin. But he was also a crafter, a painter, a builder. He was fascinated about the logistics of travel. Of cars, ships, boats and planes. Not so much the leisure side of it, but how time & space could be compressed so that we could buy fresh tulips on the market in the morning or safely deliver beluga whales from China to Iceland so that they could be released from captivity into the ocean. Like anyone of his generation, he was confronted with technology. But he embraced it with open arms. He loved it. He would track every flight we took over his flight radar app, from departure to landing. He would arrive right on time to hug us. Technology meant that he was instantly connected to the world and all the knowledge it had on offer. I didn’t mean to write an hommage to my father, but I miss him so very much and there were so many questions I still needed to ask. The pandemic has deprived my family of the last moments we could have spent together, of the last Christmas that we used to celebrate with abundance of joy like we celebrated every dinner we held together. Covid deprived my mother of the possibility of attending to him in hospital as he left this world. But he would not have wanted to leave this place in anger. On the last day we spoke on the phone he commented on the linguistic and cultural diversity of the hospital staff & how it reflected life in the city where he lived & loved. He left us thinking about a society defined not by closed borders, national sentiment and fear but one characterised by diversity, integration and opportunities. Rest in peace Papa.
I’ve found my family to be created and re-created in different places and spaces over time. I think family is in constant change and flux, not a tree but a plant which pops up year after year, in the same place of your garden but always different, with new seedlings and cuttings dotted off in other places.
I am an Ethiopian, a former civil servant, and a socialist who helped the Ginbot 7 and Borena shifta over the years when they worked to overthrow the western supported dictatorship in Ethiopia. I finally have a chance to cast a ballot next June to decide who leads my country. Despite considering myself a patriot who served his country – part of my family is now supporting the TPLF (the remnants of the former dictatorship who are still trying to return to power) and others are supporting ethno-nationalists who are hell-bent on demonizing particular ethnic groups or religions for the woes of the world. Including cousins I hold very dear. I now wonder if they are fighting to return the suffering we faced during the past 30 years. And there was much suffering and death and deprivation. And there is no need to elaborate here – as there is no doubt of the suffering and death that was caused by the former powers we have now overthrown. I would not have done it- were it not for my family’s safety. I would not have served save for the fact that I believed the safety of my family as well as the safety of the families of comrades and fellow Ethiopians depended on service. There was no other motivation. Now at this moment of history for my country – I am both glad that we made it this far – and worried we may not go further together. I have little appetite to forgive members of my family who stand with the enemy – and I suspect they feel the same of me. So no wise words from me. Just words to tell of the struggle even within families. And sharing the worry we have for our future as family.
my family is a roller coaster of emotions
I come from a long line of happy people, happy people who tell stories, stories that remind us of why we are happy.
For me, the greatest of the storytells was my grandfather. His stories were tall and broad and full of colour and I believed them all.
I have just returned to the town i grew up in, literally days ago, and im wandering around and bumping into these stories, ones I never even knew I knew. Like ghost on the hills, onky these ghosts have flesh and a tangibility that evokes a myriad of emotion that i cant explain.
As I drive over the estuary (the misty marshes) and glace to my right, I see three hills topped with white houses that shine in the sun…the Secret Isles of Avalon, my grandfather said…and of course i thiugh that was face, because everything is always hidden in plain sight.
And now i live on one of these Isles of Avalon, in a house thst coincidentally has been built exactly where my grandfather told me the gold at the end of the tainbow was buried.
And the thing I love most about this, is that he was right…gold is here, nit of the metaliç variety….but in the family I have grown and brought with me and the happiness we share. We know we are lucky, that we have been gifted with the keys of life, passed down from generation to generation and we know how to find magic exactly where we are.
Im living in a half remembered dream, surrounded by little catch phrases and the smell of vegetables roasting in the oven…and surrounded by the laughter of these little people who came long after my story teller had died.
And I sit here and I smile and I wonder who’s stories will narrate their lives, and I pray to my magical spaces that they can be their own narrators.
My Indian parents both now sadly deceased were married in 1957 having never met each other before. They grew to love each other and had such a strong bond. Mum cared for dad until he passed in 2014 – she was devastated to lose him but gradually regained her zest for life. We lost her to Covid in 2020.
Both doctors thsey moved to the UK in 1961 and worked for the NHS until retirement.
My older brother was born in India, myself & younger brother in tge UK.
We are all married. I now live in the Netherlands
We are a close family-pre Covid meeting up often. We were raised with a strong sense of family ties despite distance, and compassion & care for others. I can’t wait until travel is easier and we can meet again
Tell you about my family
Ok, but where to start
Do you want happy memories?
Or enter painful territory?
Because my family
Like most families
Is a hod podge
A mixed up reality
I remember great grandparents
Ancient people we visited once a year
Smelling of old age and cigarettes
They looked like they might break
So I stood slightly away
Before going to Blackpool pleasure beach
Couldn’t have been more different from each other
Two halves of a family
Never to mix together
We visited mum’s parents
Every time she hated it
Yet she persisted
So many put downs
Such a negative situation
Passed down yet again
I know there was love
But it was hidden
Couldn’t be given
Couldn’t be shown
Instead harsh words were thrown
I watched my mum be less
Hurt, yet again
And then cry or rant
In pain she couldn’t express
A duty to be performed
To attend and find contempt….
Those expectations were passed on
But I couldn’t take it on
And that caused rifts
So many family shifts
Which wider family judged
I was pushed and shoved
But I stood my ground
To protect myself and my family
I had to care for them and me
The endless negativity
Could break me
That’s the reality
In separation I still loved
And I hurt
Just as she hurt
I don’t think anyone can
Ever understand the pain
Of separation even when you’ve made the right decision
Of knowing you are hated
Unknown and yet judged
They don’t know I never felt loved
Because my mum never felt loved by her mum
That’s the generational reality
My mum is now gone
Her pain at an end
We eventually found
Beyond the pain we shared
There was love
Which we learned to express
That healed us both
Though I’m healing still
Doing the work to break
The chain of heartache
My dad’s side were older
Yet somehow younger
There was dementia
I remember bouncing on grandad’s knee
Before he was cared for behind locked doors
Does he even know me?
I hope that he knows me
So much love
My gran loved him constantly
That was clear to me
So wonderful to see
And when he died
And I remember her telling me
With no more pain
No more confusion
A place of endless love
A belief so strong that it’s never gone
And gran lived old
Not quite old enough for a telegram
But very nearly
I’ll never forget the call
To say she’d died
And end of an era
Yet somehow she was nearer
She’s still near me
Her words ring in my ears
Her faith resonates in my heart
When asked to name a hero
It’s her name I whisper
Of course there’s more family
People I love intensely
Sons who never took a breath
Their story a hurt so deep
It would take too many words
To share here
Their story has been written
Their place in my heart eternal
And then there’s my daughter
Who I love immensely
Perhaps too intensely
Because love matters
More than anything
She will NEVER think
I don’t love her
Nothing she could ever do
Could break that love
I pray each morning
That the generational pain
That love flows openly
So that’s my family
Or at least a glimpse from me I hope it tells you something
These are the people who make you feel safe in this world
Through the natural order of life, my family are declining in numbers. I am thankful for the memories of those now gone, for the loving and joyous times and even for the sharp pains of the loss. This pain is the signal of the importance of family and each jab of pain a reminder to cherish those present. I’m so lucky to have love remaining and love departed, warmth, safety and security.
They tell you the truth. They hold you up when you are down. They will always be the constant in a world of in consistencies and change. They are our refuge, our hearth, my heart.
My family first consisted of 5 children and our parents who came to England in 1950 from Jamaica, but not as a couple. They came to London to create a new life for themselves. My mother was to complete her nurse’s training. My dad was an experienced bricklayer who was offered a job with British Rail which he held until retirement. We think our parents met through our mum’s cousin, who also worked for British Rail. Mum was a high colour beauty so it was no surprise that she started a relationship with someone who turned out to be my dad. We lived in a north London village called Crouch End and had our own house from the year I was born, 1954. The three boys and two girls that were our original family became four boys and three girls when two of my mum’s kids from a former relationship in Jamaica were sent to live with us. At home, we were a Jamaican family. Like many homeowners I later discovered, we lived in fewer of the rooms in our house so that others from Jamaica could come and stay a while until they found somewhere else to settle. Eventually, our mum’s brother-in-law and his eldest son came to live with us, too. This became long-term and the son got married from our house and the wife moved in, too, and they had their first child while living there. So, from an early age, family has meant sharing and helping others. That is the Caribbean way.
Family is so much more than who is related by blood. I’m an only child, no aunts or uncles, no cousins. But through my faith family, my Christian family, I have relatives all over the world. People who I love and, I know love me unconditionally just like we all know we are overwhelmingly and totally loved by our father God. That’s why I’m so completely passionate about welcome for those who who need family wrapped around them through fostering, adoption, supported lodgings.
Lie here by the fire that your Daddy has made, feel the warmth of his smile.
Watch now as the dog lays her paws down beside you and rest for a while.
Hold tightly as we walk the valleys, the moorlands with heather in bloom.
Hear my voice and know that I’ll always be with you this side of the moon.
Sound the call of the people we love who can’t wait to be with you,
Wait to feel tiny hands pressed in their own, time and again.
Still new memories make as you smile at them, rosy cheeks gleaming,
Watching their shadows on a silver screen, waiting for when…
Still, they know you, they know you, son of our times.
Yes, they know you, they know you, son of our times.
And we’ll show you, we’ll show you how to love and to thrive.
’Cause we know you, we know you, son of our times.
I thought I’d share something in verse.
We admire it as a child
Idolise it at eight
Fight with it in teens
Shout at it when late
We extend it to grow
Build on it with age
Touch the tiny hands
To write another page
We see parents in what we do
With the passing of time
Understanding them later on
When their lot became mine
We see the cycle return
Though forget what to do
It’s just the ways of a family
At least, from my view.
Sorting out my parent’s house after they died I came across this piece of writing by my mother. She gave birth to 11 children and didn’t have much time for herself but she sometimes wrote about her feelings. This is what she wrote.
My family means so much to me, I love them so very much, you see.
Six lovely girls and five lovely boys all fill my life with such wonderful joys.
I have had unkind things said to me about the size of my family but I’m happy with all eleven lovely children sent from Heaven.
Sadly are first born aged forty years died of cancer there were lots of tears.
Our dear Walter is now free of pain and we know one day we’ll meet again.
We now have daughters and sons -in law and are blessed with grandchildren.
Our family home was full of love.
My grandmother, daughter of a doctor from Scotland, gave dance lessons to the Emperor Hirohito of Japan during the 1920s
Both my brother and I grew closer to my parents when we moved out. Were we just difficult to live with or is it because now we both live alone we have a better understanding of what it’s like being a grown-up? That’s the big question for me and my family. I guess we’ll never know.
I’m adopted and became a mother for the first time two years ago and I am now pregnant with my second baby. The huge journey I have been on healing and understanding my role as a mother and what family can mean is something painful but incredible. I find it impossible to articulate but I know there are a minority few who understand & this gives strength. Love to all those who do.
FAMILY CAN BE A KINGDOM FOR THE AMBIVALENT
It can be the best or worst thing in the world.
I believed there were penguins in Jamaica until my teens because my mum called children Jamaican penguins.
Humans are bound up in thought. Collective & individual. Thereby, families are a large collection of old thinking, with the potential for new thinking. We hear & see & feel the thoughts of the family members we were raised by & were situated in. Similarly the thoughts of the families that we are part of today & the extended families some of us have through relationship-building. Seeing thought in families as created, in flux & truthless, is powerful. It can allow us to see beyond thought, to reach something universal & profound. Thought is not real, but it creates the illusion it is.
My family is where my shoulders are down.
Family is feeling safe and loved. Family is about growing together and ensuring that each member has a voice.
Family is about trust.
Family is like a warm hug on a cold day.
Family is what you decide it will be. If there is a gap where a parent would have been, there is a gap in your knowledge of who you are. And so you you fill in that gap.
I thought I understood what family meant to me. But since my husband died my views have changed. Family ie blood relatives have turned their back and not one have stepped up for my children as I had imagined or hoped for. Family literally just means we share the same blood. My children will forever know what it is to be loved.. I will make sure of that but when I die what then.? I hope I live long enough to see them all through to adulthood.
My family has a whole vocabulary of its own that started growing when my daughter started learning to talk. Oatcakes are still ‘agiks’, blackcurrant squash is still ‘purple juice’ and French bread is ‘scrunch bread’ because she heard the word ‘French’ and didn’t know it, but the bread is scrunchy, so she thought that’s what it must be. She’s 18 now, but the list continues to grow. The latest is ‘placky wocky’ for a plastic document wallet, owing to a delightful slip of the tongue by my husband.
My family was good at giving me money.
It’s OK not to love members of your family. Some things were never going to happen.
I’ll take my family extended and extending please!
Although I live in North America now, I grew up in Addis with my 7 siblings. One memory I have is of us trying to put together a talent show of singing and some acrobatics for my parents and grandma. And one time my sister slipped while doing some move and my grandma stood up to help and my dad told her “you can’t go to her. She is on tv.” Never a dull moment. Wish my parents were still alive.
Family is everything for me.
My Dad a beautiful man died aged 93 last September. We had lost Mum 3 years earlier after a long and painful battle with MS. Dad cared for Mum untill his own health started to fail.He had dementia but his love for me made it clearer he always remembered me , my family and my brothers family. On the Thursday before we died we sat together in the garden of his care home. He was confused, as I held his hand he said “what’s going on Lynn where am I”. I explained that we had moved him from his native Manchester to be closer to us because he needed extra help ” Oh right yes ” ..I added ” you have looked after us all for so long and we wanted to look after you” and without a beat and with such clarity he said ” but that was a pleasure “.. I was so blessed to have that unconditional love to have parents who were interested in the details of my life and my families life. To be there present when I needed help, guidance, a loan.. I was loved and to me that is family. A bumpy road of highs and lows but ultimately the love. I miss my Dad he was my truest friend always kind and honest. I am now happily married and have 16 year old twins. In my relationship with them I try and often fail to show that understanding, patience . I often say to myself what would Dad do and come back to just hold their hand and say something so kind and loving show them how loved, precious and special they are to me. That is my Dads legacy love.
In 1989 I was newly divorced with 2 daughters. My eldest daughter had a friend who was very unhappy, she had lost her mum at 2 weeks old and was being raised by her dad and a stepmum who abused her mentally. I felt a need to do something about it and offered for her to live with us. After speaking to her dad she moved in with us until adulthood and when her stepmum died she went back to be with her dad.
32 years. later she is still my daughter, we are close friends and I am granny to her daughter. Family, for me, is not about blood ties, it’s about love. I love her with all my heart and I am so glad she came into my life.
Jet Jack George
in my family Water is Thicker than Blood, bound interwind by love, cross-pollination of kindness. Oak tree sheds as many new acons for new oaks to grow.
political post-1968 riots in Paris led My birth mother who went to London to write the longest poem on London. Fell in Love end up serving time at her majesty’s pleasure… after her release adjustment was difficult.. Her family was words and friends whilst her children slipped away into the wind.. if it wasn’t for a nurturing of nature in how a family of Australians brought me and my siblings together…
descendants of a common ancestor – earth, wind, fire and water – family is nature a gang with a common goal of love that can heal and grow and keep safe under,
What is family its the house owned by the family of bond, connection and that is what makes a foundation for one to stand tall and to put one foot in front of the other knowing you have your tribe who ever is in it.
I became a mum via adoption to a little 6 year old. Hes now 23 and although family life has been extremely difficult at times for us we have never given up on one another. We are now fighting for his baby daughter to be able to know us. Family is who is there for you but biology and knowing your identity and history is important too.
Family to me is that security blanket that everyone deserves, but not everyone gets.
My family, and by extension, my husband’s family, are the most supportive, loud and considerate people, I’ve ever met. Family to me means someone is on your side, has your best interests at heart, and that can apply to blood relations as well as the friends you consider family too
36 years ago a chance meeting in Moss Side, Manchester. When I came across a young lad with dreadlocks and a walking stick looking lost. I asked him where he wanted to go? He replied 8411 where he was doing a poetry reading I replied I was going there too. So we made our way to 8411 together and have been friends ever since. We have shared many good times and some not so good times but despite this our friendship has lasted. It’s been an unconditional friendship and we have been honest and open with our views and opinions this was hard at times as we didn’t always agree but we learnt to respect each other viewpoint. We have had each other’s back through the tough times and shared the successes making our bond stronger.
So when thinking of who is family I believe you are born in a family and through your life you meet people who become part of your family and so Lemn Sissay I chose you to be part of my famIly
Family is bonds of love and care that can span continents, always there.
As I’ve got older, I’ve become more and more interested in my family history, trying to recall stories and anecdotes that may shed some light on directions of research, and inevitably dispelling some as myths or partially remembered. Sadly, there are few now whom I am able to quiz and check. If only I’d been more attentive at the time, so much more information could have been captured and sifted for accuracy. An example is that my Mum believed that her mother was born in the Scottish Borders, so I took her there years ago, only revealing the destination once we’d passed The Lakes and Carlisle. She was genuinely excited, a special few hours for both of us. Sadly, after she died I found that it wasn’t her mother who was born there, but her grandmother. If only I could have told her that. Another example is an aunt who was adopted into the family failry secretively at the time (pre-WW2), and she untook research to uncover her origins but, although this was spoken about in front of me whilst I was a teenager, I didn’t absorb the information and have only established the truth through my own research in recent years, many years after her death. There was definitely a sense of shame in the family about this, typical of the time but not at all shocking in a modern context. If only …
When I was a kid family was scary: I spent the time picking up after alcoholic parents and was constantly on edge.
I’m an adult and have built my own family. We argue about bedtimes, chicken nuggets, mess and noise. We also play the drumming game on the Nintendo Switch and the family take the mickey out of my lack of coordination!
I’m safe now.
Our family is connected across villages and cities, mountains and seas, stories and emotions.
Family is the reason your house is full of mad trinkets you’d never buy yourself but have been left to you and you keep tight hold of because they remind you of those who have passed.
Family is the ‘circle’ of my life. I grow up, I see a new family, new “rings of people” around me evolve. Being a widow is being both parents to my two amazing children as I see them tenderly creating new ‘rings’. Life circles on.
When it works it’s beautiful. When it fails is life changing. My failing start has made me so determined to give my children the best. The diff between what I want and what I give however varies. I feel like
Sometimes the best family is the one you choose yourself.
You can’t choose them, there can be dark days that will stay with you all your life, you will need to be strong , to be the better person when parents become ill and you need to show compassion. All our lives have many twists and turns, take time as an adult to try and make sense of your parents actions when you were a child. Even if it’s tiny ; find some forgiveness in order to move on positively in your own life and become the parent you needed as a child
Family is messy
Like tree roots – knotted, intertwined, spreading deep, life giving, dark, nourishing
Who was the one who feeds me mostly?
It’s my mum, it’s my mum.
Who’s the one that baths me mostly
It’s my mum, it’s my mum.
Who’s the one who gives me snuggles?
It’s my mum, it’s my mum.
She’s the one who does me airplane
She’s the one who takes me to Nursery
She’s the one who takes me from Lunch Club
She’s the one who goes to work in the world,
You smell like a beautiful candle smell.
You smell like a candle when it blows away
It smells really nice—the burnt bit.
You smell like a blown candle.
My family come from family who come from far away. My family are loud. My family eat gherkins and chicken soup. My family love fiercely and sometimes that fierceness is hard. They are mine.
Family is so important. Family is safety in numbers. Family is being yourself. Family is about a team. Family is helping each other to be better people. Saying a forever goodbye is so hard.
Transient love. Frightening behaviour. Arguements Kindness. Being known. Being bored. Taking people for granted Missing people I loved. Regrets.
My family have laughed, cried, argued and always come out the other end. We have our share of ‘odd bods’ (not naming anyone!) and sometimes life isn’t easy, but we muddle through. There’s nothing like family.
When they use the term ‘victorian’ to describe a parenting style do they mean distant or uncaring?
Is it out of politeness we use the term because emotional austerity suggests the cruel impact on a child.
An orphan may cling to hopes of understandable barriers that prevent their parents’ presence but here you sat, present and absent and undeniable.
Still…..(though undeserved )
With all my love,
Diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at the age of 12 I was lucky to have a dad who encouraged me to challenge myself. Nothing changed in my activities, weekly swimming club – my dad would be standing at the side with a Mars bar. On the way home there would be a bag of hot salt and vinegared chips. We took up kayaking,, again there he was alongside me with several Mars bars! He never ever made me feel that being a girl made me less of a person. Despite comments from others
As well as always challenging me he also supported my creative side and was a brilliant role model, always reading. Fifty years on we still sit and draw, paint and read together. He instilled in me a love of life and I know how lucky I am to still have him. Our roles have reversed and I now care for him and my mum, but what he has contributed to mine, my husband and my children’s lives is irreplaceable xx
I’m adopted and so is my sister. We don’t share birth parents. My adoptive parents were wonderful. Sadly both are now dead. I always knew I was adopted and have no desire to find my birth parents. Family is not only bonded by blood.
This is the memory of the last time I saw my Grandpop.
For the last year of his life (not that either of us knew it at the time) I saw my grandparents on a weekly basis. On this particular week, my Nan had to go into hospital for a check-up. My Aunty took her and I stayed in with Grandpop.
There were many things Grandpop loved in life, but two of his favourites were cricket and classical music. That day we sat and watched the e cricket, he was patient as I asked questions (I still don’t fully understand cricket!) and gleeful as he watched England do their thing.
When the innings were finished for that day, he decided he wanted to listen to some classical music. I found a CD that was agreeable to him and we sat side-by-side, holding hands as Beethoven’s moonlight sonata broke through the heat of the summer afternoon.
It was as if fate knew this would be the last time we saw each other, and planned a perfect, peaceful day for us to appreciate one another’s company.
Grandpop passed away two weeks later whilst I was on holiday. I was given the choice to go see his body, but decided to keep hold of the last memory of that perfect day. I still remember the click of the cricket ball against the bat, the moving piano music floating through the air, and the coolness of his hand in mine.
I miss him when I think of him, his picture in my living room more than 15 years later to remind me of that day. I’m lucky to have known that stillness and love.
I hadn’t realised what my family was until after my Mum died.
Growing up my family felt large and mighty. Seeing my aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents regularly felt normal. It felt like you were part of something. It felt safe and comforting.
I felt sorry for my friends at school who didn’t get to experience the things I did, and that my family gave me.
What I didn’t fully appreciate, was my family included friends and neighbours and wasn’t just restricted to relatives from marriage or blood.
What I realised, when I turned around at the church and saw the hundreds of people there at my Mother’s funeral, was my family was a community.
A community where I knew all the parts but was never aware of the size and reach of the whole but they had all shaped me.
My family was all those people and more.
Only I never understood that until one of the chief foundation builders of that community was gone. I hope she got to see and know the role she played in building it.
So if you want know about family, it’s not about shared dna or names. It’s about people who give love, acceptance, support and encouragement. It’s about the people you fallout with and disagree. It’s about the ones who break your heart and the ones who heal it. It’s about being there.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it’s not a village it’s a community. And if you build a good one, no matter where or with who, that is a family. The very best kind.
Trust me because I had the best one.
Family have a shorthand. Having a collective memory, having shared experiences or an upbringing, means that you can reference something in conversation and know that the other person can recall the specific events or instance you are talking about – without explanation. ‘This is like the hotel in Bristol.’ ‘Do you remember what she wore to that wedding?’ ‘Nana has always said…’ Family have a shorthand. And their recriminations about your worst and bleakest and darkest times will come as easily to mind as the better memories.
When you grow up, if you have your family around you, you think it is the same as everyone else’s. It’s only later you find out not everybody’s nan outlives her 3 sons. We shouldn’t regret what we didn’t ask about, feel guilty of our ignorance as children, but take the facts of our memories forward. Sneaking sherry (not without encouragement) as we put up the decorations, the scabby black dog Rex, the relations living 3 families in one Street, two joined by a back garden, grandad collecting seeds and magazine cuttings about plants and flowers, money clubs and blockades against buses coming down our street.
I always thought that my family was perfect in every way and then I grew older and noticed the cracks and struggles. I realised I never really knew my eldest brother. I realised that I never connected to my other brother who was only three years older. These issues feel like they last a life time and nothing can fix them because we’re nothing but a collection of memories. But I also found that beyond those struggles there was happiness and laughter! Family photos of skipping rocks in Anglesey (accidentally throwing one at my brothers head) and stories of daft accidents that made everyone laugh as soon as they happened. Family isn’t something you can choose but you can choose to make the most of. I’m glad as I’ve aged that I’ve realised that my family is truly imperfect and a total mess but I wouldn’t change them for anything.
I am very close to my immediate family. We celebrate each other every occasion we can. I’m not sure I will ever experience such cheer-leading as I get from my parents, brother and husband. But family is more than blood relations, it can be community or shared values and ideals. You can find family in unexpected places, even during a pandemic. Maybe then especially so!
My mum wore an apron with pasta shapes on it for about 3 months, before we realised all the many pieces of pasta were in the shape of a penis
Family is forged from the connections made with others. It is strengthened by acceptance of one another – just as we are.
Family are the like wildflowers along the path whose brilliant and diverse colours open the mind – whose love is there equally in ups and downs, happiness and sorrow, gain and loss – whose caring bears witness to my story. Some members of the fellowship are family I was born to, others are kin because we care for one another. Some are four legged!
Family don’t need you to explain yourself. They get it.
Their wrapping paper is love.
I will never be as close to anyone in my life as I am with my two sisters. We’ve been through everything together and come out stronger.
Although my childhood was hard, I am working even harder to make sure that my son feels happy, safe and loved. I am giving him the childhood I never had.
Family is what you make of it. They are large, small, quiet, loud, crazy, loving, comforting, challenging and beautiful. There is no definition that meets everyone’s family. They may have no blood relation, but they are still family. Robin Williams said it well in ‘Good Will Hunting’ – “Chuckie is family – he’d lie down in traffic for you.”
My family isn’t perfect. We have our squabbles. We share meals and repeat stories and memories, over and over again. We laugh. My family is unconditional love.
I grew up in North Wales in the 60’s and 70’s. I was English, when I opened my mouth out came an English accent,. I was surrounded by North Wales accents, it didn’t go down well. I soon learned not to open my mouth because that was better for me. My father bullied my brother at the dinner table and we all sat round in scared silence and watched. Scared that if we spoke out against this it would be us next, scared for our brother, wondering why our mother, the only other adult, didn’t stop him. So there was no point in telling my family what was happening at school, was there ? I told in other ways though. I told by stealing cake, biscuits, chocolate, and later money from my mothers purse and later still the pic and mix from Woolworths. No one ever noticed though. When I walked to school I prayed to God, Please God make me invisible. I just didn’t specify what kind of invisible. I mean’t invisible from the bullies, instead I got to be invisibile from those that should have noticed. my pain. I never really had friends until I was 15. It messed me up for a while.
Now I have my own family. I am a mum. When my kids come home and tell me they have been bullied I tell the school. I wait all day to see how the school have dealt with it. I am nearly sick with worry, what if I have made it worse for them by telling ? Some schools are better than others at dealing with bullying.
I took what happened in my childhood, all the pain and hurt, and made sure it doesn’t happen to my children. |I brought them up that it doesn’t matter what accent a person has, or what they look like .Racism hurts. It can leave scars that hurt forever, that can mess your life up. People are people are people and they deserve respect, and to be treated fairly, and to have friends and someone who loves them regardless of the way they speak, their race, their religion or anything. Fairness just simply for being a human.
My family is so precious, my son is my inspiration. Even after 3 operations he is so content; I know our love will live forever!
Family isn’t about blood, family is who is there for you. Family roles like mum and dad create expectations about how that person should behave, but not all meet those expectations, and not all can live up to that. Some family members are best left behind while others may be invited on board, to share the best that life has to offer. Family does matter but it’s not always dictated by birth certificates or family trees but by belonging and being you.
The idea of “Family” can change in the blink of an eye. In the 1930s my (now late) mother found out, at the age of 25 when she asked for her birth certificate to get married, that the family she had grown up in was not her own, and that she had been stolen from her pram in 1915 as a plaything for a disturbed 14 year old girl, and brought up with a false name. That her birth mother was unmarried, and the police did not take her seriously when she reported her baby missing.
Shared memories, even if my stories are different from my brothers stories. How central my mum was to everything we were as a family. Making a new family, with all the possibility of New Year’s Eve …… over the next 20 years and longer, cos ur babies are always ur babies
My dad was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service during WW2, and mum was a laundress. They married when mum was 20 years old, mum’s dress made from parachute silk. I was born when she was 29 and my brother 6 years later, at home. I thought from the sound i heard that he was a new budgie ! Boy, did we fight and still do. I accidentally scratched his eye with a plastic flower stem when he was about 18 months old, and he threw a plastic dressing table tray at me : i still bear the scar over my left eye. My parents didn’t have much but we were never aware of that. In later times, they apologised and said they wanted to make up for it: we told them to spend what they had on themselves as we had missed out on nothing. We had a loving family, who listened, had time for us, and encouraged us. I so miss them : pops died aged 60, mum almost 91.
My family is my everything. As well as my biological family that includes my foster sister and her family, my husband’s family and my ex’s family. As a genealogist I also include our ancestors in that because they and their experiences are mixed into us. I love when we can get together and hug and all talk at the same time. Family brings pain – family members die, they fall out, they are separated by distance – but that is the price of love. And with every year love just expands to encompass more and more family members.
My mum and I went to Cork a few weeks before I got married. It was a wonderful trip, and my first time there. What a friendly city. I felt the beginnings of a sense of belonging that I had so hoped I might. My mum’s mum was born and raised in Cork. Orphaned, she’d lost her mum when she was really young and then she’d emigrated to the UK as a teenager and built a life. She was a super nan to us. Her sense of humour and friendliness was well known throughout the city she’d settled in. across the sea. But she seldom talked of her life back in Cork. When she did it was about school, never home. I assumed that was because of the pain of having lost her mum so young. So that’s all we knew about my great-grandma. She’d lived, had children, died when they were young and was buried at a cemetery we knew the address of thanks to the family-research of a relative over in America. We boarded a bus from the city centre, turned up to the cemetery office, and asked if it would be possible for someone to help us in finding the grave. Despite some confusion around my great-grandma’s name and the spelling of it as we had it, the very kind man on duty said he had a dim memory of seeing a surname like my great-grandmas, as it was an unusual one. He went to the records room and started to search through the large dusty books that chronicle in lists inked on parchment the thousands of lives that had ended but would be held ever since between memories, wisps of stories just like ours, and the plots, headstones and flowers in this large cemetery just on the outskirts of Cork. It was a really rainy day. I don’t think everyone would have gone to the trouble and effort that man did to help us. He came through to where we were anxiously waiting, a huge volume of records in his grasp. “She’s here, I know it”. The book went down onto his busy desk and our eyes followed his finger racing down the page, one line for every life lived. “Here. Here she is”. Her name. Yes, that’s her. Slightly different spelling but we’d just been a couple of letters away from her. Date of death. That was confusing. She’d died when my nan was really young hadn’t she? This date was the year my nan had left Cork, when she was 19. The kind man’s finger traced a little further across, and then instinctively he slowed, looked at us and asked us if we were ok. Place of death. Cork Mental Asylum. Deep breath. Racing heart. So many questions. Did my nan, all those years growing up thinking she was an orphan even know her mum was still alive but being kept in the asylum? Or is that the story she’d told us to protect us from the pain of knowing. I knew asylums in that era were not humane places to live let alone to die. The kind man’s hand traced a little further. Cause of death. Mental disease. Can you die of mental disease, I think to myself. If you die at your own hand you can, or perhaps hers was a death borne of the filth she would have been left in in that place at that time. Sorrow whichever way you look at it. I feel devastated. And then I realise we are already walking now, following the kind man and he’s taking us through the rain to find her. “I know you, great-grandma, and I am with you. We will find you.” I think to myself, or maybe I am saying it out loud. I have spent time in psychiatric wards as an inpatient. Quite different almost 100 years on but the taboos and sorrow are still there. My mum has helped me through and faced every sorrow with me. We never knew what ghosts we were carrying with us at the time. Great-grandma we will find you and I will know you and I will remember you and your cells are in mine and I will never seek to hide your story. Let me soothe your sorrow just in remembering and respecting you and all you have brought into the world as there are so many of us thanks to you and there is so much light in the world now thanks to you and despite all you suffered then. A strange sense of calm washes over me. “I know who I am now. And now I know you too. My great-nan. Maybe this is the missing piece of the puzzle in my soul and so I can heal now.” The kind man pays his respects and leaves us to it. Mum and I cry but the tears are gentle, compassionate and we instinctively want to sooth my great-nan’s sorrow. There is an unbreakable bond between us, and I am proud of every aspect of it. What she would have weathered. Where all our empathy, creativity, resolve and sense of humours derive. I know it’s her. I feel like she understands what I have been through with my own mental disease too. But there’s plenty more to us both that just that. My great-nan. The rain clears. My hand’s on her grave now. She’s buried with others who do not share her name. We since learn she was taken in by this other family and cared for by them, having been an orphan herself. She’d then gone to live with a man in another family and had kids. That was my great-grandad but he obviously hadn’t been happy for her to be laid to rest with him. My instinct tells me this is cruel but maybe the stigma then was too much. Who am I to judge. And either way, here on her same stone was a family that did not not deny her, and would be proud to lie with her in peace forever. And here we were too. She’ll be with me forever now and I won’t ever lie about or deny her. We are family, so many families intertwined and who gave birth to who is almost immaterial when you think of the human kindnesses that have got us all to this particular graveside together, on this day, the living and the dead. Mum takes a picture of me with my great-nan. We stay a little longer and then begin the walk back to the bus stop. I call my sister, overflowing with it all. The bus back to the city and our warm hotel trundles unknowingly past the old mental asylum building. You will never be forgotten now, my great-nan. I am your family and I am proud of who you were and grateful for your life. We are going to bring my sister back with us next time. And I’ll take my husband one day too. And maybe, one day, my great-nan’s great-great-grandchild, who knows.
My family is small
7 to be exact that’s all I need no one else wanted to help us when we needed it. This made my family big (to me) full of love we don’t need others we are the family we need as we survive
Family can be sweet and sour. Family can be everything and not much. Love and like are different things. Choices aren’t always straightforward when it comes to family. Family changes, expanding and contracting. I do wonder what will happen down the line…
We are a mixed family English Jewish father married to a British Indian Roman Catholic… one son lives in Bali and has a Russian girlfriend, the other in Barcelona and has a Colombian girlfriend. Dad is fantastically practical and can fix just about anything and tells the worst dad jokes ever😩Mum incredibly creative, caring and community-minded. She is a fantastic cook and loves art, music, dance, theatre, volunteering and interested in all different cultures. Son number 1 is creative, adventurous, curious, senditive, entrepreneurial and alternative. Son number 2 is canny, smart, sociable, warm, emotionally intelligent, thoughtful and loved by all who meet him. We are all different, LOVE to travel and explore the World through the eyes of others and make a great, loving family unit. SO PROUD of our love of diversity.🥰🙏
I envied everyone’s family as mine wasn’t happy. So I looked on from the edge wishing, hoping. It’s made me who I am today. My early life I took risks and had fantastic adventures because family life was so oppressive and claustrophobic. I collected quite a few lovely friends along the way who are still in my life, who I feel very close to, like family but I was also lucky to have cousins who were my rock and had a huge influence. My life now is focused on being a better parent, which I absolutely love. Who knew that the best bits of family are the simple things, like eating together, going on walks, watching tv together, playing games. The thing that surprises me most days is that my family want to be with me, which is something I never felt when I was growing up and the other, that family are the people who love and care for you and that doesn’t have to be linked to genes.
The word family tree is so much more appropriate than it appears. We use it to refer to the visible connections like surnames, households and marriage, yet just like trees there is so much more hiding underneath. Trees are different heights and shapes and sizes and above ground appear strong and independent and yet underneath the ground there are invisible connections that tie them to each other, hearing cries for help and reacting accordingly. When we feed these links, nourish these connections and put others needs before ourselves, the family can be a secure, safe foundation on which you can rely in times of need. When you cut (or are cut) free from it , you may look strong but you are fighting for you alone and the only person who knows what you may need is you…and you are not always the best judge.
My mum’s Grandma, Emma, eloped with Mum’s Grandad, Sam Sykes, from Brighouse in Yorkshire to Manchester in the 1890s because her father disapproved of him. Sam was a music hall chairman and did Yorkshire monologues that always ended “If that tin bridge hadn’t have bended, my life would have been ended”
My family is scattered, up north, down south, in New Zealand. When we’re together it’s so fun and effortless, we never run out of things to talk about. But we’re apart so often, when I was younger I thought that one day I might live closer to my cousins, but now I’m older we’ve scattered even further and my brother has moved to the other side of the world. Thank god for technology.
We’re a family of 5; me, my husband and our 3 wonderful adult sons. When they were younger we thought we weren’t typical or usual – lots of arguments and shouting. Then one son’s girlfriend, whose parents were separated, said how much she loved coming to us. We seemed like a real family, holidayed together, laughed and ate together and with lots of family traditions. It made me grateful and to really value what we had and still have.
Family is coming home for Christmas and walking through the door, running to the kitchen and checking the baking tins in the cupboard by the back door to see what Mum has baked, iced buns and cornflake biscuits and shortbread, and then it is running to your old bedroom and seeing what Mum and Dad have left on your pillow, newspaper cuttings and chocolates and anything they found that made them think of you and your sisters when you were away. Christmas is joyful and messy with new clothes and mountains of presents (my sister clears away all the paper just like Nanny (Mum’s mum) did), and we have the same food every year and Billy Connolly on tv. Boxing day is chocolate and staying in pyjamas and making a puzzle all together and eating turkey vol-au-vents. New Year’s eve is quiet and sad and Dad retreats to his study and Mum does angry baking, always caramel tarts, I don’t know why.
Just returning ‘home’ after living abroad for over 20 years and for all this time, my friends were my family. Great to be back but I will miss having them in my daily life. I will learn to manage my expectations. For my ‘blood’ family I remain the person who left home a long time ago – I have changed, grown up. I will try to be myself, without shrinking back to a younger version of me.
Family is complicated, but we survived and thrived. Family isn’t a fairy tale or fantasy. It’s hard work and sometimes painful . At the end of the day though families are a little community, loving and caring too. Families make you laugh a lot which make it’s all ok
I came from a very unloving family parents who never expressed or told their children they were loved. So when my time came to be a part of a family of our making we put love & expressions of compassion and happiness first & foremost.
Family means a number of things to me: there is your biological family and there is your ‘logical family’, to quote Armistead Maupin, this includes your close friends. I feel fortunate to have both.😀
I want to tell you about my Gran, Peggy. She was brought up in Salford and before United trained there her Anderson shelter during WWII was on the Cliff. Her family name was Anderson and I always thought that war shelters were named after the families who used them!!! I was wrong but how she left when I revealed that later in life. She passed last year at 93. She was a wonderful human, never judged me always loved me and always made me feel safe and warm. One of my favourite phrases that she used was “Those that know you know you have better, those that don’t don’t matter.” She was right of course and armed me with self confidence if I didn’t have the in shoes or clothes…it didn’t matter. She was a staunch Manchester United fan and the last thing she ever said to me was “what’s the score?” Unfortunately her beloved team were losing to Liverpool and I had to confess that, but hushed her back to sleep and she died the next day. I loved her and miss her so much. Thank you Lemn for this opportunity to share x
“Family”. Only you, and you alone, can define it.
My mum was an immigrant, she died a couple of weeks ago. I was worried that I would lose some of my sense of culture and heritage with her passing, but my family overseas have shown how strong our connection truly is. I think that is part of her incredible legacy.
Although I know my family isn’t perfect, and they wind me up, and I used to wish they were different when I was younger, and I can attribute certain negative aspects of my personality and experience to them, and I resent them for certain things, I also know some important other things. That I am loved, and I am part of a family who are mine, and I appreciate all they have done for me. Don’t take your family for granted.
My parents divorced when I was 2 years old. My step dad has been around since then & is wonderful. Neither my husband nor I have any siblings. So our 2 boys have no aunts, uncles or cousins!
We call ourselves the Rainbow Family, stretching from Brighton to Glasgow
Family is the the people who belong to you, even when you’re not getting on. There is security in having somewhere to belong, people who belong to us, people we belong to. Family gatherings like birthday celebrations, weddings, Holy Communion and Confirmation parties, funerals and “just because” remind us who we are and where our roots are. They are moments for family culture: the same old jokes, stories about long-gone relatives, phrases that mean little outside the family, finding accents we’ve lost coming back, sharing hugs, recognising the smell of ones we love, meeting new boyfriends, girlfriends, children & grandchildren, and seeing them find a place among us.
Sara Asunción Beck
All four members of my family were born in different decades, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s
Our back door had 4 glass panels, with the bottom one boarded over. I thought the door just came like that, until I found out it was because my older brother had locked my parents out when he was small and the fire brigade had to come and cut out the panel.
We choose to stay, to turn up for each other. We choose to stick around even when it is awkward, or uncomfortable, and especially when it is laughter-filled and comforting. We choose to forgive and even forget some days. And we choose to let it grow…to fold more in when people choose us back. My family is multicultural, multilingual and multiplying. Blood doesnt define us, nor do court orders, nor does opinions whether good or bad. We define us.
my family are brilliant and bonkers. we have our ups and downs and we mercilessly take the mickey out of each other which is hilarious. if you didn’t know us you’d think we hated each other. but through life’s ups and downs we will always have each others back. but don’t expect any sympathy, you will have the piss taken out of you and no matter what the situation is there is always a movie quote to make it better!
Tough at times. Harsh sometimes. Warm and forgiving too. Mine has shrunk too small. I miss my Mum who passed away 3 years ago. She was a challenge! Feisty yet sensitive, I had to send her to a nursing home and my heart still aches because I did that. She told me I would regret it for the rest of my life. She was right. All too small.
When I was a kid Grandad and I were inseparable, the apple of each other’s eyes. He gave me a love of sport, and slapstick, and Ella Fitzgerald. We went every week for Sunday dinner – theirs was, and still is, my second home. Gran was a bit invisible but now, as an adult and mother, I know her and value her so much. She inspires me, at 99, with her determination, her wicked humour, her life force. Gran spent WW2 in London and Belgium, bending beams to divert German planes and dancing in service clubs. Her mum was from Belfast, born illegitimate, a WW1 land girl. Her mum before her from Aughnacloy, a small Irish town, became a linen factory ‘Millie’ in Belfast then a housekeeper in Yorkshire by the time she was 23. Family connects me to strong, independent, brave, vital women.
Family of origin is a swear word. Three hundred plus miles and running. North to South. Food to stuff the pain down. Replaced Love, support and care not given. The denial, loss of one of its own, taboo. How can we heal, come to terms, come together?
I am a silent, lonely paper boat in a raging sea of loneliness…
Family of origin is a swear word., toxic, soul destroying, life taking.
Yes, Jesus loves me though? That is what the book says. But… the beatings, emotional torture, psychological warfare, psychosis brings a altered state of consciousness (ASC).
A prisioner of thoughts, involintary mutisim stifled by sound tracks of the past
Family of origin is a swear word, kindness was used as a weapon.
Unconditional love, what’s that?
I found love through creating my own.
My children, I learned unconditiinal love, from you.
The love & caring of my kids
Following on from some really difficult and painful years, I’m taking time to stop and appreciate how far we have come. We have had major issues around poor mental health within my family, and it has taken every ounce of strength to hold everyone together totally against the odds. Life is peaceful right now and in truth I’m very proud of myself. My youngest son is on the cusp of adulthood and I’m extraordinarily proud of both of my sons, they are true gentleman. If the adults they have become is a reflection of my parenting, then I am a superhero. You have no idea what I have gone through to have reached this point of self appreciation, but please indulge me a moment to enjoy my achievement.
The love I have for my family is beyond words.
1975; I Love my dog and he loves. He has been in my life for now 7 years; the thing is, my baby sister arrived 5 years ago and… well… he harbours very negative feelings towards her; today he has bitten her hand… it is not the first time… my Mum and Dad have decided he is dangerous… so he has to go. Sitting on my grandfather’s lap, my distress has no end; I sob and sob.., why can’t she go?! Why does he have to go?!
Family is more than DNA. It’s about who is there for us when we need them most and who we would drop everything for. Unconditional love and support. I have a foster family and amazing friends, they mean the world to me. I’m lucky x
Mine is a secret. I don’t tell people that I am Gypsy because of discrimination
I am the eldest of 4 children, the daughter of a Yorkshire-born French teacher and artist, and a Scottish sailor and Merchant Navy Captain. I am mum to 5, grandma to 3, aunt to 5, and soon-to-be great-aunt. My family is wonderful and frustrating by turn, but it is mine, and I love them all dearly.
I miss my Mom. If you have one you should tell her you love her now.
My story is from when I was back home in the UK, during 2020. My Mum lives alone in St Helens and she had to “shield” because she’s very vulnerable to Covid-19. Five months into the pandemic I was able to get a Covid test., and as soon as the result came back negative, I drove over to see her. When I got there I said “do you think we can hug?” She said “yeah, it’ll be fine” and we laughed and hugged. I welled up, but I didn’t let her see. At the time I thought she didn’t seem all that bothered about our hug, and I felt a little upset about that. I don’t really know why,. Perhaps because I thought this was a really special moment. and I wanted us to be able to remember this moment and share this memory. But six months later she genuinely surprised me when she casually turned to me and said “remember when you drove over after your covid test and you gave me a hug? I really liked that,. It was so lovely” It makes me happy that we can remember this together
Arash! My dear cousin, it’s been 12 years since I’ve seen you and 6 since you have passed away. Oh to go back and go through Shiraz with our bikes on a nice sunny day. This light is on for you Cuzzy
My mother and father moved to Manchester from Pakistan when my brother was 1. My parents navigated their way through raising their children in two disparate, and sometimes clashing cultures. I can’t comprehend how difficult that must have been.
four of us
Walking together, connected. Then, walking apart a while – to just be, to live, to learn, to change, to become. More like myself. Selfishly. We must, now and then. I am different from you in many aspects.
It is lucky we orient towards one another, and we are soon walking along again.
Why do we seek always to come together, and suffer when a life ends? Is it the shared history – the time served together? Or, our close genetic affinity?
I start to miss you just as you are leaving, and to feel sad when we convene again, anticipating the next long walk apart.
“I never thought this day would come. You, the grandchildren, coming down into this remote valley more than eighty-five years later. Come; let me show you something. Among those bushes over there in the plains, someone found the bones of your grandfather and uncle. We think the current owner of that patch of land has found their wartime grave. Come back next annual festival of Giorgis, and we will bury them properly at the church.” A distant cousin was talking about the consecrated cemetery of Eshete Ager Giorgis. He took me to the edge of the high ground to look into valley and pointed towards the only remaining patch of bushes in the dusty land below.
For the first time in my lifespan of over half a century, I am visiting the ancestral lands of my father’s family. My father died thirty-one years ago, and he had never returned to this land since he left it as a ten-year-old boy. He had told my siblings and me that his father and brother were killed during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the late 1930s. The same bullets that killed them had badly wounded my father and his mother. Their wounds took almost a year to heal enough for them to leave.
My father’s family had left their home and ancestral lands to volunteer to serve under a regional military leader. My father was five when they “went into the woods” (chaka ghebbu, as they say in Amharic), and he lived the life of the resistance fighter in the hills and bushes around Kesem Wenz.. His family worked by night, denying the invaders respite from fighting. My father’s father was a priest farmer, but he chose to fight rather than work for the fascist Italian invader (fashish taliyan) in his own country. They slept or watched by day and traveled by night. It was as they slept that my uncle and grandfather were killed,. My grandmother and my father, who had been sleeping on the opposite side of them, woke up riddled with bullets.
My ancestral legacy became real to me at that moment on the ridge.
My dad (who died in Feb 2021) explained the notion of the maori word whanau to me- your extended family in the widest sense. The people, relatives, family friends who are significant in your life. Dad and me often talked about our whanau in England, NZ, Canada, America and the non blood almost honorary family members who witness, support and make up our lives. Dad &I made up the term ‘ heart family’, meaning the people who witness our life journeys, see the bumps and bruises as well as the beautiful bits. I love that term ‘heart family’. Love you Dad.
My family is my sister – she is the only constant in my life. She has loved and protected me as much as she was able. We share no bloodline. We only share memories and love and hurt. We found out in late life that we were adopted by serial abusers, who we thought were our real family. A third girl was also adopted but she was taken away badly damaged. There were just the three of us, Bernice, Bernadette and Amanda. Now there’s just the two of us. I didn’t have children because I thought I carried their genes. We both carry scars. I found my real family but hers are in Africa and can’t be found. She is my real family.
Frustration fear a bed for the night , safe just keep your door shut and don’t be the one to blame .
Four to feel secure with , safety in numbers , teas ready the last piece of bread ,not another word said .
What times mum home and what will she bring ,misguided love a cuddle and 20p for the club.
What advice have they bestowed , what drive desire and worldly knowledge .
Survival from day to day , no ones home when the knock on the door comes .
No matter what tea at 5 before kingy comes alive .
Toast on the fire and close your door ,
Stay on your own side , talk about nothing except I spy with your little eye.
Loyalty behind these four walls, no trouble at our door ,
Say nothing and it didn’t happen , a nod a hug , what time is Parkinson on.
A whole world of non communication , agendas , values no litter anywhere .
Cards at Christmas , humorous tales for ol lang syne , a knowing look from time to time .
What time is mum home ?
T S D
I’ve recently found hundreds of cousins I didn’t know I have. I’ve still never met any of them but I’ve always felt like I was related to hundreds of people who were missing. Now they are not missing I feel fine. From feeling related to all Davieses, I feel friendly to all people and always have done. It was Davieses marrying Davieses all the way back, we are all one. But the real me is something else, despite that unassailable warmth! My DNA is happy, my mind explores truth.
My great grandparents on both sides were Irish originally, although we don’t know any Irish family, which is a shame. I was born and brought up in Portsmouth, the eldest of 3 siblings (pictured) and we lived next door but one to my maternal grandparents and my aunt and uncle. As kids we ran backwards and forwards between the two houses, and as we grew, our heads could be seen above the garden wall when we ran. We were so lucky to grow up surrounded by family and although we have had our ups and downs, we are all there for each other when it matters. My nan and my uncle have passed away, but my aunt and my parents, now in their 80s, are still living there, and my parents have 5 grandchildren, who like their parents, ran between the two houses. I have lived in Brighton for over 30 years now, but visited Portsmouth regularly until the pandemic. We speak on the phone, but I am looking forward to seeing them more often now, fingers crossed 😊
My world was complete, when at 9.30pm, a November night I got a phone call from my daughter who I had given up for adoption 28 years before… It was the beginning of a whole new world, a world where she found out she had two brothers and a sister, a world where we met, hugged and laughed and cried… A world where understanding, love and more more is just what is needed… A world where I am so grateful she found me
My wife Gayle, had a kidney transplant three years ago and her wonderful sister Leigh as the donor, Gayle now has a new lease of life and started as she meant to go on by doing her first wingwalk
My mum was a residential ‘housemother’ looking after young kids in a children’s home. She cared for and loved every one as if they were her own children. We were one big, noisy, magnificent family.
Family doesn’t always mean blood. I grew up in foster care and many of those foster carers (along with close friends) became my family..
I have five grandsons. They are all uniquely talented at something. The two oldest have their own band. They write songs and sing, play guitar drums and piano. They are 12 year old twins. Next in age is Our sons oldest boy(not quite 11). He had a poem published when he was 6. He has a unique ability with people and is very popular at school. Next in age is his younger brother. He is 8. He is fascinated by everything and learns things quickly. He can make any Lego model and will devote a whole day to doing just that. Last is the younger brother of the twins. He has just turned 7. He has climbed 50 wainwright’s since he was 4 and is always happy. His talent is drawing. There are other things you could know about these remarkable children because being gruru I could write a whole book about them.
My family is changing. Sometimes I think it is falling apart. At my best I hope it is moving towards something different, but positive, that will sustain these children. I have thought about what is best for a family, to keep it together because it is ‘family’ or to redefine it and try and be happier in a different kind of family. I wish I knew.
My Nan. She was the gentle matriarch of the family, even if she didn’t know it herself. All she wanted was to spread kindness, to uplift others with her beautiful smile, and to make sure we all knew just how grateful she was for her family and her life. She passed away a month before her 99th birthday. Her memory will forever bring warmth to the whole family. She is my inspiration.
I have no family of my own – my parents and husband are dead, and I have no siblings or children but other, rather unusual families give me immense pleasure. I’m an amateur botanist and every plant belongs to a family: Buttercups to Ranunculaceae, Daisies to Asteraceae and more exotically, Orchids to Orchidaceae… A great joy is to venture deep into the countryside or even mooch round urban wasteland and crouching down with plant ID book in hand, hand lens to my eye and bottom in the air, try and identify the plants I see. Habitat and colours, sizes, shapes and smells of leaves, flowers and stems are all helpful in identifying a plant and linking it to its family. Sometimes I’m defeated – the plant is too small, too young or too withered or shares features with several other very similar plants. And every now and then botanists rename a family, genus or a species which can prove a challenge. The common names of many plants are delightfully apt or poetic but I have tried to train myself to use the botanical names which are universally recognised. And botanists like to truncate the scientific names so Scrophularia nodosa (Common figwort) becomes Scroph nod and Cardamine pratensis (Cuckooflower/Lady’s smock) becomes Card prat. All very quirky.
Family is the center of one’s identity. The last 27 years the definition of has changed due to migration of the global community. Your parents can be your immediate family, sponsor’s, adoptive parents, human services, and friends can be considered a family. The majority of family functions are replaced with co workers or anyone that an individual identify as a protector
Sharing DNA isn’t what it takes to make a family.
I was brought up in a Large Catholic family, one of the youngest among about 30 cousins. We were sent to Catholic schools that taught us queer is evil, and being told to fear the only queer member of the family – an uncle who was sent for conversion therapy (the physical torture kond) and who’s a convicted pederast.
So like many people in the queer community, I have had to secretly find my own family.
Right now I’m not out to the Catholic family, as I still haven’t accepted the risk of losing them. But I know I’ll have to at some point.
My Dad liked:
a good joke
a good book
a good man
a good pud.
My family were descendants of a mix of Jewish immigrants from Spain (way back) on one side and Russia on the other. My Russian great grandparents had to escape the Bolsheviks by fleeing to Finland then down through Scotland and ended up in London’s East End.
Family is making sure that no one gets left behind
Family is belonging
Family is shared
Family is pressure
Family is precious
Family is being given a role to play
Family is my heart aching at every smile
Family is protection
Family is stress
Family is saying ‘I’ve got you’
Family is safety in numbers
Family is hard work
Family is being a team
Family is repetitive
Family is real hugs
Family is expectation
Family is never being objective
Family is everything
Family is worrying
Family is achieving the impossible
Family is wanting the impossible
Family is fun
Family is never letting go
Family is making sure that no one gets left behind
My/Our family has been blessed to experience the genuine power and strength that love and protection for each other provides. We also know the devastation that comes when one member of that family who was so loved – namely husband, father, brother was taken from us.
My/Our family has also seen the genuine destruction and pain that occurs when family love is not given, shown, or been removed. We also know thankfully that even when there has been a difficult start, with nurture and love over time, that families can be built.
I feel blessed to have such a wonderful family full of love. I also have strong bonds of friendship and consider some very good friends as a family. I am truly thankful.
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: He believed in me!”
Whenever I’m afraid to take a risk he always says ‘you can do anything!’. He tells me time and time again how proud he is that I wholeheartedly chase my dreams as an adult. He’s always there to pick me up when I’m down. He taught me how to ride a bike, drive a car and that a scrape on my knee wasn’t the end of the world, just an experience.
There are so many stories aren’t there? I think of my nan who I miss all the time and how she made my world feel warm and good. She was a great cook and baker, I think of her standing in her tiny kitchen in her little old cottage on a country Lane on the edge of a Kentish village. She would make delicious things, familiar and homey – a Victoria sponge, an apple pie, cheese scones, she made old-fashioned dinners such as toad in the hole or fish pie or suet and bacon roly poly. She was a rough and ready, instinctive cook. We’d all squeeze around the table in her kitchen, the kids all wedged in the gap under the stairs, elbows jostling. She was a tiny person, about 4 ft 11, but she had a big hearty laugh, she loved a joke, but she also had a feisty side. She and grandad would shout and she threw things at him, he probably deserved it, but then sometimes he didn’t. She was straight-forward, down to earth, loved a bit of glamour, to dance. She had a pair of silver high heels in the 70s, I loved them, would slip them on and practise being grown up. I loved the smell of her clothes in the wardrobe. She wasn’t clever my nan, not in an academic way. She said words a bit wrong, which made us laugh, she had left school at 14 to go into service, she was the cooks assistant, lighting fires at 5am in the big house. She always worked for others. She grew up in the class system, she knew her place. She didn’t challenge it. Her family were labourers, hop pickers. She’d lost a husband to polio when she was 35, when he died with a couple of days, they put her on a bus home. She went into menopause almost immediately – the shock was profound. Her home was attached to his job as a farm labourer, she had three children, her own mother to look after, she had two jobs. She married my grandad, he brought four children of his own, she became mum to all. He was a long-haul lorry driver so she carried everything, she just got on with it. She became known as battling nanny, that was her nickname, when she was cross she would raise up her fists, but then she’d soon be laughing at herself. She was full of love, she had enough for everyone. She made us all feel special. She took us grand children for bus rides, let us stay overnight, was always ready with a cuddle. She washed me in the kitchen sink. She wrapped me in her electric blanket at night. She let me have a Tunnocks wafer from her biscuit tin. I loved it at her house. Playing with her Knick knacks, flicking through her old records. She always had a bottle of cherry brandy in the living room. She had photographs of family all over, and we heard the same, and slightly altered stories of them all, and also about us – the days out together, family events, reliving the memories was part of the weave in the fabric, keeping us all close. She wasn’t all one thing, my nan, there were secrets. Things you learn when you overhear a conversation. She’d had a long affair with a smart-suited chap from the East End, who moved down to Kent, and my aunt was borne out of that relationship, it was a scandal. People whispered. She had a reputation for being a bit of a good-time girl in her day. In the war she was a cook, they had to stand her on a box to serve the men, she loved to flirt and to laugh. She lost people in the war, a brother on a ship, he was in the engine room, they never found the ship when it went down. But she loved the war too, she talked about the spirit of people, she loved being in the middle of things. I loved her so much. I miss her so much. She was the best nan. When she was dying at 92, she became wafer-thin, she wasn’t my nan anymore, I could hardly look at her, in the bed in the care home. She hallucinated, she thought a big yawning furnace was on the other side of the door, waiting to take her. When she died I read a poem at her funeral, I thought I’d keep it together, but I couldn’t, I choked and I wept. I weep now. There’s a big hole in my heart, in who I am. She’s there and she’s not, like with her passing I have also lost a bit of my past, you can remember it but you can’t find it, it’s gone, you can’t go back, you move forward and get older yourself, it’s a strange and painful distance. Sweet and painful.
We’re a blended family since six years ago with three daughters, two granddaughters and a grandson
I am 67 years old i am an only child adopted when i was 6 weeks old my moher was Irish one of thirteen children my father Scottish he was a war hero. We were a very close knit family. I am married to a loving quiet Northern Irish man we live in Manchester we have five children
And six grandchildren.
We are the parents of two children, 9 and 10. I was christened when born but am an atheist. My husband is Jewish and we see our children as being Jewish too, despite the absence of the mother’s line. The children’s grandfather and grandmother fought for the liberation of South Africa against the apartheid regime and loved on Liliesleaf farm in Jo’burg and shared their home with Nelson Mandela and other senior African National
Congress members who were later arrested in July 1962. My children are very, very proud of the extraordinary sacrifices that their grandparents and others made for the liberation of South Africa.
We are a family of quizzers and gamers. We especially love playing board games and get very competitive.
Sunday morning swimming – Dad teaching me, my brother and friends and that magical moment when he let me go, swimming unaided; the same with removing bicycle stabilisers. The driving not so well – I turned into Steve McQueen speed thrill seeker. The rebel wild child had risen
Jade Moira L.
Coming from an eclectic mixed heritage upbringing (German/Russian, Indian and Jamaican) I thrive on the importance of history, identity and identity politics. Even if my questions aren’t answered or there is no definitive conclusion, the driving force for the meaning of family for me is what came before me, what brought me here into the now, and what will take me into the future, especially my son, who is also of mixed heritage. We are part of a bigger conversation. Family begins with food, fashion, education, music, faith and religion. The list is continuous. Family comes with the purpose of giving your bearings a world filled with love and hope, despite the inevitable evidence of war, conflict, devastation and poverty. Family build bridges. Family bring neighbours together in times of joy and crisis. Family offer the ongoing light at the end of the tunnel. Family is you and I.
Family is ever expanding and contracting, with loved ones passing and new ones arriving, queer chosen family, animals, soulmates and friends. For the family I have yet to meet, I already love.
I know I’m very lucky. I grew up with the understanding that family is everything. They’re there for you in the hard times in daylight and out of the blue in the middle of the night, even if you haven’t really spoken for years. AND, they will join in with and be the backbone & funnybone of any celebrations. For us, it goes even deeper. Anyone who is a solid friend of a family member also by default, becomes an extende member of our whole family along with their brothers, sisters, cousins, aunties etc etc. I know I can ring any of my clan at 3am and babble senslessly until I’ve found a mental place where I feel ready to move on.. I also know that the next time I speak to them they’ll react to me in the context of how I am that particular day. That to me is family and anyone who supports and understands you in that way is family.
Family means knowing you belong to something private, special, unique. Your own club.
Being raised by a loving family in a small town, I felt the need to see the world. The small town gave me safety, seeing Africa gave me freedom. My heart found its home in Ethiopia, I found my new, own, family.
Family is past. There is no one left. No shared memories. No anchor. Nothing.
The joy of family picnics! Sandy sandwiches and sticky fingers. Cartwheels in the sunshine and huddling together under picnic blankets as the rain lashes down and sideways, till you’re wetter than being in the sea. Laughing till the tears stream down your face as you peel off the sodden clothes and look up at the blue sky, feeling the damp wet dark sand between your toes and the warmth of the sunshine as it reappears. The smiling faces, these carefree moments, memories to treasure.
Family is incredibly special and can sustain me through the toughest of times. Yet my family, marriage specifically, has created the toughest of times. Yet without my marriage the family that sustains me wouldnt exist. I find that so thought provoking.
Family life can be a bumpy road. The joy of the early years, when children admire and look up to you, are distant memories when you head into the more troublesome years of adolescence.
Factors out-with your control prey on your precious offspring, polluting their experiences and their view of their family, friends and the world. It’s at this point that family must take on an alternative role, one which watches from the sidelines but is there at the drop of a hat to catch the fall. It is required to be available, when you least expect it, 11pm when the day has passed its best, lasting into the wee small hours.
The forced drawing up of the drawbridge was always a suggestion that was met with resistance but was a much needed top up to keep mental wellbeing afloat. Making time, however big or small, to reconnect, to be curious, to wonder, helped to keep the foundations of healthy values and expectations in the mind. Family was important and even in the darkest days it was essential to keep going, even when it felt your efforts were making little difference.
It is the constant reminder of family that helped us to get our beautiful baby girl back and to support her through the healing that she so badly needed.
That’s how strong family can be.
A masters student from China recently told me that it is a custom to think of family as a harbour. And it got me thinking about what it means for a little boat to be in a harbour. That a lighthouse got you there safely, and steered you from the rocks. That its a place to rest ànd find balance from the sea and the waves. That the harbour master and their crew makes sure everyone is cared for. That its a place to take stock, catch your breath and refuel before setting sail for the next adventure. And its always there, constant, awaiting you when next you need it.
And whilst the saying is true that “a ship in the harbour is safe but thats not what ships were built for’, that student made me thankful for every family harbour, however constructed, that gives safety and solace for little boats.
I look back on my family life as child an it is only recently I realise just how lucky we 6 kids was .
Family holidays every year Wales or Cornwall . Proper meals when we got home from school .
Sunday roasts ,I loved Sunday evening tea always box of different cakes and you take your pick ,bath then PJ’s sit in front of warm fire.
I live in Wales now coming from Liverpool and days out here brings back so many lovely memories .
But some families can drift apart once the parents have passed ,
That was one of my Mum’s fears she never ever wanted that to happen and when she was ill often spoke her fear.
She must of sensed it . She was right .
I was adopted illegally when I was born. Never met or find out any information about my biological parents. Now my adoptive mother, who I really loved, suddenly passed away, I couldn’t say goodbye or travel home to see my family because of the pandemic and I feel really lost about it all
As an adoptee, I know that my birth mum was one of 12. I have a big family and yet I am unable to make connection due to their loyalty to my mum. What is it they fear? I simply want to know my blood kin.
I love my daughter’s more than anything, but one moved abroad and won’t speak to me and the other has ASD and has turned to drugs and I can’t help her. So all my love means nothing. It is lost
Family is not only blood I was blessed with my parents friends becoming extended family, additional father and mother figures I could speak to and run things by. It made me realise that you don’t choose blood relatives but you must always treasure them. My mum came here from Grenada, never having seen the cold and had no coat, only a cardigan, she had never seen or been on an escalator either. So when her brother collected her from the airport her lost luggage stayed lost as she was too scared to travel on the tube with him to Baker Street to identify it. My older brother arrived in UK at 17 and became a trainee car mechanic, he told me he had never seen hail stones and ran from the forecourt in fear and refused to go back out. It took them ages to convince him it was safe. Now these two people, one gone, are 2 of the most adventurous and fearless people I know. Little humble beginnings created monster amazing people.
I have a large extended family and have so missed the celebrations that punctuated our lives pre-Covid – birthdays, Christmas, Easter, baptisms, weddings, First Communions. I didn’t fully appreciate how much these events gave meaning to the months until they were taken away. As my own children grow bigger and more independent, my parents are becoming more dependent on others as they age. My dad was born during the Great Depression (photo of him as a child), evacuated during the war and despite much pain and heartache along the way, has lived a life full of love – it is hard to see him struggle to remember things now
In mid life I found out I had a brother, then I found out I had a sister. My mother threatened to kill herself if I met them. She must have suffered so much. I met my brother once. The fractures still hurt even after, possiblly more after, her death. I don’t know what to do with those feelings. My own family are supportive, my own children so loving and kind. Families are unique. It’s only when we try to homogenised them it goes tits up.
Being good enough is all that matters
My Family is quite small, hubby & 3 Children, but the children have grown and married. The eldest has given us the most glorious gift of a granddaughter 20 month’s now & is expecting again. I am so proud of all that they have achieved – somehow , their achievements seem so much more important than ours ever did. A GP, a radiotherapist & a manager. Their kindness and goodness is what is important now….. strange how time changes things. I love it when we go away for family weekends in the country.
Lockdown had been hard & restrictive. Two children live close by but one lives an hour away so ICT had been important, as it enabled me to see her regularly.
Being together is so important.
I was born in 1961 to a single Mum, who was unable to keep me and adopted by a wonderful couple called June & Arthur, who had no children of their own.
The memories of lost family bind and heft – of my grandmother every time the steam hisses and I iron her route around a shirt: a summer glut in my garden and once again I am four years old, helping my grandfather shell bright peas in the early evening sun.
I spend years visiting my Dad in prison when I was growing up. Mum said we were visiting him at work. Then I got to an age where I could read the signs and I understood where he was. I didn’t want to visit anymore. My early work life was spent worrying colleagues would find out what kind of family I was from (judgements, assumptions). Now I don’t care much. It doesn’t matter. It never really did. Life’s too short. I try and embrace every experience. It makes me who I am today.
I come from a large family, my father had 5 brothers and one sister. My mother a twin ( also a girl) and they had had two brothers.
All that generation has now died, my mother the last, to Covid in September 2020.
On my father’s side there were 8 in the next generation.
Some of the 8 married, some more than once, others were unlucky in love and others remained single by choice or as result of events. There are no children for a future generation so that side of the family tree will grow will extend no further.
Our name is dying out!
It has been much discussed at times between siblings and cousins. We joke about it probably being for the best ( I don’t laugh). My theory is that we were all part of a very close family, families that looked out for each other at all times and for some of us siblings and parents that were involved in every life event.
Was the closeness too much in the end for an outsider to make a big impact, possibly for some of us but for others there was no urge to bring a child in this world. For others it was the spouse that did not want children.
Our name is dying out but on my mother’s side from her twin and other cousins there are grandchildren and even great grandchildren. So the tree is extending leaning over to one side but not toppled yet.
Family is the chain which connects us, weaving back into other times and places, into other climes and continents. This same chain takes us forward, with hope and knowledge into a lighted future.
My family (my parents) are no longer with me, but they remain in my heart.
During tough times, I can still hear my dad say “Well that’s just the way the cookie crumbles…so what next?” It always helps me stop and focus on a solution.
The most embarrassing but funny dad moment happened in 1977, when in front of my mates, he ran around the house in his red y-fronts and vest each time Liverpool scored in the European Cup Final. It was my dad, I was trying to be cool, so of course I was mortified. 🙂
And mum, if we’d had a falling out, it would always end with the offer of a big mug of warm, milky coffee. Mum would pop her head around my bedroom door and ask if I would like one. Sometimes I would still sulk and refuse, only later in life did I realise just how hard it must have been for her to make that first move and face an hostile rejection from a moody teenager.
She was such a beautiful and sensitive soul, and never ever refused my attempts at reconciling or putting to bed an argument. “Don’t upset yourself” she’d say “.Drink up whilst it’s still warm” This ritual continued into my adulthood.
What I wouldn’t give to hear her warm cajoling and sympathetic voice again and experience her unconditional love for me.
These are long happy, cherished memories. so thank you for prompting me to reflect. and allowing me to share.
I was surrounded by a large family in Hulme for the early part of my life – before the clearances. It came as a great surprise to me in later years, that ‘The Croft’ where we played was a bombed out area of what used to be back to back houses. I remember many things, the Bonfire Night we burnt the old piano, swinging around the lampposts on old rope, The Imperial cinema where we saw our first animation – The Sword in the Stone – with chips on the way home, sitting on the step of The Little Tamworth pub waiting for my Grandad – collecting the old penny from those going in and out – and I remember when we were to move – to ‘ the country’ and how my Uncle Ernie said I would like it because there was (pause for dramatic effect) -a field. I didn’t know what one was and when we got to the new estate we were to live there were bare open spaces and I thought’….that must be ‘The Field’ – holy ground. The old ones are gone now and I miss them all dreadfully – it is an amazing thing to be loved Lemn, I never took it for granted.
Family is where your hear gets broken and put back together a million times
I will always miss my mum
To me family is the most important thing, however the term family to me isn’t just those related by blood, it is the special people in your life who are true friends who then feel part of your family and you know you are there for each other.
My mother sexually abused me. Of course mothers don’t do that kind of thing in polite English society so I must be making it all up. My family are now the people who know my secret and love me anyway. My birth family are strangers to me and I prefer it that way.
They constantly fluctuate with multiple organic moving parts that fit and don’t fit all at once. Their is a memory that is different for every participant.
My mother and grandmother both died in their 60s but whilst I didn’t meet my grandmother, my own daughter met her grandmother (my mother) before she passed. I feel a strong sense of being European from my Italian and welsh heritage.
I grew up in a big family in the north west of England and something that most families did and still do on a Sunday is have a roast dinner. Our family home wasn’t very big and we couldn’t afford a big dinner table for all of us to sit around. So we all had to take it in turns to eat our lunch, with our Mum dishing out plates of food but never actually sitting down herself. She would always start prepping food early Sunday morning and I would usually wake up to the smell of the roast cooking which made my tummy rumble with excitement. As with most food cooked in the 1970s/80s, the meat would usually be like old boot leather and the vegetables sloppy and overcooked but it always tasted like the best meal in the world because Mum had cooked it. I’ve lived away from home for most of my adult life but when I visit my siblings’ homes, it usually involves eating a massive roast dinner and the family memories come flooding back as we remember our Mum Alice, the best roast dinner maker in Birkenhead.
I will always remember my mum singing to me: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey, you’ll never know, dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away”.
Our family consists of Me my husband and our daughter Georgie . I was adopted as a child went through a very difficult time . I ended up on drugs and alcolhol . I became a Christian and my life completely turned around . I got married to the amazing Brian also a Christian who had been a heroin addict . Our beautiful daughter Georgie is with us on an SGO , the incredible thing is that Georgie is my great neice from the family i was adopted out of. Georgie has development issues as she was born addicted to drugs and had a brain bleed at a day old. We are a happy unit enjoying life and making the most of every day . I am an author and my husband runs a community grocery store .
“Get yer hair cut.” This is what my father would say to me whilst lightly cuffing my head. I think this was his way of expressing his affection physically of which there were few other expressions.
This morning, I was reflecting about dad and my experience of losing him in 1983 when I was 19. He was 79 then and had lived a good life, however, I was not ready to accept that he was no longer with me. For many years (ten, in fact), whenever I thought of him, I would mentally draw a blind curtain (one of those that one finds in the US which you pull down) and sometimes, I put a brick wall in between him and I. Temporarily, my pain would ease and I did not have to confront my reality. There was a period in my life when I was living in Copenhagen that dad started to come every night in my dreams which I increasingly became uncomfortable with. I didn’t know how to stop him from coming into my dreams so often; he was still so much a part of my life which became increasing disturbing since I knew that he no longer was physically alive. One morning, I decided to have a one-way conversation with him, out-loud. I told him that I now accept that he no longer is alive and that he please don’t come into my dreams so often. Almost miraculously, he stopped appearing in my dreams. I truly believe that he was more relieved than I as I was holding on to him. It was me that was chaining him still to this world and preventing him from moving on. That moment of realisation was one of the monumental learning for me about death, attachment and the importance of mourning. I miss him still and am thankful whenever he comes and visits me. I know he is not just out there, but here, in me – and – I am comforted he is alive in me, and within all his children and their children.
My brother Dan was my total inspiration. He explored lots of spiritual stuff way ahead of my own journey and was such a role model. We were such good fiends. I wish he was here to share things with me now, however we had a fabulous 35year sibling relationship with LOVE, TEASING, TEARS and COMPETITION.
Kitty C. for Joseph C.
Here is a poem written by my dad, who took his own life six years ago. He was a magnificent writer, but his words weren’t shared with the world so here they are now…
“ In the late summer of 2012 marital or partner breakdown and distress in Great Britain swelled,
like a freak spring tide,
sweeping away entire households,
scattering possessions and hopeful dreams;
drowning those without a powerful instinct for survival.
Loving promises were denied or re-written,
once easy companions became artful combatants.
In the minds of the principal players,
the history of the marriage was redrafted to have been always doomed.
Love was recast as delusion.
And the children?
Counters in a game, bargaining chips.
Dazed children shuttling back and forth in ever more complex co- parenting agreements.
Children doomed to see their father once or twice a month, or never.
The meal is gone
The plates are washed
And the taxi draws away”
Joseph C. (1967-2015)
A place of violence is a hard place to grow
While the world outside our home was sometimes hard due to racism inside I always felt safe and loved with my family. What a gift this was.
My first family abandoned me at a children’s psychiatric hospital when I was 9, the carers there let my second family step father come and abuse me. I moved to a children’s home, then a second. I was then homed with a foster family, which then broke up, there goes family 3! These days, I tell people I have no family and I’m happy with that. They tend to say sorry when I tell them.. Why? I survived my 3 families, is that not good?
My grandad was Polish but I never got to meet him as he died when my dad was 10, I’ve only seen one photo of him. He had been through a concentration camp and survived but died prematurely probably because of it. My family of us 4 is everything to me. I’ve got all I need if I have them 🥰
Family was my Nana Young. Two of her daughters died of cystic fibrosis so she lived with her heart broken but was so full of love. She made my childhood so happy and full of wonderful memories. I wish I could hug her again and thank her for being so wonderful. She was so beautiful and strong.
I’m feeling and seeing family from the inside out for the first time! I’m 54! It never was this way. Dementia and Alzheimer’s have removed barriers formed by their religion and their shame, their judgement from that, their traumas from being war children, their poor mental health their anxiety, their need to be modest, humble, proper, pure, replaced with laughing, dirty jokes, swearing and banter, some late night drinking. It’s better late than never… damage begets damage -!Ive gifted my own children both good and bad – and how strange life is to rob them of some of their faculties and yet this be a joy right now! Feeling joyful at experiencing what I perceive to be a felt sense of family!!! I’ve learnt to forgive through my sons forgiving me! Healing begets healing! Pain isn’t present, not this second, , loneliness doesn’t sting, though it lives in me, but today, this moment, I belong. .
My Nan, who passed many years ago, had a little white ceramic dish hung up on the wall of her wood-panelled kitchen. The words printed on this trinket informed my wonder-filled 7 year-old self that it was of great importance. Indeed, it was A Round Tuit and possession of such an item meant that I would be a much more ‘efficient worker’ and that ‘the many things that have needed to be accomplished will get done’. Decades passed and I had forgotten of it’s existence until last year I spotted the same little dish in a charity shop. As I stood there holding the dish, marvelling at having come across such a nostalgic item, I felt my grandmothers rough hands in mine, smelled the buttered toast she would make me for my breakfast and heard her broad Salford accent chuckle ‘ecky thump!’ in my ear. So now if I find myself putting off a difficult task or avoiding a challenging situation I remember that as a proud owner of one putting things off until I get around to it is not longer an excuse. I miss you every day Nan.
She was 92, our mum
It doesn’t matter her age
Who defines a good innings?
She was robbed of life
Her last year
Shielded from a virus
Engulfed by loneliness
Her heart was sinking
No more friends popping by
No more days out
No wider family to lift her spirits
The company that makes life worth living
She’d lived through war
Through black outs
No desire to be phased out
Her hair, still raven not all grey
Her gait, unsteady not paralysed
Her hearing, dulled but not silenced
Her mind, still curious, still sharp
For words not yet spoken
She cried ‘I’m not ready to die’
In the grips of death
She thought it untimely, unkindly
No, she wasn’t ready to die
Nor us, to say goodbye.
My family story has a before and after. Up to the age of 32 I took family for granted. Then, when my dad died in a gliding accident, everything changed.
I was very lucky to grow up in a loving family. I’m an only child because my mum had chemo after I was born and couldn’t have any more children. But I had four wonderful grandparents, who I saw often and loved very much. Three of my grandparents had died by the time I was 21, but my youngest grandparent, granddad Erik, got to know me as an adult, and we met up for holidays in the Algarve and chatted lots on the phone.
When my dad died at 64, granddad Erik – his dad – couldn’t go on. He was heartbroken. He died a few months later of a heart attack.
My mum wasn’t able to cry about losing my dad, and this really bothered her. I believe it is what brought on her aggressive form of endometrial cancer. She died in UCLH hospital, smiling till the end. The last time I saw my mum and my granddad, they both waved goodbye – I’d never seen them do that before. I think they knew it was the last goodbye.
So within 15 months my family was gone. I spent ten years grieving and only recently have been able to feel more normal again. I think about them every day and will never stop loving them.
Lemn, thank you for this project. I read your book recently, and you are an inspiration!
I moved into my house 2 years ago. The first place I have owned on my own and that I hope to make into a long-term home. I’ve moved around a lot over the decades since I left home at 17.
Just as you enter through the gate there is a small tree on the right hand side. It is a conifer of some sort. As your arm brushes passed it a smell from the tree reaches your nose. The smell always take me back to my Grandfather’s garden. There were three big trees of the same type as mine in a row at the end of the grass, next to an almond tree where a squirrel used to live (that squirrel once bit my Dad, but we used to like watching it from the dining room window). Behind the trees my Grandfather grew vegetables and I remember being trusted at a young age to go to the vegetable patch to cut chives to add to dinner. It felt like a great adventure to go down the garden passed the trees. We played all the time on the grass in front – bat and ball games in the summer when we visited for a few weeks at a time. But behind the trees was more mysterious and exciting. And my Grandfather was quite Victorian and a bit scary so it felt like a great responsibility to be asked and trusted by him to do something to contribute to his amazing culinary creations. He always went to town with cooking when we visited and dinner was a very big deal during the holidays. – 3 course meals, making sure you used the right cutlery, being super polite, but also eating very tasty food.
Every time I step into my new home domain I get a happy flash back to these trees and to happy, carefree summer days spent in the garden, and the adventure of chive picking. Nice to have a link back through the generations and the miles to happy times from childhood.
My family are the most important part of my life. I love them all so much. My favourite sound is that of my son & granchildren’s giggles, in fact anyone of them laughing out loud!
I miss hearing my brother he left us too soon.
Loving, caring, Generous and humble
Although we are scattered all over the world the love we have for each other keeps us close.
When I was about 9, we went on holiday to Mablethorpe and stayed in a caravan. My mum, my dad, my younger sister and my older brother. My dad sleep walks. He got up in the night and wee’d in every single pair of shoes we had. My mum was so mad and made my mum go out and buy us all flip flops while our shoes dried! Now flip flops are a cruel running joke in our family! I don’t know why that was the first story that spung to mind!
Family is something that society decides you are worthy of.
My family is from Jamaica and my wife’s family is from Colombia. Getting our family together for a photo is never easy because we have grown to include nephews, nieces, grandnieces, and nephews from Haiti, Peru, and Turkey. Luckily, we have holidays when we can go to the movies and catch up on family gossip.
My parents, both from wildly different families, always formed the largest part of my world. If I had to name only one of the many things I learnt from them, it would be that your family is yours to form and to craft, and that it is precious. I feel like that’s a feeling shared by many, but I also think it’s important to note that my parents never forced my sister and I to remain in contact with anyone who brought us sadness and pain – no matter the relation. Your loved ones are your universe.
My nan brought up my dad and his brother on her own during the 1940s and 50s. She never spoke about their father. My mum is the only person left who could tell me about my grandfather. Sadly, she has Alzheimer’s.
my family is light
I am a family of one. Family is a word and a thing that fills me with sorrow. The family that made me disintegrated when I was 6 and the family I tried to make as an adult also disintegrated. When I say things about family to friends they say ‘but we are your family’, ‘you are family to us’. I know they mean well but in the times when these words truly count friends don’t remember what they said.
I only met a lot of my family in the last 4 years including finding out 2 years ago I have a little brother. Getting to know them has helped me to make sense of myself and find connections I never thought I’d have again since the death of my wonderful Grandy (grandma).
My grandparents all were penniless refugees from violence, poverty and hatred. They all died before I was born but I always felt I knew them and their struggles and achievements. I identify with my maternal grandparents more as I was more involved with them as there were 11 uncles and aunts and their spouses and countless cousins for me to share with. All but a handful of us have died but their memories stay with those of us who remain…still in touch and close tho we have moved away from where we were born
My mother was the third youngest of her immense family, a shy and unassuming woman, who took care of her ill and dying parents and then my father when became ill whilst serving in the army, fighting a war that frightened him.
The quality I’m most proud of in myself, learned from my mother, was compassion…real compassion born out of love for those she cared for including me. I always knew love
From blurred, mixed and sometimes whispered and confused beginnings, stories of origin dying with each generation. Ordinary but caring and loving our family spans tge world and includes ireland scadinavia london yorkshire wales and liverpòol. One of our children and two cousins on different sides had children born with down syndrome. Happiness success and educatiom has not always spread evenly and the extended family is cast nationwide. Our near family seems to be slowly gravitating to Yorkshire and Lincolnshire now….
I have lots of different feelings when i think of my family. Love, longing, guilt, closeness, far apart, duty, touch, loss, death, deep deep connectedness, tricky dynamics, care, caring, beautiful people at the core.
Sometimes at the weekend we would get up late (a rare event for us) and have a long and leisurely breakfast – cereal, toast, maybe a fry-up. We called this decadent, delicious meal a Dan Dare! I don’t know why. As a child I didn’t realise this was a family word – I thought every family enjoyed the occasional fattening Dan Dare at the weekend. This is one of my warmest family memories. Food, comfort and belonging.
My parents left Ireland in the 1950’s married in London, raised 6 children and settled there. In 2016 I retired to Ireland… Ireland is where my heart belongs.
Grew up in single parent family, away from other relatives and just a much older autistic brother. Never really understood families until I got married and had kids of my own. Now family is everything to me.
I have 12 brothers and sisters. One of them is a sister from my mom, 11 of them are brothers and sisters from my father. I share both parents with none. I hear that such relationships are referenced as half sister/brother. I never felt the need to do so. The love has always been full.
Over 75% of people with my surname are from East Yorkshire and it’s more than likely we’re all related somewhere along the way – the family was split during the English Civil War but both sides have remained in the area pretty much to this day. You can tell people we still all have the same nose!
I am now estranged from half of my immediate family; growing up my extended family all lived so close together and saw each other all the time. Feels like two lives.
My granny was born in Glasgow and was a very important person in my life. I remember her as someone who was kind, thoughtful and didn’t suffer fools gladly! During the final few months of her life, she lived in a residential home in Urmston, Manchester and we were all able to visit her regularly (during lockdown) due to the fantastic measures staff had put in place to ensure safety. The last time I visited her, my partner Clare and I were able to tell her of our intention to name our daughter ‘Kit’ after her and she was touched and typically self-effacing, asking “why would you want to call her that?”. Kit Senior died in July last year and Kit Junior was born in November, and is proving to be just as strong a personality as her great-grandmother. I’ve attached a pic of a poem I wrote to tell my gran the happy news!
Family is those who you hold the closest in your heart – who share your values and beliefs and love you for who you are. They are not always blood relations, and may not be in your day to day life
As the youngest of five my childhood combined tenderness, teasing, support and fighting for my voice to be heard. Though I’m 54 now and an independent woman, whenever we get together again as a family I revert back to being the ‘baby’ of the family, teased, loved, patronised and occasionally frustrated!
David Dolan Martin
I have a wide and extended family – my Biological Family, spread across the UK and the USA, and my Logical Family here in Manchester, which consists of my husband, Jez; and my two adopted sons Ed and Andrew, who we got to know, love and support during adulthood. – With thanks to Armistead Maupin for the ‘Logical Family’ name from ‘Tales of the City.
My Biological Family is my brother, Robert, and my sisters Nicki and Kate and a brood of 10 nephews and nieces. We’re close and don’t see enough of each other.
My grandmother died giving birth to my mother. She put into the ” Care System”. When she gave birth to me I was put into the system too along with my brother. When we grew up my brother went in search for my mother who we had never met. She rejected him and he then took his own life. Bless him. That’s it. Family erased.
Beautiful big bold proud humble. We look out for and help one another. Not all members are biological. We are all Jock Thamsons bairns
I grew up in Sudan ,iam a Muslim, but in my country there are defrent religions ,some tribes in Nuba Mountains ,they make there God by there own hands ,and pray for him.
They are not Christian, just without relegion,and pray for there own handmade idols
My father is an old man handicape ,always lay on the bed ,but he still can be funny, my mam blind sick woman,she singing some times ,she has a very nice voice
I have a very large family, and little brother of 5
My partner was my chosen family. He fed the birds in our garden. There was a pigeon with two white wing feathers and a limp, and he always made sure she got extra food. She looked for his shape in the kitchen window and would gobble towards him. My partner died from cancer in December 2020. I feed the birds now. His pigeon still comes to look for him.
My Mum had a finely tuned Paisley wit. I was chuffed to get into a smaller size. Smugly telling the staff member this, Mum replied ‘ They can make mistakes with the labels at the factory.’ She always surprised us with her quick lines. Such great fun to be around! Plenty more stories if you want them?
We have been clearing out my parents house as my elderly, disabled dad is now in a care home and mum moving to a sheltered flat next door. They lived there since the early 80s so piles and piles of our family history. Bank statements; committee minutes from charity work long ceased; ornaments (including the damaged statue of cavalier we all knew as “Cromwell”); photos of people long dead or much older; invitations for events now a distant memory; guide books to stately homes, which we were dragged around as kids; round robin Christmas cards; and postcards saying what a lovely holiday was being had by the sender. All of family life ,to be sorted into throw, pack or give away.
I really believe that family is chosen. I love my biological family, but I love my chosen family just as much!!
It was love at first sight to me, when I watched Paul, charismatic consultant plastic and reconstructive surgery, examine one of my patients at my request. I was some years younger than him. As to my first year of surgical training, I was a baby compared to his experience.
His advice was clear and elaborate, I blushed and was speechless. He seemed rather distant, not even kind.
Of course I couldn’t avoid the hospital gossip: he was a ‘womanizer’, a ’Don Juan’, a ’Casanova’. I never heard it told in a teasing funny way, rather criticising viciously. I decided, love-struck, he must never have been deeply in love, and paid no attention to rumours.
On the other hand: his surgical skills invariably were highly praised, his kindness to patients too.
Things rapidly changed, soon I was writing him little love poems, and friends trained me into talking his local Bruges dialect.
One early morning after a ‘Jazz-Club’ night’ I recited him a poem in his ‘local pronunciation’, and that seduced him, as he told me years later. He played the cello, Bach, Händel, Scarlatti became more familiar (I grew up with Mozart!), and I introduced him to literature and I was his guide to London and to Italy.
My dear father said he “loved Paul as his son”, Paul loved my mother, his family was delighted with me.
We got married at the moment my training to be a surgery consultant was complete. The suffragette in me cherishes the moment my Professor solemnly declared that “I was the first woman at this University to achieve this degree”. A dream come true.…
So we had the most fabulous wedding-promotion party: much love in the air, and both our families had artistry in their genes. The result was a firework of music, comedy, satire, a blessing that was kept as a surprise, a gigantic gift.
And now we agreed to have babies.
When our wonderful blonde daughter Anne (soon called Nan) was born, there was joy all over. My lovely, bright little Nan, a mother’s dream-child she was; she still is, a paediatrician with a family of her own, and two incredible kids, college students now, Lauren and Arthur, whom I both adore.
As all went well, when Nan was 18 months old, I gave birth to a perfect little sister, Elisabeth, with dark curly hair this one, exactly like her father.
Now I knew Paul had preferred a boy, but his behaviour was somewhat weird: he had accepted the name, but he said he didn’t like it, he delayed endlessly legal obligations, well, I was too gloriously happy to pay attention to that!
I was still in Maternity when my Mother, taking care of Nan, came to see me, pale, hands trembling in shock. With a heavy heart she slowly told me she had discovered beyond the shadow of a doubt that Paul had a mistress.
He had a mistress even since before we married.
And this mistress was my very own baby-sister, younger than me by 6 years.
This came as an utter surprise to me so denial and disbelief were followed by bewilderment and confusion. My sister I adored, my little sister I had been the first person after Mum to hold in my arms when she was born? My little sister I had helped nursing, my little sister I had told countless stories and fairy tales, she who knew me so well?
A betrayal that size I could barely fathom, let alone understand.
I held my beautiful healthy baby breastfeeding, and I decided I would let nothing, absolutely nothing, destroy the bliss of this perfectly happy, unique moment.
I knew then and there it was the beginning of the end of my marriage.
Me: “Mum, do I look fat?”. Mum: “There’s more fat on an oven chip!” (1980s)
There’s father at the centre of course, flame haired and athletic, intensely blue eyed, preserved in my memory as a forty year old. He was from a rich family and his nanny used to tie him up and lock him in a dark cupboard. His anger could be sudden and the violence all the more poignant for its restraint. Brittle, he wanted to love but seemed to struggle with the how of it. But we once cried together, listening to a flamenco mass by Paco Peña. My mother was the steady backdrop. She knew when we, my two brothers and I, needed warmth, when to push us and when to protect us. We separated from my dad for almost a year, leaving Cornwall to live with a great aunt in Dorset. But home was uncomfortable even after our return. My father, trapped in his role as patriarch, was arbiter of quality and of morality. Us children fled as soon as we could, to London, Scotland and Spain.
Being apart allows the family to sort of work, but the anger, violence and moral outrage did a lot of harm and I wish it had been different.
Dad is frail now, and he seems to have moved past religion. Thanks perhaps to a late diagnosis of depression and the right medication, he’s happier and easier to be around than he used to be. He and mum are very old and won’t be with us for many more years.
Now I’ve made another family. It is my turn to be a father, but not, I hope, a patriarch. All I want is for the family to be a secure, loving space in what can be a stormy world. This family is a haven made of chores and routines and small kindnesses and many small corrections. I hope it’s a place my daughters want to leave, but only when there is something better to go to. And I hope we’ll preserve it as their safety net in times of need.
I thought I knew them but I didn’t.
I thought I could trust them but they betrayed my trust and broke my heart.. My family was toxic. And that was my gift, now I can see and feel!
Mother, Father. Three Children.
Family is whatever you want it to be.
My grandparents and siblings are my born family.
My foster-Mum was my family.
My friends are my family.
My partner and dog are my family.
Family to me means love and acceptance.
J Mark Dodds
My Dad’s Walking 100 miles for #Pubs he’s got Alzheimers and knows how much single people like him depend on good pubs for friendship and community
I have Special Guardianship of my 3 grandchildren after my daughter tragically died in 2015. They each come with there own trauma but i love them dearly
Imperfect and loving is family, mine was an east anglian childhood flavoured with south yorkshire esprit. we are all just atoms.
I feel fortunate in my family. I come from a stable home, where parental love and warmth were in evidence, where I felt cared for and attended to as a child.
Both my parents are now a long time dead. My two older siblings have died, one some years before mum (which was very distressing for her) and one more recently. There remain only me, and a younger sister.
I’d like to talk about these two older brothers. My experience of them was very different, both as a child and as an adult. I suppose the point of the story is to show that differences are real, ought to be recognised, and that the ubiquitous ‘happy family’ narrative needs to be viewed with some caution.
My oldest brother Paul was a complex person; he was emotionally expressive (sometimes clumsily), and was passionately interested in music. He had a personal interest in Native American history and knew lots about it. That was unique in my experience – we were working class Catholics living in a small mill town in Lancashire. He served in the army for 6 years and I think he flourished there better than anywhere else. But he couldn’t stomach more tours of duty in N Ireland. When he left, he struggled to live independently and we had lots of scrapes – Paul got into debt, panicked and behaved badly sometimes, and was estranged for a time. But he loved his nephews and nieces – was a huge Clarets fan – and took the kids to matches.
What I remember best about him was his generosity. He had little. But he shared what he had. He was not a proprietorial brother. The music in the house was largely his, the Hi-Fi, with excellent speakers, and amplifier, was his. He let me (I was 12 years younger than him, mind) listen to his entire music collection, carefully crafter and curated. I owe my tastes in music – in large measure – to his education and promptings. And his collection was very eclectic: Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, Queen, Beatles, Roy Wood, Genesis, Deep Purple, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole Trio, Jim Reeves, Platters, Hollies, Status Quo, Elvis… He gave me a good start, and I went on from there.
Paul was not immediately supportive of me when I came out as gay: but we got past that. We got past the scrapes, the estrangement, and found lots to respect in one another. When I brought home my first serious bf, he was warm, welcoming, celebratory. I cherish my memories of him.
My older brother Philip (8 years separated us two) was, outwardly, much more successful than Paul. They didn’t get on, ever, as far as I could tell. I remember them fighting. I remember the circumstances which prompted the fights. I said Paul was emotionally expressive – he’d get het up about things he felt strongly about. He’d also missed some school – with childhood TB – and he was not as clever as Phil. Phil would argue with Paul, Paul would not be able to hold his ground (even if he was right) and things would escalate to violence. Since Phil was bigger, taller, heavier and fitter than Paul, he always won. I detested him then for his provocations and machismo,.
Phil and I had scarcely anything to do with one another as brothers, even though we shared a room for years and years. I didn’t interest him: too young, not sporty, equally clever as him, with different interests and enthusiasms. The pattern was set in childhood and never altered. When I came out as gay – I was simply an embarrassment to him . It was not valued among his circle (though one of his police fiends came on to me in the gents at his wedding.).
When we graduated to adults, Phil simply ignored me, as far as possible. Of course, mums being mums, this always distressed our mum. My sister and I were close. Phil and I not. The few memories I have of direct interaction with h