My American Family

Hi Barb here. This is a post from my personal blog three years ago, which I’m repeating here today because it still very much represents how I feel.

Christmas Day this year was spent at my husband’s brother’s ex-wife’s cousin’s house, which is to say, with friends.

We are as a group united by bonds of blood, law and friendship.  We have among us people whose ancestors came on the Mayflower and people who speak today with the accents of the countries of their birth. Some of us have grandparents who thought Franklin Roosevelt was a communist, and some have grandparents who actually were communists. We are Catholics, Protestants and Jews, some of us fervent in our beliefs, some of us equally fervent in our unbelief, and every form of questioner in between.

The cousins, 1997

We range in age from eight to eighty.  We have children who came to us in every way children can come, step, adopted and biological, planned, longed for, and delightful surprise.  We have children who make us unbearably proud and children we worry about everyday.  Frequently, these are the same children.

This year we marked two deaths, four major illnesses, three surgeries, a divorce and two marriages.  On Christmas day, two couples no longer together smiled and treated each other with grace because their love for their children comes before their own pain.

This is my American family.  We are pale, ruddy, olive-skinned and brown.  We are blonde, red-headed, brown, black, white and gray-haired. There are times in the last decade when this kind of big, messy stew has felt invisible, almost impossible in the onslaught of messages from those who, for their own venal gain, would divide us, push our differences in and our common humanity out.

Yet all along, we have known it wasn’t so and gone on, frequently fractious, but never fractured.

With hope for the future.  Happy New Year to all.

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
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4 Responses to My American Family

  1. Lea Wait says:

    Well said, Barb. And well lived.

  2. Vicki Doudera says:

    Terrific, Barb — glad you reposted. Our family is also a smorgasbord, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

  3. MCWriTers says:

    My family is still pretty homogenized, but I love the idea of the extended group of family and friends becoming a special circle, especially at the holidays. We’ve been living in a real old fashion neighborhood for 30+ years where there’s a carol sing and neighborhood holiday parties which has such a feeling of being “at home” about them. We’ve also given the same parties, an early December holiday party, and a New Year’s Eve party, for 30 years, and while the cast of characters changes slightly, the feeling that we are with dear old friends does not. To me, this chance to share some time with people is the best part of the season.

  4. Gram says:

    Wonderful article.

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