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Is Aunt Edna Worth a Sweater?

Families You’re Born Into, Families You Create, and What They Mean


Late December usually sees a lot of inventory taking place. Many businesses that operate on a 12-month calendar year use this end of the year month to tally up their assets and close out their books. But something about the season inspires us to take inventory of our personal stock also - our soul stock, if you will.

You can see the calculations on the faces of any of the State Street shoppers. Running down lists in their heads of all their loved ones and some maybe not so loved. “I should get a gift for them,” they’re thinking, “because they got one for me last year.” Aunt Edna, check. Uncle Fred, check. A lot of these lists even get written down. They seem to occur as tasks, not acts of kindness. Can you imagine what the girl at the front desk at your work - that girl you see five days a week - would say if she saw herself on your people-I-care-about list as “front desk girl”?

Some of the characters are always the same (the family you were born into) and some are ever-changing (the family you create). There is equal beauty in these two categories.

The interesting thing is that we all use this “end of the year” to reflect and name those who have been main characters in our lives over the past 12 months. Another interesting part of this mental list is that some of the characters are always the same (the family you were born into) and some are ever-changing (the family you create). There is equal beauty in these two categories. The family you are born into is beautiful because, for many of us, they are always there - it’s unconditional. We have families who watch as we are born, grow up, and pass through our awkward stages.

The beauty of the family you create is that it is conditional - all parties know that they are in your life because you choose to have them in your life. If you subscribe to the principle of life being a path and believe that peoples’ paths intertwine, then you know that at any point your paths may go separate ways, and it has you see relationships as chapters in your story. The beauty comes from knowing that you can’t take them for granted. We are causing, building, and maintaining these unique structures because we choose to. The family you create knows the you which you present now. The “freshest” you.

The great thing about reflecting on these two equally beautiful groups of family at this time of year is that you think of all of them, even on paper, all the same. They all become “loved ones.” Unfortunately, this time of year often asks us to put a price value on them and decide, “Do I love Aunt Edna worth a sweater, or is it more a box of Sees nuts and chews sort of love?” Or “should Aunt Edna and Aunt Ruth get the same because my love for them is about the same?” Do these measurements and factors really have to be weighed up?

Perhaps I will explore what it is like to abandon the tendency to compare and contrast loved ones and “who has done what for whom, therefore I will do this and/or that for so and so.” Now that the shopping, gifting, and listing part is over and the resolution time is upon us, I resolve to stop the price tagging of my “loved ones” and realize how beautiful they are, and how fortunate I am to have them in my story.

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