A few weeks ago my wife’s extended family met in the middle of the state of Illinois (Decatur, if you must know) to celebrate the 90th and 80th birthdays of her grandparents. Many of you who know me and my wife well, know that her mother’s side of the family is very unique and it’s the family we’re all closest too. Unique because this is family we’re not blood related too, in fact there’s no actual traditional binding to us at all. Does that make us any less family? I believe it is the very thing that makes us even more family. So often, people tend to quip with “you can’t choose family” like there is some invisible authority preventing you from becoming family with practical acquaintances. The Boughters have done just that with my mother-in-law and had taken her in as an adult when her parents had passed away while she was still a teenager. They chose to take her in and treat her as a daughter. Their sons chose to call her their sister and treat her as such. It’s a mind-blowing phenomenon to choose to love someone as family and not because you are obligated by blood or a family name.
And that sentiment was carried through to the next generation, most of whom were present in the small pre-fabricated home of our “Grampee” laughing raucously and chanting old drinking songs while swaying beer bottles back and forth over our heads. Despite the challenges that a modern family faces, here we all are, the second generation between 14 and 36, husbands, wives, cousins, aunts, uncles, and so on…each of us with differing political and social opinions, different beliefs, different friends, different lives, different blood, different names…but the same family.
I was thinking about the complexity of this while I heard the all familiar notes of a song playing on the piano in Illinois (by my brother-in-law) and it made me appreciate the song all the more. But it made me think that in the midst of the melody of this song (Clare de Lune) there are no politics, no blood, no different lives, no friends, no enemies, nothing complicated or complex…just emotion. Not fear or sadness or joy or rage…just emotion in the notes of the song.
I find that to be true of most French music. In discussion with my French counterparts during lunch today, we spoke of the difference between English music and French music. The French tend to be so much more invested in their verbiage (on the whole, but also in music). They focus more on the meaning and intent than on “what sounds pleasant” musically or lyrically. It’s a beautiful difference in culture that I hope to explore more on my journeys here in the future.
Its that culture that reminds me of the idea that connects my “family” and makes us family. What a beautiful thing it is…