Gran's Apple Butter Blog

August 24, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Finding Our Tribe (6/X)

Chapter 6 – Finding Our Tribe

Some people along our journeys come with the territory – like our families.

We spend all our lives working on these relationships, whether we like it or not and whether or not we want to admit that these are some of the most influential people in our worlds. We put an awful lot of time into figuring out who we are in relation to these folks – our tribes, as Gran called them – fer ‘em or agin ‘em. Either way, they remain a central point of identification.

An important thing about family is not only how we define ourselves in relation to them, but in whether we can step away from our own projections about these oh-so-familiar people (and we know what familiarity breeds). Can we allow each person to redefine him or herself, even as we are redefining ourselves? Perhaps then our whole family will grow into something new.

One day Gran brought up that word: FAMILY. I hadn’t paid much attention to it before, but Gran paid a lot of attention to words. She said they hold more inside ‘em than we realize. So sometimes she’d pick a word, and we’d drink some fruit punch while we thought about it.

That day, Gran took the word FAMILY and showed me how the words I AM are hidden in the middle. You had to look close, she said, ‘cause they were backwards. Sometimes, in order to find ourselves, we have to shuffle those letters around a bit, or we’ll get so caught up in the family as a single unit that we lose ourselves inside it.

Gran said it was about balance. Family is important. And so am I. I can be myself in a family, but sometimes this can be tricky. Gran thought those letters were in there to jog our memory if we ever realize we’ve gotten lost in the middle of lots of shoulds and shouldn’ts and other people’s dreams we start to think are our own. When this happens, we’ll want to stop and make sure we have those words straight inside ourselves.

Sometimes this puts us on the hunt to find our tribe – people like us. Gran spent many years on this quest, all part of finding her way. She loved the home she was born into, but somehow she always felt like an outsider. She didn’t think like them. She didn’t fit in, like a lump in your mashed potatoes. In a world of mashed potatoes, being a lump can feel pretty lonely.

And so, when Gran was old and brave enough, she struck out on her own. She didn’t find her tribe all at once. It was almost like they’d been separated at birth, each born somewhere else, lumps in other people’s mashed potatoes. And yet when they’d find each other, there was no doubt. Sometimes you could tell who they were by the flecks of gravy on their elbows.

Gran said she wouldn’t change anything if she had it all to do over. The way things worked out, she got to have all kinds of incredible adventures and she got to feel what it was like to find her way to the Home of Lumpy Potatoes, to see a welcome mat out front, and a sign hanging above the door with her name on it.

This way Gran got to meet so many people and to learn to love and accept them all, unconditionally. People and ways she might never have encountered otherwise. People she could adopt as foster families, so that in the end, she had not one family, not one tribe, but many, in a series of circles that covered the globe. And all in all, that was way better. 

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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