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What a trip, fun filled, lots to do, make and bake, family filled festivities and very little sleep. I saw and talked to most of my relatives, made table decorations, hugged and kissed my niece and nephews, squishy cuddles and wet ones in the case of my brothers nine-month-old baby boy, slept in guest-rooms and on sofas, went to an art exhibition and for walks with dogs, cooked, cleaned, shopped and jumped on a trampoline. Now I am home and quite exhausted.

I do love my family, at times because I want to and at times because you are meant to, but it got me thinking about what family actually is. After all as a single, with no children living on my own and in a different country from the family I was born into, are the people I saw on Sunday really the most important ones in my life?

As I sat at the table and chatted to my aunts and uncle I realised again how very little we have in common and how we know even less about each other. I always get asked the same questions, no mater if they saw me a year or a month ago: “How is Ireland?” “What are you doing now?” and the dreaded one “Is there a man in your life?

The first is easily and almost always answered the same; Ireland is doing fine, the weather is a little mad and it looks like the financial crises is getting better in miniature steps. The second is an odd one as I have been doing the same things for a long time. My projects change and so forth but I haven’t suddenly become an astronaut or a gymnast. The third is the question I ignore or give a knowing smile and change the subject when asked. After all is it any of their business? And if I am really honest I am not convinced they want to know anyway. Their questions aren’t really about me, but for them to feel they made the effort.  Of course there is the exception in the form of my godmother who I have a different relationship with. We talk (or email) regularly and she knows me and what is going on in my life. But that also means that our chats are different and we don’t ask mundane, standardized questions.

So as my eyes drifted over the faces of people I have know for most of my life I had a thought, maybe family isn’t what we think it is but what we make it be.  After all my friends are the people I turn to when I am sad, need to vent and have fun with, not necessarily relatives. Some family members straddle the void between family and friends, others are stranded safely on a side I only visit a few times a year. And I am quite happy with that, seeing as there are only so many stories I need to hear about some cousins child, dog, friend or husband.

With that in mind I think we need a new definition of what family is, maybe even a new word for it. With the number of singles living on their own growing steadily the conventional idea about family and it’s structure seems outdated. But with the word “friend” being overused, including people we have just met or kind of know, maybe a word like “friemily” is what we should be using to describe those people in our lives that are the most important to us.

After a good nights sleep and a long list of to-dos I think today I will get in touch with some of my friemilies and tell them I missed them.

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