I am currently reading Paul Reiser's Familyhood.
This is the result one of those little trails in life that came up unexpected, and I took the opportunity to explore it.
"Hey, the bookstore in that shopping center is closing. Want to go check it out?"
Of course. I was game for just about anything on that lovely, childless afternoon. I could relish in my ability to be and act irresponsible. I hadn't "just perused" a bookstore in a long time; and I was certainly interested in enjoying the fact that I had no child tagging along to gripe and complain as I lingered over the shelves of books and CD's.
I walked alone through the shelves, just as I used to when my parents took me during my teenage years. It's an intense solitary string of moments when you open your mind to evaluate whether new stories, songs and information will become a part of your existence.
I have countless happy moments of learning lived in the quiet corners of bookstores.
The new Paul Reiser book shouted at me from its predominate display.
I thought: Hey, I know that guy!
And in a bookstore full of yet-unknowns, it is always nice to see a familiar face (or name).
I am familiar with Paul's expression through his first book, Couplehood. My uncle gave me that book when I started dating seriously and I enjoyed Paul's perspective of coupling immensely. It became a kind of subconscious subtext for me as I moved along in relationships.
Just a note: I haven't read Paul's second book, Babyhood, because I was very much in the midst of dealing with my own budding courtship and sooner-than-expected baby's arrival.
My definition of family has been challenged, yet again, through my recent divorce.
I mean, who doesn't already have issues with defining their family as they grow - which is something that Paul explores - but, I feel like divorce, when there's a young child (or children) involved presents a challenge to the splitting partners on how their not-yet-realized "family unit" will be maintained, if at all.
I would suspect that there are issues outlining a definition no matter how old the children are, a truth I can attest to, as I have seen my own parents struggle to maintain their relationship. I am the child with a child, waiting to hear about boundaries, lines in the sand and having to establish a few of my own, for the protection of my own heart.
And, as I work to carve out my own meaning and definition of family - the one that I want to banner-carry through my existence and for my son, I know - that for me - the participants included aren't just blood relatives.
They are the handful of people that have seen me at my weakest and most vulnerable, and have encouraged me to keep moving forward because they love and support me no matter what. They are the people that love my child and engage in his development on a direct level, knowing that their influence of love and acceptance will positively impact him.
I am not sure that Paul will get to this. I haven't gotten into the book very far yet and I expect that he'll talk more about the family that is right there in front of him: his wife and two boys, and their adventures together.
But his first couple of chapters have my mind churning through the brain-compost and I feel like the seeds of self-reflection are already taking root and sprouting.
I'll probably struggle to get through this book. There will be another wave of mourning over the family unit I started that now suffers through an awkward existence of halting development. There will mostly likely be a wave of mourning over acknowledging that my dream of a house full of boys (one big one and a handful of smaller ones) is most likely not a realistic life-path for me anymore....I can actually already feel the premonitional heart-tug, in a sad kind of way.
I am not saying that things can't change- just saying that the elements that make it what it is are heavy-sided.
In the midst of my self-reflection and honorific mournful rite, I am thankful for the handful of individuals who love me like family, because they are my family.