You can pick your nose.
And you can pick your friends.
But you can’t pick your friends’ nose.
That rhyme has rattled around in my head ever since I was a little kid. I don’t know why. So much other stuff doesn’t seem to be able to stay in there but that little ditty does. I always thought it was funny for some reason. The idea of picking one’s friends. It’s not the same with family. You can’t pick your family. They become attached to you the moment you are born. And they follow you for the rest of their lives. When I was much, much younger I used to wish that we could also pick family. One goes through a certain period of one’s life when FAMILY is either embarrassing, annoying or just plain irritating. It isn’t until you move far away from them that you realize just how important FAMILY really is.

I left my family neighborhood when I moved to Sweden. In the beginning I would come back to the New York/New Jersey area frequently. I was able to come HOME for family gatherings and stay for a longer time. But as the years rolled on and I became more and more embedded into my life in Sweden the visits became fewer and shorter. Stockholm was my home and my family was far away. When my son, Bevin, was born I realized that I had no family there for him to be attached to – to grow up with – which was un-pickable.

But yesterday, some of my family came to visit us out at our summer house to have a family bar-B-Q.

Barbara and Tomas came, bringing dessert but without children. Their oldest son Daniel is grown-up and on his own. Their daughter, Carly while still living at home is about to take her first steps away. Their youngest son Jonas, is in the States as a counselor at the summer camp he once attended as a kid.

David came with potato salad, without his wife Danielle and daughters Nadine and Evelin, who had previous plans. His son, Philip arrived late from somewhere else. His mode of transport being the bus, it took longer than he had realized it would. But he got there in the end.

Sam came with his two young children, Helene and Harold, carrying pasta salad and fabulous homemade coleslaw. Rebecca, wife and mom, couldn’t make it but like our other missing family we missed her too.

And Amy came, with husband Björn and daughters Marielle and Sara bringing cake and Swedish strawberries and cream. While having moved away from Sweden, they are still very much a part of my family here. Marielle is also on her way out the door, preparing to move to college in Washington DC in the fall.

The original plan was to hang out on our big new deck, maybe even go swimming, then grill food and eat and as always talk talk talk. But the weather wasn’t going along with that plan. The first rain in almost 5 weeks decided to visit us. And while some brave souls took a dip in the lake most of us returned to the house and stayed there. Everyone helped me prepare the food. We grilled with the raindrops falling around us and sat inside eating and talking, exchanging opinions as only family can.

They weren’t my un-picked family, the ones back in the States, that I was born attached to, who regardless of what I think about them or them about me, will follow me through my whole life. These guests were part of the family here in Sweden that I picked. Some of my J.A.P.S. – my Jewish family here in Sweden. We’ve been gathering to celebrate the Jewish holidays since our kids were small. There was no Jewish holiday to celebrate yesterday, but we gathered anyway. Now, many of our kids are big – on the doorstep to adult lives. But when we gather its like cousins reconnecting, filling our home with family love. I’m so glad they picked me.

2 Responses to “Family”

  • Janet Says:

    Glad to be part of your “Swedish” family – but also glad that we visited you last weekend instead of this weekend!

  • Amy Brown Says:

    What a wonderful posting. I share the same sentiments about our “family” and miss you all so much. It was great to be together again and share stories, old and new, just like families do. A highlight for me was seeing the video of your Big Surprise from Hakan. Very moving (and amusing!) I am glad you picked us! With fondness from your cousin Amy and family

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