I grew up in a house that might as well have had a revolving door. From younger than I can remember we have had extras in our home. My parents hardly thought twice about taking in cousins, nieces, nephews or friends.
We didn't grow up in a big house either, so from a young age we learned to share spaces - I actually didn't have my own room until I was nineteen - but I must credit my step-siblings with that - thanks Paula and Jack. And I'm not complaining, in fact, I think it prepared us with incredible patience and understanding for shared situations.
Extra people always came in handy for things like finishing your lasagne, thank you Colin, or creating the best sandwich ever - the Michael Marchildon. That's ham, mayo and cheese on bread, melted in the microwave, in case you're wondering - haha - and it's delicious.
Extra people also meant extra friends - extra family. When I was around six my cousin Sylvia came to stay for the weekend. When it came time for her to go home on Sunday I figured what the heck, I'll just ask if she can come live with us, everyone else has anyway! It didn't happen that weekend but Sylvia did end up moving in and living with us for over three years. In those three years we shared a room, laughs, arguments and a lot of Tony Rich Project and Boys II Men - like both sides of the tape kind of a lot. We went from cousins to sisters and I learned that families aren't defined as clearly as one might think.
People always refer to families as trees, but it seems to me a family is a lot more like a forest. A family may start as a single tree, but the more you give, and love, and share, the more trees start popping up around you. Now I haven't tested it but I would be willing to bet that in a rip-roaring, wild storm a whole bunch of trees fair better than a single tree - easily blown over and around by the wind. I mean, we are just better together, simple. Our family has been fortunate enough to have been strengthened by the many who have come to live, love and share with us. And now as we watch the next generation grow, we have the joy of watching them grow together - an even bigger family, an even bigger forest.
I thrive because of our forest, I am who I am because of every single person who has ever stayed with us. To my parents who have tirelessly accepted others into our home - thank you. Your open doors have taught me to open mine and have no doubt enriched our lives.