Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Plus One

My family's never been one for being completely traditional. When I was in my teens, I came up with the term "psuedo-adopted." (It seems so have others, but at the time, I didn't know.)

Probably it came from having so many siblings. I'm the third of seven kids. I have two older brothers, two younger sisters, and after them, two younger brothers. With this many people to consider your family, friends weren't people we knew: they were extended family. And considering we rarely saw our actual extended family, we felt we needed more family sometimes.

There was an elderly lady who lived next door who was very kind to us. We almost considered her a grandmother, except we were very respectful of her property. She wouldn't mind if we happened to be in her yard, but we wouldn't disturb her flowers or anything.

As we moved into our teen years, we'd often invite friends over. Normally my sisters' friends from church. Quickly, they became our "psuedo-adopted sisters." Notably, I never had any guy friends I'd invite home from church. Don't know if it should have been a sign that I was gay. My mother just assumed I was introverted. (I might be, but I don't think it was that so much as that I didn't embrace my own personality.)

As we moved from teens to young adults, our friendships with these girls remained much the same. We'd invite them over to our apartment once the oldest of my sisters and I moved out together. (We were pretty close.)

For me, I fell away from really "pseudo-adopting" people as family. Generally, the girls who'd visit were there to meet with my sister. I never had friends over, with one exception: the one time one of the girls came and visited me after church after my sister had moved away to live with her boyfriend, now husband. I liked having the company, but knew it wasn't quite right for me, a single man in my 20s, to have a teenage girl with him alone in his home. Of course nothing happened (well, I did give her a sweatshirt I couldn't wear since it was a cold day and she'd be walking outside, there's no excuse for not being a gentleman), but when the youth pastor heard about this, he did ask me to leave the youth ministry. (I have a suspicion that if I knew I was gay then, I probably would have been out of it sooner.)

My sister, from what I can tell, isn't so free in "pseudo-adopting" anymore. I recently "pseudo-adopted" a girl on Twitter as a sister, since I tell her everything, including things I haven't told my real sisters.

The one who's done this on a large scale recently is my mother, except she doesn't consider it "pseudo." She and my dad have befriended a young woman who was made to live away from home and was staying at a homeless shelter. She now calls them "Mom," "Dad," and considers myself, my older (but not oldest) and my second-youngest brothers her brothers.

I don't. I respect my parents for being a surrogate family to someone in need, but I only see this young woman as a friend personally. Most specifically, my mother's friend. It's not like I won't be nice and polite (since she is a fan of The Wizard of Oz, I have given her a few Oz gifts), but she is not my sister.

However, I have no problem with my mother seeing her as a daughter. That's just the person my mother is. And I do feel that my mother misses her actual daughters, since they both live in Texas now, and she misses having a young woman she can advise in young adult life.

So, what do I care if my family gatherings in the future may have a "plus one" from my mom? Perhaps someday soon, I'll be bringing a gentleman along as my "plus one."

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