When I was four, my folks moved from California to the DC region. Having taken a job in the city, Dad set up shop in a small town outside the Beltway that, at the time, was nothing more than old farms and thick woods. With literally nothing to do in this small town, Mom wound up teaching at a local preschool where she befriended one of the ladies who worked there. Little did we know that they’d become instant soul mates; sisters from different mothers. With kids around the same age, our two families quickly merged together on a lifelong journey of laughter and love.
Over the years, the family evolved. Children grew, married, and had kids of their own. Couples moved away to start their own lives and, sadly, we said goodbye permanently to far too many. But through the ups and downs, we stayed connected, held together by a familial bond much stronger than DNA. We survived as a unit, not because we were related, but because we chose each other.
I was reminded of this last week when we were all over at the matriarch’s house for dinner. Dad and Uncle Al were out on the deck chatting as they cooked enough food to feed an army. My wife and I were in the kitchen, deep in conversation with our “cousins” when a peal of laughter tore through the room. We paused, looking up to find the youngest set of kids snickering by the stove. The trio quieted, stared at someone’s phone, then burst into laughter once again.
Watching them, I was struck by how blessed we are. Not too long ago, my sister and I were the kids who giggled while the adults chatted. Now the next generation is poised to take over. In due time, they, too, will grow, marry, and birth the following generation, much like we have. With any luck, they will also feel the bond that we’ve been lucky enough to share for over three decades. And I truly hope and pray that they come to realize what took me a longtime to figure out:
Family isn’t about blood.
Yes, you’re born into a family, but sometimes that’s not the one you need or deserve. For a lucky few, and I count myself among them, your biological relatives provide an emotional support base. Sadly, for many, their blood relations simply don’t.
But “kin” doesn’t necessarily translate to “family”. Family isn’t the people who share our genetic code. Family (with a capital ‘F’) is the group of folks that we pick. The ones we meet on the long journey who charge our batteries, who fill us with hope and love. They are the ones we call randomly on a Saturday just because we want to hear their voice. They are the ones who help build the foundation that allows us to face the trials of life. They are the ones who cheer the loudest when we succeed or pick up the pieces when we fall. Maybe they are tied to us by blood, but most times, they are the Family that we choose.
As writers, we tend to think that we walk long stretches of the publishing road alone. We hole ourselves away for hours at a time, struggling to create literary families from scratch. We birth an idea, slowly raise it, help it mature, and eventually release it into the world. Sometimes those “children” succeed, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we lose hours, months, or years worrying over them. Sometimes we go to bed smiling, pleased with how they turned out.
But through this all, we’re never truly alone. Maybe it’s a spouse who brings us coffee during the 6AM writing sprints or perhaps it’s the best friend who holds our hand when we receive a rejection letter. It can be sister who beta-reads our rough draft or the buddy who listens to you gripe over a beer about plot holes. No matter who those people are, whether they are related by blood, marriage, or choice, your Family will always be there. Because that’s what Family does.
In January, the final book of my series, The Shifter Chronicles, comes to a close. I say goodbye to a family that I’ve loved for many years. Although slightly melancholy, I bid Marcus and Company farewell with a smile because I know that the hundreds of thousands of words were written and published with the support of my Family. That includes my wife, folks, sister, Dragon Brother, godmother, extended Family with 30 years of laughter and love, my agent, editor, the amazing people at the Absolute Write Cantina, the team at Carina Press, and close friends, all of whom have a special place in my heart. Each and every one of them walked with me on this journey and each of them is part of my Family. Not because we are related, but because we chose one another.
And that, my friends, is what Family truly means.
So, who is your Family?
Joshua Roots is a car collector, beekeeper, and storyteller. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, golf, and all facets of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He's still waiting for his acceptance letter to Hogwarts and Rogue Squadron. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.