Jewish World Review
Nov. 7, 2013/ 4 Kislev, 5774
A forever family
What's the shelf life for a family? How long does it last?
Some people spend years tracing their lineage all the way back to Adam and Eve's second cousin twice removed on their mama's side.
I am not one of those people. It's not that I don't care about my roots. I'd love to know more about my family. It would probably explain a lot. But the truth is, I can barely keep up with the latest generation. They keep growing and changing and moving at speeds that make me dizzy just trying to keep track of little things like names and birthdays and food allergies.
Not that I'm complaining. I'm just saying. Keeping up with the present doesn't leave much time for digging into my past.
Yet whenever I come "home" to the mountains where I grew up, I think of all the generations of my family who lived and laughed and loved and died, long before I was born.
As a child, I was told that my great-grandfather, James Case, was a forest ranger in the late 18th and early 19th centuries for the vast Biltmore Estate, and was also part of the first school of forestry in the United States.
Imagine my surprise to learn that the house where he lived with his family a century ago has been restored by the U.S. Forest Service and is open for viewing in the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest.
I visited that house last week. I walked through its rooms, ran my hand along its walls and had my picture taken on its porch.
I tried to imagine them, my great-grandparents and their children. I tried to listen for echoes of their laughter. What were their lives like? What did they eat? What did they talk about by the fire in winter or in summer on the porch?
Did they ever imagine that someday, 100 years later, I'd show up looking for them?
The next day, 40 miles away, in Columbus, N.C., I sat on a bench, waiting for a turn at an ATM, and thinking about my ever-changing family.
My mother's parents lived in Columbus. I started first grade at the school across the street. Back then, Columbus was my whole world. I thought it always would be. I thought my family would gather at my grandparents' house every Sunday, all my aunts and uncles and dozens of cousins. I thought we'd be together forever.
That didn't happen, of course. Families are made of people. And people don't live forever.
My grandparents and all their children are gone now. My cousins and I live far apart. We try to connect, but you know how it is. Everybody's ... busy.
I was still sitting there thinking about it when a woman sat down beside me to wait for the ATM. She was holding a little boy who was ridiculously cute. They had that mother-and-child look, a kind of happiness that makes you think God picked them out just for each other.
His name was Malachi, he said, and he was 4 years old. Then he smiled at his mom and said something I didn't catch.
She laughed and hugged him and told me what he'd said:
"This is my forever family."
Then she added, "Malachi was adopted this week, so he's been telling everyone that now he's with his 'forever family.' "
It was my turn at the ATM. People were waiting. So I said something dumb like, "Good for you, buddy!" But his smile told me he knew what I meant.
Kids don't worry about words. They listen with their hearts.
Afterward, in the car, mopping mascara off my face, I realized I'd been wrong:
A family is not made of people.
A forever family is made of love.
Things change, years go by, generations pass, lives move in different directions.
But love never ends.
Malachi has a forever family.
And so do I.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment by clicking here.
• Changing season is a time for dreaming
• Moments to remember
• A whole new to-do list
• Don't wait for a eulogy
• 20 things kids really need for school
• Blood, sweat and laughter
• Trains are dreams that run on tracks made of steel or wood or imagination
• This act of humanity is more potent than pain pills and ice packs
• One chance meeting and we were lifelong friends
• My favorite Fourth is coming right up
• Keep following the sun
• A time of laughter --- but then a call for help, and panic
• Meaningful conversations between strangers
• Thank Goodness for little things
• Lucky for all sorts of reasons
• I promised myself he'd never have a stepdad
• Did I hear it?
• Other People's Stuff
• Imprinted geography: Home is wherever the mountain is
• Long-overdue thank-yous
• My sister's big news
• Finding peace wherever I can; at the moment and in memory
• I wish someone had told me this before it took years off my life
• The best part of being a grandparent
• Feasting on scraps: The reality behind a life habit
• The only tradition to keep absolutely
• The class hears from the teacher's mom
• We live in different towns, but share the same home
• The value of one true friend
• With Sandy raging, a 'which' kind of day
• The connections that truly matter
• Children don't need much --- but need to know they matter
• Cancer is everyone's story
• When does 'happily ever after' begin?
• Is there ever a good way to say goodbye?
• The being and the finding
• When fishing, she lands companionship
• Trophy sunsets
• Helping a friend find the way
• A home abloom with family and sunflowers
• Healing is our highest calling
• Needing help can really make you feel so, well . . . helpless
• The bedspread from hell
• A phone call to treasure
• It was close to the best gift my father had ever received
• It was the right time --- not a moment too late or too soon
• 25 tips for staying married
• Some people water your soul --- a storm worth waiting for
• Driving country roads helps restore hope
• Confessions of a bad-weather magnet
• The new star of my husband's harem
• Shared family moments are precious, irreplaceable
• What I'll remember from serving on the jury in a murder case
• When someone walks into your life and never lets you go
• Look for beauty
• We can't always 'be there' when we're needed
• Picture-perfect memories
• To love someone is to want to hear all their stories
• With age should come at least some wisdom
• A story for my grandson
• Regretting she didn't help out a woman in need
• Post-holiday-visit blues
• For 2012, tuck some hope into your wallet
• The measure of a time well spent is not where you went or what you did. It's the way you smile remembering it
• Treating people we love like the Jello salad at Thanksgiving dinner
• We all need something or someone to pull for
• Hold on to treasured words, don't trust memory
• A storybook princess
• Love reaches forward, never back
• How to Watch a Sunset
• Waiting often comes with gifts
• An exceptional book club
• There is no guilt in moving forward
• Celebrations full of love and buttercream
• It takes a whole village of shoes to raise a child
• The best stories always tell us who we are
• Stop, look back . . . and listen
• The great outdoors, if one's lucky, a rock-solid companion
• An iChat with my grandson
• Lightening bugs and other things make us glow
• Each and every Fourth of July a cause for celebration
© 2012, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE