On U.K. television at the moment is a programme called Long Lost Family. It is about loss, a deep need to make contact with family and the enduring power of love. There are mothers who were forced to give up their babies, children looking for parents they have never met, siblings in search of each other. It is a simple and predictable format but the programme itself, which has won a BAFTA, is incredibly powerful. I cannot watch it without a box of tissues to hand.
Yesterday we had a family day. My husband's sister and family drove down from Yorkshire, his brother joined us from around the corner. We drank Pimms to celebrate all being together. My mother-in-law brought a fruit salad, my daughter baked gingerbread and I cooked salmon and beef to serve alongside new potatoes and salads. After lunch the sun came out and we took our coffee into the garden. We played boules on the lawn, my granddaughter picked golden cherry tomatoes from the greenhouse (much more exciting than toys!) and my son and daughter caught up with their cousins, aunt and uncles. As an only child and with my parents gone, I do not have much family of my own so, over the years, my husband's family has become mine.
Quite some time ago my husband and I stayed the night in a lovely bed and breakfast near Cirencester. We chose it from the Alastair Sawday's Special Places to Stay for Garden Lovers and at breakfast everyone sat around one big table. Opposite us were a couple who had driven down from Scotland. They were attending a Golden Wedding celebration that day and I asked if it was a family celebration.' No', the lovely lady replied. The party was for good friends. And then she looked at me and added, 'but sometimes friends are better than family, aren't they?'
She was right. In Long Lost Family the ending is always a happy one and rightly so. I also totally understand the sense of loss those people on the programme feel, but life is not a television programme and not everyone has the family they want, not everyone has a happy ending. I have been extremely lucky. I love my husband's family dearly and I love my friends too.
My friend Cathy once said to me that 'you make your own family', and those wise words have stayed with me. For those of us who do not have many blood ties it is important to 'make our own families'. They can take many forms and provide much happiness.
Thank-you for reading. May your week be a happy one.