To my second mother

I don’t believe that “family” is best defined by blood relations – I love my mother, my grandmother, and my cousin beyond bounds, certainly, but I don’t think everyone affiliated with me by birth and marriage is sufficiently mine to carry that “family” title.On the other hand, I don’t tend to call people my brothers and sisters lightly, either. You’re a sibling to me when we have undone all social convention together, and when I know that, regardless of where you physically are at the moment, you’re not going anywhere – Yasmin, Patrick, and Zeinab, for example.

That being said, last Saturday, I was lucky enough to celebrate the birthday of a woman who, though she isn’t family by blood, has always been my second mother.

She’s one of the bravest individuals I know, and has always been cheerful – even when she was forced to enlist in one of the biggest personal battles an individual can undergo. Coincidentally, her girls happen to be my sisters, too: the older of the two is Amanda, of whom I’ve spoken here before, and whom I’ve shared absolutely every part of life with – my home, her home, her church, my cottage, elementary and high school, cancer in both our families, relationships, financial troubles – really nearly everything. She, Esther, and Phebe, relatives by blood, grew up antagonizing one another, so I joined in and snagged little sister Esther – who grew up fast, staying smart and beautiful – and cousin Phebe (who was already relatively grown up when we met, but was and is smart and beautiful) for my own, too, haha.Throughout all this, Ms. Martey, pictured above, has unconditionally loved and supported all three of us; I’ll leave things there and say that she looks absolutely gorgeous above, and that her appearance is not solely superficial, but also a reflection of her personality. I love her and her girls, and I hope that their lives – all four – will always be as beautiful as our mother was last Saturday.

How do you define family?
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