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March 12, 2009

This Wonderful Life

When the family tree doesn’t work, plant a garden

Author’s note: Ann Landers was always one of my favorite columnists. I loved her no-nonsense advice and her willingness to take on any subject matter. I especially loved her habit of resurrecting old columns when she needed to. Like if she had the flu and could barely sit up at the computer for long enough to type an e-mail to her editors.

Just saying. In that light, here is an oldie but goodie written four years ago when we were awaiting our best friends’ daughter’s arrival. Uproot the family tree -- turn it into firewood and whisk brooms. Those narrow little pedigrees are fine for dogs and cats and other creatures whose lives are built around strutting shows and creating offspring with the highest monetary value. But these charts are no good for people.

They don’t allow for real life. Where is the proper slot for the grandmother and aunt who raised you, the father you never knew, the parents’ best friends’ daughter who was more like a sister than any of the people whose names appear on your chart?

Those trees don’t say anything about our family. We are four people who can count three adoptions among us - four if you expand the circle one generation.

My son and I both know that your ``real’’ father is the one who raises you - the one who puts candles on your birthday cakes and bandages on your scrapes. Maybe that will give us an advantage as our little Buttercup grows up. We can teach her about ``real’’ family.

And we can also understand that, no matter how happy you are with the family who is there, the family who isn’t there is always a part of your thoughts because it’s a part of you.

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