We Want You In the Picture

It was a birthday party. I felt honored to be invited because it was a family thing and I am “in” this family because five years ago, I appointed myself as “another” grandmother.

To the grandchilren, I am Besta, the Norwegian translation for grandmother. If the children called all of us simply Grandma, we would have the rather awkward experience of responding to them as a group of four or five.

This partywas for the maternal grandmother visiting from Australia. Her two “real” sisters were there, too. The three sisters range in age from seventy to seventy seven. It was a “family” meal in that we all talked at the same time and everyone was OK with that. I listened in rapt attention as they answered my questions about growing up as kids in China and stories of their father who was a missionary doctor.

They told of a woman who was “pregnant” for sixteen months. The animation as the sisters provided memories made me feel like I was wondering, too, if this might be some special child. The local traditions left room for assigning meaning to unusual stories. But when their father operated, he found a forty-pound ovarian cyst! We tried to replay the surgery and imagine if he could have removed it intact. (They remembered seeing pictures of the cyst overlapping a large bucket.) Thinking that a cyst is fluid-fllled, I contributed a theory that he could have elongated it into a tube like a wiener, but this idea brought more laughter that credibility.

As I listened to stories I so wished I could have met this man who was a general practitioner in the broadest possible sense. After a few hours of authentic Chinese food and authentic family connection, cameras were pulled out. I offered to take the pictures but was met by a verbal chorus, “Oh, no, we want you in the picture.” My heart felt strangely warmed. It is such a healing experience to be wanted in a family picture.

Do you have a story where you have been given the gift of belonging? Is there someone to whom you can give this gift?

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