It was heartening how accepting that older couple was, how they grasped the beauty of the way two women had cobbled together a family, and how they understood that a family is something to value, regardless of how wildly unconnected the parts of it once were. And they didn't waste time begrudging others for being different.
The traditional American family has been undergoing a profound transformation. In 1960, married families made up nearly three-quarters of all households, but by 2000, the same accounted for only 53 percent of the population.
"The typical American family does not have the same structure as a generation ago," said Dr. Susan Brown, Bowling Green State University professor of sociology and co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research.
"Social and economic dynamics have contributed to greater complexity and diversity in today's families," Brown said. "A household headed by a married mother and father who are both the biological parents of their children is no longer the most common version of today's family."
When I think of the families I know personally, I realize what used to be thought of as normal isn't the norm anymore. I know grandparents with custody of their grandchildren; a woman who, on her own, is raising the son of her ex-husband and another woman. I know families patched together with half, full and step siblings. Couples with "fur babies." Families who foster, adopt, inherit and just plain old open their door to stray kids.
My own family jokes about being made up of in-laws, ex-laws and out-laws.
The late Erma Bombeck once described family as being "a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it ... loving, laughing, defending and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together."
More and more, families in this country are becoming the physical personification of America itself. A mishmash of people who are free to worship and free to vote. Free to work for a living or free to be supported on the backs of those who do. Free to bear arms, free to speak.
And free to make a family with whomever, and however, they choose.
Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinful...@gmail.com.