A month ago, an eight-year-old Ghanaian boy in my neighbourhood and in the same class with my son asked me if is true that he and my son are cousins.
That was a tricky question and I did the smart thing by asking the boy to define who a cousin is? He then explained a cousin is someone you know, know his parents and are very good friends with them and their whole family! So, I turned to him and said by his definition then my son is his cousin! His face lit up with a big smile on his face he shouted to my son,” your mummy has confirmed we are cousins! The definition this 8year old gave is the definition most African children born and raised in the UK or abroad think family is.
As far as these kids are concerned family is not blood, is someone you see often and play with, and you know their whole family. I recall picking my son from school and I overhearing his conversation with another friend regarding his best friend. I heard him telling the boy that is a best friend is more than a friend, he is like family! The boy he was referring to is a Nigeria boy I made friends with his mother when my son was 5 years since then we have become family friends.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines family as a social group of Parents, child, (children) and sometimes Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts and others who are related. I come from a close-knit family of 7, my parents and myself and 4 other siblings. My mum used to always tell me how unity in a family is important and even when my siblings who are older than me moved out and was just left with me and my parents, they always visited on the weekends and even weekdays like they never left! I vividly remember when I was younger we occasionally had the extended family visiting and it was really a good opportunity to spend time with my aunties and uncles and especially my cousins.
My understanding of family at that age was that to call someone family you must be related to by the person by blood or marriage.
I do not have my dad and siblings here in the UK. I communicate with my family via the telephone all the time, however sometimes human as I am I yearn for that face to face communication. There are friends, there is family, and then there are friends that become family. Over the years I have “acquired” “new set of “sisters or brothers” here in the UK. My first proper friend I made was an army wife, over the years our relationship has grown so much that we have become literally like sisters.
There is a Ghanaian adage that says, “some friends can be more than family” I must admit I have had some very good friends of other nationalities who have done amazing things for me in the past, things I can only dream of my family doing. I recall an English work colleague visited me when I was pregnant, at that time I had a back pain and this friend hoovered my house for me. Her act may seem intangible, but to me I will never forget that kind gesture. My Nigerian “sister” has always been there when I need help with childcare, the list is endless. And must admit I have equally been there for them as well.
Sometimes church can be family too and have experienced and enjoyed that blessing. My family has been blessed in so many ways by the church we fellowship with. It is such a pleasant experience to be in the church that you can count on people to be there for you. It warms my heart when my children always refer to grown ups as “aunties and uncles”. That sense of belongingness is priceless.
Love your family and don’t loose the bond, but when life takes you to a place where your family is not around, and God blesses you with good friends, love them and treat them as family, because family isn’t always blood, it’s the people in your life who want you in theirs, the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.
When you meet such people hold tight to them, because they are rare.