What makes a family? Is it blood? Shared experiences? Marriage? Dysfunction? This is a question I have been asking myself all week. The catalyst to this question was an e-mail I received from my sister, Nancy. Now this e-mail was not to me but it was about me! It was a short e-mail between Nancy and Douglas. Who is Douglas, you ask? Douglas is family. Not by blood or marriage but by God. I believe God sends us people to make our families complete. And in our case, God brought us Douglas all the way from Brazil.
Douglas and me!
I come from a rather large family. My dad was 1 of 7 and I am the youngest of 6. We are a loud and boisterous family. Never boring. And not perfect by any means. In fact if you were to look up the word dysfunction in Webster’s, you would probably see a picture of the Strickler’s right next to it (just kidding…kind of, but seriously, whose family isn’t dysfunctional?). But even as crazy as our family can be, there is always room for one more.
As the youngest I was picked on by the older ones (and this is where my siblings will say I’m dramatic and make stuff up). There is a story that happened when I was a little girl. My oldest sister, Karen, is a beautician. She would give me a perm and make me look like Shirley Temple. She obviously kept the perm in too long. I had no control over this. I was just a kid. My siblings would tease me because of my hair. I actually tell them that I spent years in therapy recovering from these traumatic experiences (again, dramatic, I know). My brothers did something one day that solidified my hair-do trials and tribulations in Strickler folklore for generations to come. They made up a song. Not just any song but a song to the tune of the 80’s classic “Jessie’s Girl.” These were the lyrics Bill and Jerry sang, “Lately something’s changed that is hard define, Heidi’s got herself a hairdo and I wanna make it mine. I wish I had Heidi’s hair. Where can I find me a hair do like that? Like Heidi’s hair” And they would sing it to me. And go through the whole song. I think I cried at first. I’ve repressed some of the memories. Too painful. I was 11 for crying out loud! For a pre-adolescent girl that is such a fragile age. (Added drama inserted here and the rolling of the eyes and groaning of my family). Since that time, the song has been sung to me at almost every family function. My nieces sing it to me. And they don’t even know who Rick Springfield is!!! This all leads back to Douglas.
A picture of the “hair-do” that started it all! Junior high was not kind to me nor was that perm!
Douglas was a foreign exchange student from Brazil while he was in high school. He became like a son to my sister and brother-in-law. Upon graduation, he received a scholarship for basketball and stayed in the States to attend college. He lived with my sister and her family during this whole time. I have never met anyone like Douglas. He is one of the most charismatic, intelligent, genuine and funny people I have ever met. Whatever “it” is, Douglas has it.
So when did Douglas become family to me? From the beginning. But the moment in time I point to is when he sang, “Heidi has a hairdo” to me for the very first time. When someone is comfortable enough to tease you, then you’re family! And then this summer, he made a surprise visit from Brazil for my nephew’s graduation. As I pulled into the driveway of my sister’s house, I saw Douglas in the neighbor’s yard. As I got out of the car, there was no “hello”, no “hi,” no “oi” but his voice booming across the yard, singing “Heidi has a hair do –do – do – do—do — do”. And this is the e-mail I was copied on this week that brought the subject of family to the forefront of my thoughts:
(Douglas had sent Nancy and Scott a picture in which he had grown his hair out. The whole time playing basketball, Douglas kept it shaved. We are not used to seeing him with hair. Douglas sends them an email with the picture attached, and all he says is in the e-mail below. And notice my sister’s response. I’m not suave or debonair. LOL!)
From: Nancy Kranstuber <email@example.com>
To: Douglas Viegas <doug_xxxxxxx.com>; Heidi Strickler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, December 8, 2011 10:15 PM
Subject: Re: photos
Doug – You look AWESOME! Mr. Movie Star. Very suave and debonair. Nothing like Heidi’s hair-do!
On Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 9:38 PM, Douglas Viegas <doug_xxxxxxxx.com> wrote:
Heidie’s gotta a hair doo do do do do do dooo!!!
So what makes a family? It can be blood, marriage, and shared experiences. But I give God the credit. Psalms 68:6, says, “God sets the lonely in families.” God knew that the Strickler’s needed Douglas. And I think God knew that Douglas needed us. As we go into the Christmas holiday, remember those who may not have family around. And look to see whom God wants to set in your family! I could not imagine my family without Douglas!