The term family is one we're all quite familiar with. The word itself can infuse your mind with memories, both good and bad. However, I believe we take the term for granted sometimes, convinced it has but one accurate usage: those who are related by blood. Perhaps there was a day and time when this was correct, but given today's non-linear lifestyles, it's only appropriate that our vocabulary should transmutate with our culture. The simplest way to determine the true meaning of family is to first examine some basic characteristics of a family.
The first and most important factor constituting a family is the desire to make sacrifices for another. Such sacrifices are illustrated perfectly in Robert Hayden's poem entitled Those Winter Sunday's (12). Hayden explains in detail childhood observations of his father working thanklessly. It's that humble servitude which makes Hayden's father who he is, not the fact that they're related by blood.
The second noteworthy characteristic of a family is a lasting sense of responsibility for one another. When a member of a family is in danger, the other members within that family feel every bit as urgent, as though they themselves were in danger. In his short story, One Last Time, author Gary Soto wrote "Mother thought I was being stuck-up, even stupid, because there would be no clothes for me in the fall." (17). Here, Soto iterates his mothers concern for his well-being, and demonstrates nicely what I phrased as a noteworthy characteristic of a family.
The third trait of a family is common experience. Surely no one considers someone family unless they have experience at least one event together. E.B. White writes about a very meaningful common experience he had in the short story Once More to the Lake (21). White recalls an old camp...