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Averyt: A Fullness of Family

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Summer ended for me this year with a gathering of family at a lake house on South Hero. It was a modern family reunion - a family connected by more than blood lines. A family with an unconventional family tree but one with deep roots and branches stretching wide.

Three generations gathered from across the US and down from Canada for this get-together. There were kids - cousins sharing laughter if not chromosomes - spouses, partners, ex-s and lots of dogs. Yet somehow it all worked, it all blended and I felt surrounded by abundance.

Which led me to mull the question, just how do you define family? If you define it by caring and sharing - by love - then this was a family. Gay, straight, young, old, children by a current marriage or a previous one - somehow it didn't really matter. No one was keeping score.

In some ways, this felt like the set for the TV series "Modern Family" without all the dysfunction. Gathered together were a stay-at-home mom and a stay-at-home dad. There was an array of aging but energetic baby boomers and a younger generation that included a lawyer, an engineer, a teacher, an environmental consultant and... did I forget anyone?

The food ranged from Italian to Mexican, vegetarian to barbeque; the drinks from cosmos to mineral water. The kids and the dogs came in a variety of sizes and ages and the house was a way station for relatives and friends. It all felt like a dictionary definition of fullness - "filled to capacity; holding as much or as many as is possible".

But the fullness I experienced that week by the lake was measured by more than numbers and mixtures, more than just variety and diversity. The fullness was characterized by abundance and by richness. By happiness, contentment and connection.

Being a wordsmith, I decided to investigate this word "fullness", to find out more about its origins and meanings -- to check out its genealogy. The word, meaning "plenty", can be traced to 15th century French, and it has a long dictionary list of meanings.

There is "full" meaning whole, lacking nothing, "full" meaning to eat enough and "full" as in "to live a full life". A "full" moon shown down on us that week in late August and as described by the final dictionary entry, "we left the place with full hearts".

I chose to follow the genealogy of the word "fullness" rather than dig into formal definitions of "family" because I didn't need a dictionary to tell me that this gathering I had the privilege of being part of was family. But my word search for "fullness" helped capture the nuances of that week and that gathering in a very special family.