(This is the toast I gave yesterday at my mother’s wedding, prefaced by my extemporaneous introduction of “I’m Peter, and I’ll be your toaster.”)
Every family begins as a unit. The family you find yourself born into; the family you are given.
From there, how you define your family is up to life, to circumstance, to chance, and to you.
Whoever else we may have begun with, there was no questions that E—– and I were a unit – a matched pair, mother and son, adventurer and sidekick, driver and navigator, friend and peer.
We existed as that unit for years, occasionally inviting others (who are here today) into our fold. L—, the first person to ever lay eyes on my face. A—–, hers the first babies I ever held. M— and me, holed up in a blizzard, lip-synching to MTV.
Through all of that E—– raised me to be an overachiever, and in my immediate family there were precious few. So, it was at first with trepidation and then with increasingly welcome relief that I re-met J— in our merry carpool to community college, me getting a jumpstart on the next step in my education and J— rekindling a seemingly insatiable desire for knowledge.
Nothing against E—–, who to this day has committed to memory the names of all of my favorite Thundercats, G. I. Joes, and rock bands, but that summer J— was something almost entirely new in my life: an adult peer who would follow my wandering conversations on any topic and through any debate, and who – if I may be disarmingly frank for just a moment – did not (and does not) hesitate to call me on my teenaged bullshit.
As I broke away from our unit to go to Drexel I began to find my own family, and I wondered what E—–would do with herself in my absence. But, I had no need to worry: she took a class in world religions, became a fitness instructor and a realtor, and finally purchased her own home.
I know many of these actions were inspired, supported, and appreciated by J—, because how can you help but be inspired by him? He has one of the most inquisitive minds I know, and he was one of the few people I knew with a GPA higher than my own.
L— said a very true thing to us on the way to us on the way to the ceremony this afternoon, only slightly undercut by the fact that she was wearing a glue-on-moustache at the time in her capacity as our chauffeur.
She said: She and E—– and A—- were sisters who found each other. Sisters by choice.
That concept is meaningful to me – family by choice – especially now, as Elise and I are creating a family unit of our own. Because, aside from common eyes and noses, what reason do we have to be connected to the family we are given? We have to find them, to choose each other, because the true members of your family are your sisters and brothers… your friends and lovers… by choice.
So, here’s to E—– and J—, B— and E—, M—-, D—-, L— and J–, Elise and I, and all of the other families we have chosen to be a part of, today celebrating with one voice the creation of a beautiful new unit: J— and E—–.