This year, we have 8 stockings hung on our mantle; so crowded, the adult’s stockings are hung on the sides instead of facing front. Years ago, there were 2, then 4, then 6, now – as the oldest two have found partners that are serious enough that they get to attend the family festivities, we have 8.

I will admit, this surprised me. In an abstract way, I realized that eventually, when they were all kids sucking down ice pops at the pool, feet dangling off the edge into the water, they would someday not be children. Rationally, I understood that they would stop making fart jokes and start driving, stop daycare and finish school… and one day, introduce us to someone important enough to them to bring them home. That it happened so quickly, though, and that they all choose to spend these special occasions with us inspires a feeling I haven’t quite decided on.

I am all at once grateful, overwhelmed, and full of love and the onus of the responsibility to suddenly – if only for the weekend – have 6 kids as my own.

We have included these newest faces as full members of the family: we don’t discriminate between biological or borrowed. (Perhaps because we are originally a blended family – the unilateral acceptance of all progeny was already in place) All 6 stockings have a toothbrush and twizzlers, they each have a chocolate orange and a deck of playing cards. The acts of sorting 6 of everything into piles for wrapping, of including the newest children in the holiday card builds on my belief that all six are my own – and each in their own way, are loved and learn they can lean on me as needed.

Cytokinesis doesn’t refer to blended families but to the division of cells within and organism: ‘the cytoplasmic division of a cell at the end of mitosis or meiosis, bringing about the separation into two daughter cells.’ To me, though, the children’s partnering felt like a biological process – there were two angsty millennials, now we have four. They come and go in pairs, and tag one another on social media while squished together on easy chairs. We adjust, learn how to interact with them as a unit, and make room at the table for the new couples.

We make room on the mantle, too; knowing one day, perhaps, there will be cell division and multiplication of a whole different kind.

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