If your Thanksgiving table resembles most around Summit County, it will likely include a motley array of nontraditional family members and friends. According to statistics released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau, the latest population survey confirms there have been "historical changes in living arrangements in the United States."
The survey reveals what many of us already know: fewer families than ever fit the old mom-dad-and-two-kids template. Only 66 percent of American households in 2013 contain two or more members who are related biologically, by marriage or adoption.
Interracial, same-sex and blended families are entering the mainstream and just 19 percent of American households are comprised of married couples with children, down 50 percent from the 1970s.
The evolution of family ties is even more apparent in our seasonally adjusted town where almost everyone is from somewhere else and new arrivals come flooding in right before the holiday season, mixing and matching in an attempt to find housing for the winter.
And that is just fine with us. Thanksgiving tables in our resort town may include the regular assortment of parents, grandparents, kids and cousins, but more often than not the guests are international athletes, foreign exchange students, longtime neighbors and friends from the office whose blood relatives live in far off lands. In some years, there are also unexpected additions who are snowbound, going through a divorce, driving across the country, home from college or starting a new career.
"Voluntary kin" is a new term for the kind of family we would like to see our community embrace. It expresses the spirit of acceptance without getting bogged down in dogmatic definitions and gives our transient population a chance to come up with its own translation.
So, for those who find themselves far away from biological relatives, in between relationships, single, or in an "it's complicated" transition this Thanksgiving, welcome to our family and please pass the gravy.