Family: flawed and fabulous, adoring and amusing, messy and magnificent, important and irreverent, loyal and loud and yay — it's year-round.
Just about everyone has one, but chances are yours isn't like mine and vice versa.
So what makes a family? Everything. Anything. The sum of many things. Each family is unique, and even, dare I say, weird in some, dare I say many, ways.
You probably don't realize the weirdness of your own because it's just the way your family does things, so that makes it normal for you. Like peanut butter on pancakes or ketchup on potato chips.
As for my family: We are good. We are flawed. We are loyal. We love one another. I like to think our love is unconditional, but that's a hard term to grasp.
We disagree. We fight sometimes. We look out for each other. We hold each other up and build each other up. We lean on each other. We hug.
Some of us taught the others the ABCs and others of us taught life lessons we couldn't ever have imagined. We make one another better. Together we are stronger.
When one of us hurts, we all hurt. When one of us succeeds, we all celebrate. We share the mundane and the extraordinary with equal attentiveness, although we probably appreciate the extraordinary a bit more, if I am being honest.
We know our strengths and weaknesses. We know who's more likely to show up late and who might forget to flush. We know who hides the ice cream treats and who leaves the milk out on the counter. We know who likes to nap and who would prefer to sleep in. We know who uses way too much ranch dip on pizza. We know who can help with technology issues or car problems or grammar or math.
We pick up one another's messes sometimes. We make messes sometimes. We listen. We talk. We listen some more. We sit in comfortable silence. We answer each other's calls or texts. We are friends on Facebook and in real life.
We talk politics. We talk about the weather. We talk about life. We talk about the future. We tell jokes. We share stories. We share life. We teach each other and learn from each other. We rub off in good ways on one another and try not to influence each other in the bad ones. (Not always successful, but we try.)
We whisper when someone else is sleeping. We care about each other's feelings and try to be tender when tender is needed. We watch the same shows. We cook together and eat together. We steal each other's socks and mittens and combs and brushes — but not toothbrushes, at least not on purpose. Sometimes we steal the blankets.
We share a love of animals. We play laser tag with our cats. Some of us love sweet potatoes. Some of us hate sweet potatoes. We realize we don't have to be the same.
We share history, memories and DNA. Over the years we have nurtured and helped each other grow. We have the same inflections in our voice when we say certain words or phrases. Some people say we look alike, but we don't see it.
We celebrate birthdays and holidays and graduations and anniversaries. Together we've established traditions. We play croquet and board games together. We create contests out of anything and everything. Some of us are more competitive than others. We ride roller coasters. Some of us are more daring than others. We laugh at each other and with each other. We enjoy one another's company — most of the time. We look forward to our times together. We are important to each other.
We are bonded in a way that can't be defined or explained. We are imperfectly perfect.
It's family. Just family. Us. Ours. Precious, significant, fundamental, basic and unique — as I hope yours is to you.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Follow the "Slices of Life" page on Facebook.