Also, the year of family.

One afternoon, a few weeks after I moved into my office in Gambier in 2004, I heard my department's wonderful administrative assistant bringing another new person up the stairs to her office. After she'd left the other new person and gone back downstairs, I went around the corner to introduce myself and to welcome this other person to Gambier. I was doing it out of politeness, and curiosity, and a little bit of hope that maybe she'd be someone at least kind of cool with whom I could hang around.

We had an instant rapport, but I had no idea how swiftly she would become one of the truly crucial people in my life. When she left for the plum job she won in that year's job market, I barely let myself think about how much I missed her; when, as I always do, I started flaking out about being in touch, she helped me not to drop the ball. She's one of the people in my life who helps me be unflinchingly honest with myself and thus helps me try to become my best self.

You know her as my beloved Lexingtonian, mother to the littlest Lexingtonian and wife to another excellent Lexingtonian.

As of today, they're all officially soon-to-be-mid-Ohioans-once-more, a development for which I've been too hopeful even to hope, and I have had extra helpings of joy with every meal I've eaten and every task I've undertaken since mid-afternoon.

The last Christmas I lived in Ithaca, I saw the holiday in by having middle-of-the-night subs from the Shortstop Deli in my living room with two of my friends, one of whom shared with us his conception of the queer family: that which is related neither by blood nor (because of our inequitable legal codes) by marriage but only by choice, by force of desire and will and often defiance. At that point in my life, I think I was still a lot more confident that I would end up partnered at some reasonably near time, though I was already feeling fairly sure that I wouldn't be bearing children. But I loved this idea of the queer family anyhow. As the years have swooped past since then, I've realized its value more and more. I am the auntie or simply the Dr. S of several beautiful and talented small people, one of whom is currently only inches long; I have two women in my life from whom I feel sure that I was separated at birth, even though one of them is three weeks younger than I and the other is a few years older; I have couples in my life who have been the best academic parents (and now most excellent friends) anyone could ever want (especially since I was blessed with such excellent biological parents anyway); I have networks of friends to whom I am certainly tied far more tightly than to most of my blood relations.

Indeed, for a woman who considers her traditionally defined family to consist of only her beloved brother and parents, none of whom lives in the same state as she, this growing alternate family is a prize beyond all treasure. Its members are playing an enormous role in my process of returning my self to myself this year, even while I'm thousands of miles away from all of them. They help me to know that even if no one ever falls in love with me again, and even if I never have a child of my own, I will not be alone, and I will not be without siblings (both biological and chosen) or children.

And to know that by the time I return to my mid-Ohio home, even more members of this alternate family I've been constructing over the years will be a part of my daily life, rather than a day's drive away? It's almost enough to make me start looking forward to my repatriation. It's certainly going to soften the blow of leaving this place, come summer.

Congratulations, you badass colleague, and welcome back. Don't forget your whiteboard.

Oh, and this one's for you.