When I was learning Chinese, one of the first things I was able to say (after "Hello," "thank you," and "shut up") was "My family (or "house" technically) has 5 people. My dad, mom, little brother, little sister, and me." (Wo jia you wu ge ren. Wo baba, mama, didi, mei mei, he wo.") It was not a great conversation starter, but it came up pretty frequently in oral examinations. On more daring occasions, I would add that I had a dog and a cat. I never did learn how to say "hamster."
The definition of family was pretty straight-forward. The people in my house were my family. I generously expanded this definition to include my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The end.
Lately, though, my definition of "family" has expanded significantly. "Wo jia" no longer simply has "wu ge ren." Now I consider many more people members of my family. Several of my college friends certainly fall into that category as, of course, do Clover, Neptune, and their parents. Even their extended family has, to a certain extent, become my extended family.
When I graduated from college, I decided to come to Seattle because I wanted to create a "home town" for myself. I've moved around a fair amount, and have never really felt like I'm FROM anywhere. On one hand, this is extremely liberating. I certainly wouldn't change my growing-up years for any amount of money. On the other hand, it would be nice to have roots of some kind. I thought-- silly, naive me-- that developing a home town would consist largely of becoming aware of the regional jokes, gaining the ability to drive around in the city without needing directions, and cultivating a healthy amount of ridicule for the "opposing" city (or maybe just the East Coast in general?). There's an element of truth in this, but I underestimated two things-- 1. The necessity of cute weather proof clothing and 2. How important people are. It's not the city that's "home." It's the people ("awww...").
I'm not building a "home" so much as I am spinning my web. Sure, the geographical area is part of it. I'm gradually learning my way around Seattle, I just bought a waterproof winter coat, and I can use the word "sun break" in a sentence without feeling like a fool. Not to be ignored, though, are the very important people who are all part of this web.