Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Monday, May 20, 2024

Kinkeeping in the Month of May

"A kinkeeper is someone who cultivates a sense of 'family solidarity or connectedness'."  - Carolyn Rosenthal in the New York Times

"When researchers sought out kinkeepers for a 2017 study, more than 91% of the volunteers were women." - New York Times

The counter holds a stack of graduation announcements and party RSVP requests. Our calendars are filling with parties and reunions trying to elbow work aside. Many extended family members claim a birthday in May (seven at last count) and birthday cards, texts, and phone calls need to be sent (on-time if possible, but often lagging). 

The signing of checks, scrounging for cash, mailing of cards, represents work that I gladly complete, enjoying the thought of our family member opening the letter or spending birthday money on a favorite treat. But it does constitute effort and take up mental space, which is at a premium these days due to age and busy-ness. I was delighted when I saw the New York Times article on kinkeeping, lending a name and weight and honor to these tasks.

In my family it's true that women do the heavy lifting of kinkeeping, organizing Zoom calls, sending the cards and gifts. It's work that was not assigned or explicitly recognized in our house, but I wanted to do it and so it fell to me. I have excellent role models in my mother, mother-in-law, aunts, and good friends - they illustrate the means by which a large family, geographically dispersed, can stay connected.

Rob does a fair amount of kinkeeping, himself. He remembers gifts and anniversaries, particularly for his extended family, and created a family tree for both sides. He even printed out enough paper copies for each family to hang a tree in their home. In this joint effort I am blessed; I married someone who rates family connectedness as high as I do.

I think kinkeeping also refers to dear friends and chosen family. Graduation cards and gifts are part of recognizing important milestones for this wonderful group, and attending graduation parties a piece of being present to witness this moment in the life of a young person - and their parents. Though my introvert heart skips a beat when I see the calendar for the upcoming week, I remember that this work is old and hallowed - and important. 

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