Dunbar: How you meet your makeshift family


Blair Dunbar, Columnist

Recently, I have been watching a lot of “How I Met Your Mother” reruns to prepare for the long-awaited series finale in a little more than a month. After nine seasons, Ted is finally going to meet the mother! However, I’ve realized that the reason I’ve continued to watch and re-watch every episode is not because of the elusive mother. It’s because of the makeshift family that Robin, Lily, Marshall, Barney and Ted have made.

Makeshift families aren’t new to television, but few are as developed or as clearly stated as the one in “How I Met Your Mother.” I think the last “makeshift” family to be as popular was the six friends from the sitcom “Friends.”

When it comes time for any of the major holidays, rather than spending them with their parents or grandparents, the “gang” gets together to make their own celebration. Even the Super Bowl gets its own holiday celebration.

I used to drive five hours with my father and brother on Thanksgiving, Christmas and even Easter for huge family gatherings at my grandparents’ house in Des Moines, Iowa. All of my extended family was there — all 13 of us. But now, we’ve all gotten older. My grandmother passed away, and we are scattered across the globe. So my traditional Thanksgivings and Christmases are a thing of the past. I think this is what happens for most college students, especially Northwestern students. After all, our Thanksgiving break is so short that most students can’t go home. One year, a group of my friends decided to make a big Thanksgiving dinner of our own. It wasn’t quite as memorable as “Slapsgiving,” but it was delicious.

As we get older and our parents retire and relatives move away, we have to make new holiday traditions with new parents. In our college years, I think shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Friends” become more relevant. These are the years we transition into adulthood and hopefully make lifelong friends. The kind of lifelong friends that will spend a whole day trying not to figure out last night’s score of the Super Bowl game, or, in my case, friends who are stuck in Russia and try to figure out how to cook a turkey for the first time. Hopefully, you make the kind of friends that don’t just stand up at your wedding but friends who your children will one day refer to as “aunt” or “uncle.”

Family ties secured by blood never disappear. But as everyone’s life changes, our traditions have to adjust. If you’re lucky enough, you might find a group of people whose loyalty isn’t based on blood at all. You might get a group of friends to be your makeshift family, a group like Robin, Lily, Barney, Robin and Ted. What more could you really ask for?

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg junior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].