(A little secret: there is an awesome, not-sponsored giveaway at the end of this post)
What does "family" mean to you?
When I was a little girl not much older than Madeleine is now (almost two), one of my favourite books was a Little Golden Book called Happy Family. The book was written in the 1950s and it was oh so 1950s America. It starred two children Tony and Peggy, their parents, a dog named Skipper and a cat named Kiki. Over the years I have wondered why I loved that story so much. It was pretty boring really. Vanilla. From memory, they have a party or go to the beach or something. They get ice cream. It's no The Monster at the End of this Book or The Tiger Who Came to Tea, both of which I also loved. (Still do.)
And even back when I was growing up, families were a lot more diverse than Tony and Peggy would have had us believe.
And now here we are in 2014 and a new magazine called Alphabet Family Journal is about to launch. It celebrates families in every iteration and in all the messy inconsistencies that make up what we call "home." I don't know if there will be any "Mum, Dad & 2.5 kids"-style families in the first issue of Alphabet. I guess there could be, since that's one version of a family, and it's as valid as the next. But I really like the way the people behind Alphabet Family Journal define "family" in the broadest possible sense: "people who make a home together."
I feel like this magazine has been written for me in all the stages of my adult life. For the me that is a wife, a mother to two children under two, and a stepmother to two almost-grown-up girls who live here sometimes but not all times. But also for the me that was single and living alone (except for my dog) in an apartment in New York, with a "family" that was made up of my closest friends and neighbours. And for the me that lived in a dormitory on my university campus, emotionally lost and spiritually confused and longing, desperately, to be part of the kind family I thought would make me "legitimate" in the eyes of my peers.
It's possible I've drawn a rather long bow from a simple definition, and that maybe Alphabet Family Journal won't quite meet every expectation I've built up for it in my head. But I'm fairly confident it will come close. Each issue promises to present stories, ideas and curiosities about "family," inspired by a letter of the alphabet. Starting, not exactly surprisingly, with A. So the first issue covers topics from living with Aspergers to the challenges of Attention in everyday life, an honest look at Adoption, a moving study of Audio in our homes and photo essays themed Africa, Autumn Nights, Abode, Alstonville and Anticipation.
In a Kickstarter campaign to launch the magazine, founder and creative director (Sydney-based photographer Luisa Brimble) said "It seemed like many parenting or family-related magazines were representations of a polished, perfect home that was, quite simply, not at all like our own homes. So we set out to create an alternative: a family journal that celebrates the personal foundations of our homes in their many different forms." With the help of crowd-funding they also made a commitment to recognise and reward the work of their contributors, something too few independent publications do these days.
I can't wait to read it! After all, as the creators say, "We're what you read when you want to feel like you belong."
And as for Happy Family? After probably way too much thought, I have come to realise that what I loved so much about it was the extended story-line. They get up, they have a party, they have some fun, they go to bed. In children's book land, that should be the end of the story. But guess what? They wake up the next morning and have MORE VANILLA ADVENTURES. And what did that mean? Delayed lights-out time for toddler me! Shazam. Mystery solved.
>> Keep scrolling for the giveaway, after the pretty pictures >>
When I decided to write this post I contacted Luisa Brimble to ask for her permission to use some photographs. She very kindly sent through all the photos you see here, and more, to give you a sneak peek of what's inside Alphabet Family Journal. But even more generously, she also offered to give away a free copy of Issue 1 AND this gorgeous "Be Kind" poster by Bianca Cash (I am so jealous) to one of you! I figured you'd be pretty happy about that so I said a big YES, THANK YOU.
To be in the running, simply leave a comment below telling me what "family" means to you. It can be one word or a whole essay, anything you like. I just appreciate this chance to get to know you better. For an extra chance in the draw, share the love by going over to the Alphabet Family Journal Facebook Page and hitting "like" (then let me know you've done-so). I'll draw the winner at random at 4.50pm on this Friday 13 (oooh!) June, Melbourne time. Good luck!
Sorry, the competition is only available within Australia.
UPDATE 13/06/14: This competition is now CLOSED. Thank you all for your interest and for all the amazing, beautiful and moving thoughts and feelings you shared about "family." And a big, heartfelt congratulations to the winner, Zanni.