It turns out that, if you believe in love, there are an awful lot of people to love. I don't mean just that you have the opportunity to love them, I mean that you'd better love them, even if your history with them is not so happy, even if they piss you off, even if they're practically strangers. My love for my children means that I have to love their father, too. I don't have to wish we were still married to each other, I don't have to be his wingman when he's single or his best man when he's marrying, but I do have to find a way to love him, because he is a good man, and a loving father, and he is still part of my family...and now so is his partner. My mother's love for me meant that even as she was mourning the end of my long relationship with someone she loved, at a time in her life when she was frail and tired and wanted nothing more than routine and comfort, she welcomed my future husband as if she'd been waiting for him and she welcomed his mother, too, happy for there to be more.

As the world gets bigger, families need to expand. Two mommies not only rely on the usual cadre of pals and relatives that all lucky people do, they are wise to attach a couple of necessary and loving male figures. The two dads often do the same, and every single parent I know has managed, through love and bribery and persistence, to create a network (and a safety net) for their small basic unit. This seems like a good thing, for all of us. For those of us in the more conventional units, these others who go out and forage for family are excellent role models, and sooner or later we would be wise to imitate them. Instead of lonely widows in condos, wouldn't a lot of us be happier four to a house, taking our chances on Susan's coq au vin and Thursday night poker? Mightn't the single mothers and four children be better off sharing a place, chipping in from two salaries for an au pair? It sounds practical, which it is, but it is also about love. Our capacity to love is not limited; time is a constraint and so is energy, but love that makes your life better gives you more of what you need.

Old-fashioned (whatever that is), or brand-new (to us), there is no kind of love and no kind of family we should ever turn our back on. Friends creating a household, people joining forces to care for elderly parents, single parents creating a little village, single men and women finding some passionate attachment to others, whether romantic or platonic: Let's throw open the doors in our lives to a variety of families, and gather up the whole beautiful, variegated bouquet of them.

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