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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Today, as part of our Monday series This I Believe, an essay from Cecile Gilmer. She's a meeting planner from Logan, Utah, and she's one of the more than 10,000 of you who sent us statements of personal belief.

Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: For many who write essays for our series, belief is grounded in home and family. It's true for Cecile Gilmer too, but not in the usual ways. Gilmer lives alone with her cat and her dog. She has moved twenty-six times in her 44 years. Still, she holds tightly to a belief in home and family that she learned, or rather was taught, early on.

Here is Cecile Gilmer with her essay for This I Believe.

CECILE GILMER: I believe that families are not only blood relatives, but sometimes just people that show up and love you when no one else will.

In May 1977, I lived in a Howard Johnson's motel off of Interstate 10 in Houston. My dad and I shared a room with two double beds and a bathroom way too small for a modest 15-year-old girl and her father. Dad's second marriage was in trouble, and my stepmother had kicked us both out of the house the previous week. Dad had no idea what to do with me, and that's when my other family showed up.

BLOCK: I was their daughter, too.

When Su and I left for rival colleges, they kept my room the same for the entire four years I attended school. Recently, Barb presented me with an insurance policy they bought when I first moved in with them and had continued to pay on for 23 years.

The Beaches knew all about me when they took me in. When I was seven, my mother died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and from then on my father relied on other people to raise his kids. By the time I went to live with the Beaches, I believed that life was entirely unfair and that love was tenuous and untrustworthy. I believed that the only person who would take care of me was me.

Without the Beaches, I would have become a bitter, cynical woman. They gave me a home that allowed me to grow and change. They kept me from being paralyzed by my past, and gave me the confidence to open my heart.

I believe in family. For me, it wasn't the family that was there on the day I was born, but the one that was there for me when I was living in a Howard Johnson's on Interstate 10.

ALLISON: Cecile Gilmer with her essay for This I Believe. Gilmer told us she's still close to the Beaches and that she joined them for a reunion this winter on a trip to Barbados. Together, the family again under one roof.

If you have a story of personal belief you'd like to contribute to our series, please visit our website, NPR.org, where you can also see all the essay's we've aired to date.

For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

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