We have an old table that has become rather weather-beaten and aged. It lives on our patio. It’s not the prettiest table in the world, but when we lived in Joplin, Ryan and I painted it over with decorations and sayings and made it the centerpiece of outdoor gatherings.
One of the sayings we painted on it is, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.”
Janette got in yesterday – a day early, much to my surprise! – and she, Rachael, Ryan and I all went to Goro’s for dinner last night. Janette was talking about her hiking trip with her aunt, and visiting with her cousin, and we all got to talking about friends as family.
I think that there is a marked difference between the friendships we made in grade school and the ones that we form as adults. The people I considered my best friends in elementary school and junior high aren’t even a part of my life anymore… not one of them. Kudos to those who can maintain those friendships for a lifetime… but I wasn’t ever able to do that.
Luckily, my brother was always my friend from the get-go. I know my parents will probably have a hard time believing that – we fought like cats and dogs, as brothers and sisters will. But Jake was my partner in crime, the kid I always knew I could play with after school. In fact, it was hard to find a picture of us from our childhood when we weren’t together. We tended to make friends in pairs for a while with other brother-sister teams in the neighborhood when we were little. But while they have all faded away, we’ve always managed to stick together, even when life became its hardest. And now, on the other side of all that, we are still close friends and I really cherish that about our relationship.
Although Jake and I are still friends, he was kind of a “built-in.” But now that I’m older and far away from my family, I have managed to surround myself with people that are so close that they’re like family. When Janette was telling us last night that we were her family now, I think that was a bit true for all of us. There are things that may happen that we only tell the family that we have chosen… not because we don’t love our families, but because we have found people with whom we can relate on an “experiencing-it-all-now” basis. We need those peer group touchstones, but it’s nice when they’re not just there as consultants… but there to celebrate and mourn with you as well.