Friends who are family

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Several years ago Matt called one of our closest friends, C, on April Fool’s Day.  In a panicked voice he told her that I was at work in Providence, he was in New York, and Grace had fallen at school and broken a bone.  He hated to ask, but could she go to the hospital?  I swear she had pulled out of her driveway (and this woman drives fast, believe me) before he could tell her it was an April Fool’s joke.

I’ve never forgotten that.  Nor have I forgotten the afternoon I drove by E’s house on a random afternoon and rang her doorbell.  She came down and I didn’t say anything but just hugged her and started to cry.  I was just having a really terrible day and wanted to see someone I loved, and she didn’t ask for any clarification before she just hugged me back.

I thought of those episodes with C and E this weekend, which we have traditionally spent together.  I am richly blessed in many, many ways but perhaps first on that list is my extraordinary friends.  For example, I have my dearly beloved friends from college.  C and E are among the women I had my babies with, which is a shared experience powerful enough to forge lifetime bonds.  My mother had friends like this, and they were so integral to my childhood that I published an essay once whose first line was “I grew up with four mothers.”

And now, I look at C and E and I think, bewildered, joyful, incredulous: these are those women for Grace and Whit.

Our lives are twisted together in ways I hope will never come undone.  It’s impossible to fully articulate how much I adore these women and, also, how much I need them in my life.  They were standing next to me when my life as a mother began; they both visited Grace the day she was born, for example, and we had our first children within nine months and our second within three.  .

How do I love you, C and E?  Let me count the ways.

I love you some enormous amount that is derived by a complicated equation.  The inputs to the equation include eight children, an infinite number of trips to Costco, kombucha, two hundred Halloween decorations, 14 personalized red sweatbands, annual birthday celebrations big and small, Southsides, a sled track in New Hampshire, a sturdy three-legged stool, christenings, craft fairs, a cabin in the White Mountains with no electricity but 12 bunkbeds in a 10×14 foot room, olde tyme photographs of eight children in costume, margaritas in Utah, countless SomeE cards, snake-print (adult) and orange (child) pants, spiked hot chocolate at 10am, cardboard robots, toasts, and tears.

The equation is complicated, but the result is simple: overwhelming gratitude.

Everyday life is a celebration with you two.

You have stood by me during difficult days and rejoiced with me during happy ones.  You love my children dearly, just as I love yours.  Our husbands are close friends.  I think we all know we hit the jackpot.  We are godparents and fairy godparents to each others’ children.  I feel sad all the time that I don’t see you as often as I like, and aware of how certain choices mean I’m not in the day-to-day flow of your lives.  I hate that fact.  But it doesn’t change that you are those rare friends who are truly family, and I am more grateful than I can express.  I hope to spend the rest of my life as the third leg of your stool.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Parts of this post were originally written in 2010.  I love these pictures from several years ago, because their blur seems to represent the effervescence of our time together, the constant laughter and motion that marks how the two of you inhabit my life.

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11 Comments

  1. Posted May 27, 2013 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    This is so beautiful, and really hits home. I was just talking to a faraway friend today who feels alienated from his family, and we talked about how we always have each other, because we *chose* each other. I haven’t lived near my family in 17 years, so this really resonates with me.

    The pictures are perfect.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. I do think there’s something about the family we choose. xo

  2. Posted May 27, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    This is what life is truly about: the love, the memories, the stories in combinations that are unique. This is what makes loss so powerful and the gift of time shared the greatest. Thank you for this post. I’m glad you have each other. Xo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much, Lisa – I’m grateful for your thoughts. xoxo

  3. Posted May 27, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    I cherish my friends so much, and my mother also had good friends who were our “other mothers” growing up. Thank God for friends… I could not have survived this life without them. Lovely post!

    admin Reply:

    Those “other mothers” were such a big part of my childhood! It floors me now to look at my friends and think that that’s how my children will see them someday (I hope!).

  4. Posted May 27, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    What a glorious tribute! One of the things I miss most about moving so often is losing my ties to friends like this in more daily ways, having that small, intimate tribe. I have always preferred one or two close friends to a whole gaggle and I loved living close by to my close, good friends. You write so well about what that loyalty is like. Beautiful!!

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. As you know, I share your bias towards a smaller group! :) xoxo

  5. KathyS
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    We are blessed to have friends like this as well. Met due to chance with a first Grade soccer team assignment and these families have grown to be like family over the years. The kids are now almost grown ( the youngest is my daughter set to graduate from high school next Sunday) but these are the people we will grow old with as friends. Very thankful for them and I’m happy for you that you have the same. They truly are family.

    admin Reply:

    How extraordinary that a soccer assignment turned into lifetime friendships – isn’t that marvelous? xo

  6. Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I absolutely loved this! Friendship is such an important element of happiness in our lives. What a fantastic tribute to your friends. Love the pictures!

    admin Reply:

    Thank you! These are some of my very favorite pictures, actually! Love the blur, somehow. xox

  7. Posted May 28, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Exquisite.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you, xoxox

  8. Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Love this tribute — makes me want to write one to my two best college friends, whom I could not imagine my life without. xox

    admin Reply:

    Please do! I want to read it!

  9. Posted May 28, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Ah, I am jealous. I wish my children had the kind of other mothers you describe here. And that I had those kinds of friends. I do have one close friend nearby, but our friendship doesn’t have the kind of deep roots you describe here. Still, I am very grateful for what I’ve got. A lovely piece of writing.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. Sometimes friendships can form fast, even without the deep roots, don’t you think? xox

  10. Posted May 28, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    “Everyday life is a celebration with you two.” Love this.

    I love that you publish blurry pictures. Because friendship and life is blurry and memory blurs and that is part of its charm. All of it blends together and makes memory soup.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. Memory soup. That’s precisely it!

  11. Posted May 28, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    To stop and acknowledge our blessings? This is definitely a large part of grace. xoxo

    admin Reply:

    I hope you are right. xoxo