My family is like a quilt. An old, used, well-loved quilt. That’s, of course, the kindly, gentle way to smooth over the rough patches, the split seams, and the threadbare spots. There’s me, of course. Then there’s my husband, Kevin. We’re a family of two, and plan to remain child-free. We’re also neatly stitched in to a larger quilt, mostly of friends, their families, and the occasional extended family shindig.
There are a couple of clichés that get that way because they’re so damn true. Some that have been true for our family of two is that friends are the gods’ apology for families, friends are the family we choose for ourselves, and friends walk in when everyone else walks out.
Like many people in a weary world, we each grew up with rough stuff. Different flavors, but same crazy Kool-Aid. Like many people, we placed premiums on the relationships with others who showed us kindness, who cared for and about us, who returned our earnest affections, who befriended us. We’re both lucky enough to have made best friends whom we love and who are like siblings, without the rivalry. Kevin calls my BFFs his sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I think of his besties as friends and brothers-in-law, too. We’re family.
We get all the benefits of close ties without the baggage of childhood regrets. If I need a heart-to-heart, I call a best friend. Whether she’s doing a monkey dance to cheer me up, or he’s hearing me out and then meting out hard truth, they’re the ones who’ve always had my back. If I’m flailing like a muppet, they’re picking me up. If I’m crying a river, they’re buckling on the life preservers. If I’m happy and I know it, they’re clapping their hands along with me. And I’ll always do the same for them, too. That’s family.
I’ve been blessed to be adopted into friends’ families so seamlessly that small children aren’t sure if I’m not just Aunt Liz. I’ve gotten to join my families for holidays, celebrations, sorrows, and joys. I get to watch high school plays and band concerts, to giggle at my “other parents” teasing each other about what’s for dinner or on TV, and to whoop and holler for dance-offs on the Xbox. We spend quality time together just being together, and that’s family.
We’ve also been blessed to stitch together some awesome grown-ups to look up to. My uncle and aunt have adopted us, in god-daughter style, so we have a home to go home to when we travel back there. It’s always a treat to see them, spend late nights talking past bedtime, and just hanging out watching movies, going thrifting, or eating something amazingly delicious. Kevin’s home-base is a couple who’ve gently reached out and folded us in to their family, too. Their advice and warm welcome, when we come to watch Game of Thrones, bearing Chinese food, is comforting. These people are big parts of our family.
We choose our friends, and we nourish those relationships, because there’s a spark of love. There’s something that says – this person is my kindred spirit, this person is my kin. My family is a patchwork of friends, extended family, complicated relationships and simple love. Family doesn’t have to be your parents, siblings, children… family is bigger than bloodlines. It’s sometimes as convoluted as a daytime soap opera and often just as frustrating, but there’s a lotta love. There are skeletons in closets, sabers to rattle, and heroes who come to the rescue, but so much of family is just being there and loving you back.
Think about your friends, and how far you’d go for them. I think you’ll find in your heart, that if what they say is true, and friends are the gods’ apology for family we’re born with, then all that’s left to say is, “Apology Accepted.” I’m so thankful for my warm, snuggly, patchwork quilt of family. I love you.
(This post originally published on Offbeat Families. But we wanted to re-open the discussion again over here.)