My heart plummeted and I let out an audible sigh as I turned the corner and saw the For Sale sign in their front yard. I knew this day was coming. I was happy for our dear friends as they write the next chapter of their lives centered around an amazing professional opportunity. Which happens to be about 4 hours away. And though this should be about their new adventures, sometimes things just really are about me. Or should be.
We’ve known this family for years now, since our oldest children started kindergarten. Like all good relationships, we came to know each other slowly as our paths kept crossing. God sprinkled them in our lives through school, soccer, scouts, a shared love of good drinks and laughter, and a shared appreciation for sardonic humor and funky music.
Through the years, we’ve shared countless meals, drinky drinks, holidays, family secrets, and life lessons. There’s been a lot of yelling, laughing, destruction of property and nine-hour dinner parties. They are like family to us, I trust them with my kids, with my heart, with my secrets. I know this trust will remain even after they move away.
I didn’t always used to be this way. I used to be very guarded and weary of letting anyone into my life, my heart, my soul. I didn’t trust that people wouldn’t leave or disappoint me. I didn’t like the feelings of sadness or grief or discomfort. So I was always friendly to people, but the friends I revealed my true self to were few and far between. I did not feel comfortable letting people see the real me. I didn’t feel comfortable with building these relationships that always come with risk of getting hurt in some fashion.
But in the past 7 years, I’ve worked hard at feeling the bad feelings fully so that I can feel the good ones just as intensely. I’ve worked hard at opening myself up to good people who take good care of me. I’ve worked hard at taking things as they come and accepting people and things just as they are. Because I know that’s how others can accept me for who I am.
And so I’m grateful I’ve done this hard work at a time that God sprinkled this robust family into my family’s path. Through the years, this family’s Husband has taught me to be vulnerable and brave and to own both my strengths and flaws. I never, ever, neverever ran with another human being before; and never, ever, neverever thought I deserved to wear a race bib. He is patient and kind and persistent however, and pestered me to register for some races with him with the promise of beer at the finish line. The races turned out to not only be empowering, but a lot of fun and now sort of a tradition for us, mostly because I like to drink. I, in turn, pestered and annoyed him enough to not only consider, but to enjoy, distance running and he’s a half marathon pro now who gladly sacrifices his toenails for a good run and nice swag.
The Wife has taught me not to be so Judgy McJudgy and to be more patient and to be a More Fun Mother. I’m an introvert and can only take social settings in small doses. I’ve learned from her the beauty of just being social. I still can’t do it as well or as frequently as she does, and when we’re together I gladly shrink into her shadow. But I’ve learned her beauty arises from her willful connections with others. I’m still learning to be that beautiful. She is someone who gives everyone a chance. I am glad she gave us a chance, and by her graceful example, I’m learning to do so as well.
Their Kids have taught My Kids how to play baseball and tennis, what on earth Furby Booms and Orbeez are, and that baseball games are really more about friendships than statistics. Child #1 has taught them that it is indeed possible to walk down the stairs while reading, and that you can never be too young to be sarcastic if you’re cute enough. Child #2 has taught them that “actually,” saying anything in a definitive voice lends authority and an air of truth, and that a loud, scruffy voice and a sensitive soul can reside in the same body. Child #3 has taught them that glitter and shaking your bum is in fact encoded on one’s DNA, and that the littlest ones can in fact lead and be the fiercest.
They are the kindest, most gracious people. They will help anyone in need. In fact, Husband tries very hard to convince Wife to please not take in any more animals. They’ve reminded us of the value and meaning of true friendship. We really are family to each other. In fact, Wife and I are the designated Aunties to our respective daughters for when they are older and in trouble. Her daughter is to call me–I will bail her out of anything, and I will never tell her mother. Same goes with my daughter. This sadly is a true and useful pact–if you knew our daughters you would understand. I mean really, who doesn’t need her own personal bail bondsman or personal tattoo advisor?
I love watching their family unit grow and develop through time. As each child reaches a milestone, as each child forges his or her own friendships and takes his or her stance in the world. As each child makes decisions based on developing value systems. Of watching Husband and Wife navigate through in-laws and friends and their own separate needs. Of watching this Couple choose daily, in their small and large decisions, to love each other unconditionally and choose to do another day together, for themselves and for their family, even when they disagree. Especially when they disagree.
So this is more than merely an ode to forever friends. This is a reflection of how far we’ve all come in life. We’ve witnessed so many life events between and within our two families, so much joy and celebration, so much sadness and anger, so many milestones that slowly, day by day, carved a solid friendship. This is a reminder to me of the joys and rewards that come with being vulnerable and authentic, that there is always room in our circle of friends, that it takes a village to not only raise our children, but to nurture all of our souls. This is a reminder that I am so wealthy to be blessed with such beautiful friends who have made such an impact on my life and my children’s lives. This is a reminder that it is these connections and relationships and memories that are the stuff of life. This is a reminder that I’ve got my priorities straight when I choose to focus my time and love to people like my Forever Friends. And this is a reminder that no matter what, no matter how much time passes, no matter how many miles away, I can and will stalk them like a ninja because I’ve cleaned their toilets. You’ve been warned.