My family life is chaotic and messy once you step outside of my little immediate family box. I’m the oldest of 11 children, which means that I don’t know half of my siblings very well since they were born when I was a teenager and grew up without me. My parents divorced several years ago; my mother remarried and I was never close with my step/adopted father. My siblings live in Michigan, Texas and Delaware right now and I coerced my younger by a decade sister to move to Alabama a couple years ago. We’re a hot mess…which is why I am thankful for my friends. I lucked out in high school with some awesome girls and my college girlfriends make my heart ache if I think about them too much. It’s a different ballgame when you grow up and move to a new town with small children in tow; suddenly you’re the crazy lady walking around Parkway Place smiling desperately at other mothers, hoping to find a kindred spirit in the crowd.
Since moving to Huntsville I’ve met some of the funniest and most interesting people and I’m profoundly grateful for their presence in my family’s life. My friends are supportive and kind. They know when to call and they know when they should text me to tell me not to get into a facebook fight with some stranger over the Duggars, breastfeeding or politics. They show up at my door with hand painted gifts for my baby’s room or with the girliest romper they can find when I learned I would have a daughter after two sons. They celebrate holidays with us and always bring good wine. My friends encourage me to run and be strong, whether it’s 2 miles or 12. Some of them run with me and we puff like little engines that could “I think I can, I think I can.” When I beat myself up over a mistake, they point out everything that I got right. They listen to me explain why I hate Twilight, even if they secretly think that I am insane and I’ve had entirely too many literature and critical theory classes. They listen to my opinion and don’t belittle it just because it is different than theirs. If the dress makes me look fat, someone will tell me. If a tornado happens to hit the weekend of your 30th birthday, they remember your day and surprise you with dinner once the power has resumed. They convince a DJ to let you sing just one more Katy Perry song before they make you go home for the night.
My friends come to toddler birthday parties, they clean up my kitchen after I’ve asked them not to and they let my dogs out when I’m not home. My children are thankful, too. They love the playdates with dozens of kids running around (my four year old will often ask “Where’s the cake?” as he assumes that it must be someone’s birthday with so much ruckus), the summer pool parties, the long days at the Botanical Gardens in the spring and the pumpkin patch trips in the fall. My children have been lucky to have spent the last three years with such a wonderful group of moms and kids. It may not be a perfect group but it’s definitely not boring or average. I’ve never really cared for ordinary, anyway. Give me feisty friends with scars and flaws and I’ll take care of your kids when you break your foot at Early Works, watch your big kid when you go into labor and give you my trashy magazines. I’ll make sure to have mimosas for our weekend breakfast date, meet you at the mall for retail therapy and assure you that by following your gut instinct, you’re doing the right thing.
Families are sometimes complicated and messy and friendships can be, too. Our friends are the family members that we’re able to chose, and that’s pretty darn amazing.