Just like much of the world, COVID 19 turned my financial world upside down. I can picture myself at my kitchen table mid-March scrambling through my finance book accompanied by a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. For the first time, I was out of ideas on how I could make ends meet given the circumstances. Nevertheless, as always and yet always by surprise, amidst distress-love saves the days. Just four days after my kitchen table meltdown, I was packing for Chicago to stay with my aunt and uncle. Not just any aunt and uncle-my chosen family. See, my Aunt Diane and Uncle Bill are my dad’s best friends from GRADE school. So, 50+ years. They offered me a place to stay, home-cooked meals, a home for my four-legged best friend, and the comfort of safety for “however long I needed”. I found it interesting that whenever I shared where I was staying, and the extent of the relationship, I was found with “oh so they’re not really your family”. On the contrary, I believe the fact that they are my chosen family and not blood, made the offer all the more meaningful. I was raised calling them Uncle Bill and Aunt Diane. Uncle Bill and Aunt Carol. Uncle Ray and Aunt Chris. This is for all of you:
To my dad’s best friends,
I owe you a never-ending thank you for always being an extraordinary and authentic example of what true and sincere friendship looks like. Thank you for always treating me as family and demonstrating what unconditional love in friendship looks like. You’ve shown me since the moment I was born that distance is no match for true friendship. When life happens, no matter what, show up for your people. No matter if it is for comforting in hardships, or celebrating milestones. I could only hope to have this in my own forever friends. There are very few people I know who would fly thousands of miles to show up for their best friend’s daughter’s christening. Then, her dance recital when she was the lead in a production a few years later. After that, surprising their friend for his 60th birthday. Lastly, and most recently, taking their best friend’s girl without a hint of hesitation during a time of uncertainty. Now being in my mid 20’s, I realize one of the greatest gifts I have carrying into adulthood is being able to experience second-hand friendship between my dad and all of you. Even though you’re not my friends since second grade, your friendship with my dad and mom has affected how I nurture my own friendships. Being the main influencer in how I’ve cultivated my own value of showing up for your people. Not making surprise visits an event that happens once in a blue moon, but a normalized part of life. Not making visits into San Diego look like this big grandiose gesture, but a visit you make because of course you wouldn’t miss your best friend’s 60th birthday. It’s a no brainer for all of you. A decision you make without a second thought, making your presence a fact and evidence not a wish or a longing. You were the people who showed me how to make friendship a verb. You’ve taught me that home isn’t a house or a town on a map. It is wherever the people who love you are, whenever you are together. Not a place but a moment, and then another. Building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.
It is an honor to call you aunt and uncle and to be loved by you like I was your own. When I think of my own life long friends I have right now, I hope my own kiddos feel the same way about them that I feel about you all. I hope they get just as excited when they come to town or we visit as I did when you came to see us and vice versa. I hope they talk about how much they love their Auntie Kati and her adventuresome soul. How kind and sweet their Auntie Maggie in New York is. How much fun their Auntie Kimmy and Auntie Maddie are in Chicago and how much they live for their stories. How funny their Auntie Shanna is in Idaho and how much fun they have with their Auntie Molleigh in California. How much they love Aunite Meesh’s heart and Auntie Abbey’s selfless disposition. How they their moments with Auntie Lisa and all she has to teach them. Just like I talked about how much I loved how funny my Uncle Bill was, how much fun my other Uncle Bill was, or how kind my Uncle Ray was. Just like how much I loved talking with my Aunt Diane and how much I loved going places with my Aunt Carol. How much I loved laughing at what Aunt Chris said.
As I sit here days away from going back for a visit to California, I feel the anticipation building in my body for the reunions I’ll have with many of my forever friends. How I won’t be able to sleep the night before because my excitement will dominate through my rest. How their hugs will feel like home and taking in the sweet presence of one another will mend how much we’ve been missing each other. How sitting on the couch catching up and reminiscing with a glass of wine will be the only remedy to my community missing heart. Distance has nothing on my long-distance friendships now-because I had the greatest example of how to love the people you love most from afar. Even though I have forever ache in my heart from missing them, I can still laugh at the miles between us because it is no match for love. That is all thanks to you. I could only hope to have friendships as strong as yours 50+ years from now.
I love you all like family,