June 21, 2013

Best Friends

This bride stole my baby
M has lots of friends from his childhood. Whenever we go to Minnesota, we invariably make the time to meet up with his group of buddies from high school. They're awesome people. I like all of them. Really, all of them.

They're doing pretty much what we're doing. There are some four or five kids (not our own) involved in the brood, most of them are married, they almost all still live in the same metro area.

My friends from high school?

To be honest, I don't really have friends from high school.

Me on the left, Aunt Marla on the right
circa 2001
That's because I didn't exactly go to high school. I was in high school for one year, and then I moved on to the greener pastures of college.

And back in those days, I hung around with a questionable crowd. And I mean very questionable. I'm not saying that they're bad people, or they were bad people, I'm just saying that now, with the gift of hindsight, I would have been a pretty nervous parent if my fifteen year old was hanging out with thirty year old college dropouts at Rocky Horror Picture Show rehearsal.

When I was a teenager, my friends ranged in age from my younger sister's grade to pushing forty. It wasn't that they were creepy older men (well, some of them were), it was that we had similar interests. We had engaging conversations about philosophy. sociology, law, art... we liked the same music and went to the same parties. The friends I had nearest in age were either high school and college dropouts, or recent grads from different high schools in town. I only ever met half a dozen of their parents, and they took turns being homeless and living in the attic of my parents' garage.

And so, I don't have that sort of nuclear group, that big group of friends who are all growing up together, getting married together, having kids together.

Aunt Marla getting married
Whenever I go back to my old hometown in Michigan, I don't see many friends. I only have two or three friends back there who I really kept up with, who I really want to take the time to see. And they aren't now nor have they ever been friends with each other.

My friends scattered to the winds, and really, I'm happy for all of them.

But I never see them. Uncle Brony moved to the southwest for flight school, and now lives in San Francisco where I think he's becoming a yoga instructor. Aunt Marla stayed in our old town, but she works nights as an end-of-life nurse, and the schedules never really link up. The person I get to see most is Aunt Lego, who was the first friend I ever really watched become a mother, raise kids, maintain her sense of self and her identity. She showed me that it could be done. And part of that is the insane busy schedule that means that really, no matter how often I make it to Ann Arbor (and it's not often), we probably won't meet up.

Last weekend, we went to Aunt Marla's wedding. We were in Ann Arbor for about eight hours. They were glorious.

I got to spend most of the day with Uncle Brony. I hadn't seen him since he came into town for my baby shower- when I was pregnant with DD and SI. He is one of my best friends in the whole world, and he still hadn't met my kids. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the people I'm closest to in the whole world haven't met them. They finally met my family this spring, my mother's side still haven't met RH and she's a whole year old, my oldest and dearest friend hasn't met them...

Me, center right, with Uncle Brony before
Prom. Yes, that's Aunt Genocide at the
far left
I'm happy for Uncle Brony, who walked my mother down the aisle at my wedding. He and I have been pretty much as close as they come since we were twelve years old and our Kadima trip to Cedar Point got rained out. We (and the piemaker, Aunt Genocide, and a now awesome slam poet), spent all day at the mall (some substitute for roller coasters!) playing at the arcade, skipping through the halls with our arms linked and singing The Wizard of Oz.

The only prom I ever went to, Uncle Brony was my date.

I'm so happy for Aunt Marla, who I've known for fourteen years, who I've watched freshly tattoo-ed and drunk, passed out in my hallway closet. She had a wedding utterly full of joy and laughter. It was wonderful- the bride and groom had the world's shortest ceremony (in an increasingly heavy rain), kissed four or five times, and then high-fived before traipsing down the aisle to the reception.

But no matter how long it's been since I've seen my friends, my real friends, the people who I always think of and remember and miss when I think of the people who know and love me...

No matter how long it is, nothing has changed. They are still the same people who made me feel that I belonged, who accepted me as I am from the first word, who loved me regardless of whatever stupid crap was going on in our lives.

And that kind of love isn't reserved for one person. They love me, and by extension they love M, and they love my children.

Uncle Brony with the kids
And it has been painful, at times physically so, to have so much life happen in between the few moments when we can actually spend time together, in real time and space, with real and wonderful things happening all around us.

It was amazing to watch Uncle Brony and the kids bonding- right now he's probably their favorite person in the world. To see his eyes fill with tears of love and joy when they jumped on him, hugged him, demanded to be carried to the dance floor and then to dance with him endlessly into the night...

He loves my kids, and they love him.

It was amazing to see Aunt Marla, who on her wedding day threw whatever plans she might have had out the window to dance with my children. Seriously- halfway through the first dance, she and her new husband broke apart so that she could welcome my kids, children she hadn't seen in three years onto the floor and dance with them just as her invitation described, awkwardly and enthusiastically.

Aunt Marla, on her wedding day, picked up my baby and waltzed off with her. She befriended that baby so fast and so fiercely that by the time I had to pry her out of the exhausted and joy-drunk bride's arms, she was reaching back to give her he sweetest little baby kisses you ever saw.

I'm playing Magenta here. I also played Janet, Frank,
and Trixie (the usherette/lips).
It was so intensely wonderful to see my old friends. Not many of them, they're too far flung. They're too distanced from their shady pasts. They've moved on.

There was never that tight a group of us to begin with.

There were so many groups that simply overlapped. Uncle Brony was in Rocky, but he was also a friend from middle school, from the neighborhood. Aunt Lego wasn't in Rocky, but she went to high school with most of the Rocky techies, she and I took classes together at community college, her step-sister and I went to high school together. There were a dozen different circles, mixing together like some weird three dimensional Venn diagram.

There is no group, growing up together. It's just not how we did things.

And I lament that. I wish that I could check in once or twice a year, meet all my friends' kids, see how much they've grown, swap stories about potty training or nursing woes or awkward in-law drama. But that's not what my friends did.

M's awesome friends, together at our wedding
Most of them aren't married. Most of them don't have kids. Those that do, did so sort of accidentally, without the usual bells and whistles. I know a lot of single dads from those days.

I don't think any of M's friends are single dads, or even single moms. They're all "responsible" adults, tattoo free (or at least VISIBLY tattoo free), married and procreating and working in professional jobs.

They do pretty much what you're expected to do when you grow up. College, grad school, law school, med school, marriage and then a kid or two, deployments to the middle east and the occasional getaway to the Dells or the Caribbean to relax and enjoy the stability of being 30 and following life's guidelines.

From what I can tell by voraciously stalking them on facebook and seeing most of them every Christmas and at least once a summer, they're all very happy.

My friends from those days are independent and/or struggling artists and musicians, they own local gyms and cleaning services, or they toured the country with their punk bands and gave it up to teach feminist summer camp. They're slam poets and pie activists and recovering alcoholics and etsy knitters. They became peace activists and pot farmers, they run Air B and Bs and organize open mics. They bake cakes and tattoo people and print t-shirts and ran off to Israel to become guitar playing rabbis.

And they're very happy, for the most part.

That's me delivering a speech at Aunt Lego's wedding
It's a very different group. And really, it's not a group, there's no cohesion. It's a pseudo collective of people who I know, who do or don't know each other, but who I am connected to through love and friendship.

When I was at Aunt Lego's wedding, I saw a lot of old friends from those days. But not all of them, not nearly all. And I only saw a few at Aunt Marla's wedding. And if Uncle Brony ever gets married, it will be yet another cross-section.

There will never be a day when the family is visiting somewhere, and all the people who knew me when, who got into trouble with me or made art or music or theater with me, who knew me back when I was a weird teenager and loved me then, there is no future day when we'll all sit down and have some cookies and watch our kids play together.

And it's sad to think it will never happen. But it's the way I expected my adulthood to be... you pay for that kind of bizarre freedom with a little loneliness later.

I wish Aunt Marla all the happiness in the world. I hope she takes me up on my offer and comes to visit us in Chicago. I hope all my old friends do.

My 16th birthday crew- only two of them are in regular
communication with each other these days.
I just also hope that, when my kids are older, they are fortunate enough to have a group of friends like M. A group who can grow together, and be there for each other, to reunite joyfully at these times.

It is one of the few things about normalcy I hope they can inherit from him.

But I hope what they inherit from me is the need for and the ability to find truly great friends. Friends who will go out of their way to be there for you, no matter how long it's been, no matter where they are on the earth or in life. Friends who remain friends despite any obstacle because their bond is one of the most important things that they have in this life.

When I say that my friends, my close friends, are my family... I mean it. I love them as intensely, as profoundly. I love their children simply because they are their children. I love their parents because they're their parents. I love their spouses because they love them. I worry for them when their loved ones are sick, I mourn for them when their loved ones pass away, I remember their birthdays regardless of facebook or birthday tracker or what-have-you.

When I think of the meaning of friendship, I think of the bond that no time, no distance can erase.

Uncle Brony dancing with my maid of
honor at my wedding
I think of the people who I have loved since the first, who have always loved me, who connect me with who I once was, with who I wanted to be.

I don't know if you can have both. I don't know if being close to your friends physically diminishes the emotional bond- I've never had the opportunity to know.

...even the friends who I have and consider close here in Chicago, who are physically near to me, I don't see very often.

But I do know that when your friendship is so strong, no distance can make you grow apart.

Next year, I'm going to my oldest and dearest friend's wedding, and I couldn't be more excited about it- sixteen months ahead of the happy day. I haven't seen her since M and I got married. I don't know when I'll see her again.

I also have no idea when the next time I'll see Aunt Lego and her family, or Aunt Marla and her husband, or Uncle Brony, or any of my old friends might be.

But they will always know how much I love them.

And I will never doubt how much love they have for me and mine.


  1. Yep, I'm the creepy 30 something year old you were rehearsing Rocky Horror with. I loved you then, and I love you now. I wish you would let me know next time you're in town! Your parents once asked me why I hung out with all you kids. I told them simply that you were the best people I knew. You still are ;) I miss you and the rest of "the family" very much. <3

  2. This post literally brought tears to my eyes. I love you, M, and the girls SO, SO, SO MUCH. Always and forever. And I'm in the same boat as you - all my very best friends, such as yourself, are spread all over the country, doing a wide variety of things. There will probably be no big reunion(s) with play dates for our kids...ever? But I will do my damnedest to travel around for the rest of my life and visit every one of them as much as possible. Because they're all just the very, very best people, and I am so very glad to have them all.



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