I was quite fortunate to grow up with a large connected extended family. Even though I was the only girl for 300 miles or 11 years in either direction, growing up with a pack of cousins was great. We had monthly birthday parties, because separate parties would have been every weekend! I had aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents as far as the eye could see, and I am blessed that so many of them are still in my life. I loved being a part of a big family, even when I hated it. (I’m looking at you fifteen-year-old-me) I never questioned the notion that I had a team on my side. The fact that we still make the effort to see everyone whenever we are home makes me proud of the bond we’ve maintained.
So when the vagaries of fate and job markets took my little nuclear unit out to California, it was a difficult transition. I had to recreate the safety net that I had always taken for granted. In the wonderful age of technology we live in, air travel has kept my parents close, but who would I call when I had the flu or invite to the birthday parties? It took me a long and difficult year, but I found my people. I found the family I needed.
Our transition to Singapore was even more drastic, but in many ways it was easier to reach out and build those networks of care and trust abroad than at home. There was such a large community of expats all searching for that same connection that all you had to do was wander down to the pool and find someone who looked as lost as you. Instant friendships. I am thankful that many of the friendships forged on that tiny red dot have survived the transition “home” be that Italy, Spain, UK, OZ or Philly. Summer reunions see my children running wild with best friends as if no time or distance has passed. These friends were my family when my blood relations slept soundly on the other side of the world.
Now that we are back in California, and my two eldest children are school-aged, my network of friend family members is again expanding. I know whose name goes on the “In case of emergency” line. You have no idea how stressful forms can be when that is an unknown variable. I know who I am going to call when I have to run one child to the doctor at the same time as kinder pick-up. I know who is going to drop off a mouthwatering lasagna the day after my surgery. I know who I can call for coffee at ten am on a Tuesday.
So why am I telling you this? I know that I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful supportive friends in real life. I never expected to find a similar sense of connection online. Most of my face to face friendships have started as play dates for my children, so I have a lot of “mommy friends”. But that is not the only side to me. I am also an avid reader and writer. I was craving like-minded people and stumbled across the Old School Romance Book Club on Facebook. I felt like I should hang a banner: BOOKWORMS UNITE! These women understood the quiet life of my mind and were talking about it openly. What a novel experience (pardon the pun) to find people who loved romances as much as I did!
This group as a whole made me laugh and cry and seek out new books on a regular basis, but there was a core group of women I found myself chatting with over and over. Cheryl, Lissa, Ashley, and Lorey.
I can’t even remember who took the initiative to start a group chat message, but we haven’t shut up since. We may live in different states, but we still gossip like we’re sitting together around the kitchen table. We may have different religions, but we still believe in the power of prayer and wield it on each other’s behalf. We may have different politics, but…well, we just don’t go there. We may all have different ages, different professions, different family situations, but we still can empathize and relate and offer wisdom or support. We definitely have shitty days, but we know there are four other women with a ready ear and a sarcastic quip to bring a smile back to our faces.
These women have become my dear friends, people I can vent to or share my successes with. People I trust and care for. People I have never met face to face. It’s amazing how close they feel, though we are spread to the four corners of this country. Thank goodness they are mostly night owls so the time difference isn’t too bad!
I am excited to say that I am going to meet most of The Legends this summer at RT. I cannot wait to give these women massive hugs. I’ve been saving up for awhile. One very special lady is unable to travel, though. I am super sad that I won’t get to meet her yet.
If our little unit had a designated matriarch, Lady Lorey-belle would be it. She is old enough to be my mother, but young enough to be my girlfriend. The exact number of years has been…ahem, lost… to the annals of history, so let’s say perpetually 29. Her sassy wit and raunchy humor often leave me crying tears of laughter. And Lord help us if she ever finds a picture of Sam Elliot in a kilt. She is also one of the sweetest, kindest hearts I have ever had the pleasure to know. She cares for her husband, her kids, her granddaughter, her neighbors, and us, every day in so many ways. Whenever I have my moments of doubt, there’s Lorey to tell me I’m being stupid. She reminds me that I can absolutely handle this stage of life, because she and God are on my side.
Today is Lorey’s birthday, and I wish I was close enough to pop by with a bottle of sweet wine and a big old tray of brownies. I wish I could plop down at her kitchen table, break out a deck of Cards Against Humanity, and laugh until we cross our legs and plead mercy. I wish I could bundle her up in a great big bear hug to let her know how very much she is loved. I’m not and I can’t. But I am a writer. So for at least a little while, I’m going to build that world with my words and send her my very best prayers and wishes for health and happiness and love.
I have moved around enough to recognize the value in all kinds of families. The ones you are born into, the ones you find in times of tumult, the ones you form as a village of parents, and the ones you grow through shared passions, all hold a special place in my heart.
Thank you, Lorey, for being family. Happy birthday! I love you.