When I moved to Seattle in 1979, I left my close-knit biological family thousands of miles behind in Detroit. That was intentional. I needed space to figure out who I was, separate from my parents and brothers, and the legion of aunts, uncles and cousins. 2,000 miles is a lot of space.
Living so far from home was lonely, at first. Gradually, I met people through various activities. Technically, I wasn’t always alone, but I still felt lonely, as if there was a hole in my heart. That hole didn’t start to close until I found my ‘chosen family,’ one friend at a time.
In a ceramics class I met a native New Yorker who was as boisterous and loud as me. We delighted in teasing our teacher (now her husband), loading kilns and mixing clay. At a holiday dinner party I had the luck to be seated across from an artist who loved mystery novels and Scrabble as much as I do; we talked all evening, almost unconscious of our fellow party-goers.
Each time I met another special person it felt a little bit like love at first sight.
Slowly, we all met each other’s friends, and wove a strong web of what I call my “friend-friends,” people who know and love me not because of the work I do, or the sport we participate in, but just because of who I am.
Over the decades, we’ve watched our children grow, vacationed and celebrated holidays together. We’ve supported one another when our parents grew old and died, when the political climate became intolerable, even when we flirted with letting our gray hair show.
My chosen family knows that I hate heights but love to swim in Lake Washington; that avant garde theater mystifies me, but I find contemporary dance endlessly thrilling. We’ve aged together, but to me, these friend-friends are as young and vibrant and beautiful as when we first met. I’m so lucky I found them.