Love and friendship

My feet hurt.  Not in a “I’ve run and run” all weekend.  But in a “I’ve been at an incredible wedding weekend and blast those darn high heels after miles in my Merrells.”

It’s late on Sunday night. Steve and the kids and I are flying home (towards Tropical Storm Debby), exhausted and filled with the lasting joy (and tiredness) of the past few days. I’m nursing sore muscles and reflecting on the past four days of wedding events. One last brunch event this morning closed out the magic of a wedding celebration weekend.

I have known the bride, Andrea, since before she and her twin sister were born. We moved in next door to their parents just 2 months before they were born at the end of a hot summer.  My brother, sister and I range in age from 4 to 9 years older than the twins. But from the beginning, they (and their little sister) have been our little sisters and our families have been dear friends.

We grew up together, spending time running from house to house. We played together, creating games of our own and spending time fighting over the rules of traditional games. Our fathers played tennis together and our mothers shared books, gossip, and parenting tips. Our families often traveled on vacations together and we spent most summers swimming at one house and eating and then moving to the other house to swim and eat again. We taught the girls how to sing in Polish and we tolerated how they licked popcorn and put it back in the bowl.  And we sang songs together – putting on our own Broadway productions in the basement. Two families, two sets of experiences, but often one joy in being together.

It’s been hard sometimes to explain the relationship our families have had over the years. To say we are “family friends” seems inadequate.  To describe them as “family” seems closer to the truth but feels insincere to those who share names and DNA with us. Thus we’ve skipped the labels – it’s simply been that they’ve always just been “The Smiths” and we’ve been “The Jones”. Okay not really our names – but that’s not the point of the story. We know what we mean to each other and we know that our lives have been richer for it all.

I think my children understand it a bit.  After today’s brunch, our son commented that he wished he had a next door neighbor family like I had. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d long given up the hope of that for our family. For such a natural and easy friendship is rare and one you can not hope for – you must just relish when it blossoms and help it to flourish when and where you least expect it.

Through the years, we’ve all grown up, gone to college, and my parents moved away to warmer climates. But the bond is still there. Still visit and still vacation together now and again. But time together is shorter and we are older. We share drinks rather than run around the basement singing show tunes from the 80s. Our parents still discuss us “kids” but now with new worries and new concerns for us.  We’ve been in each others’ weddings over the years and the girls have bounced our children on their knees.

Which brings me back to Andrea’s wedding to Michael this weekend.

A four-day Hamptons, NY wedding is not your typical expectation for a wedding. But the “Smiths” are not typical.

We started the weekend with a clambake on the beach – complete with great weather, a campfire for smores, and a launching of hot air filled lanterns to send up well-wishes for the couple. The rehearsal dinner was a wonderful family style dinner (for over 100 people) at which people were welcome to the open mike for toasting and roasting.  My siblings and I made sure to come with speech in hand, ready to share Andrea stories and wish Michael well.

And then the wedding itself. (By which point, my kids and my nephews were wondering how long weddings exactly last for, and “aren’t they married already??”)  But my musings on the weekend and the wedding especially are not about the details, the dresses (gorgeous), the cake (chose the ice cream sundae instead), or even the yummy food (and the need to request special plain chicken nuggets for one picky kid while the other dined on lobster tacos and sweet potato pierogis).

Rather, the ceremony caught me up in lovely moments of….love.

As you listened to the chosen readings and the special vows, one could easily be somewhat wistful at the special relationship these two share.  Yet, for those of us who have been blessed with our own incredible relationships, we quickly turn that into a silent recognition and appreciation of our own unique love stories. We smile quietly at the inside jokes in the vows, then turn to our partners and spouses and wink at our own jokes and memories – those of long years and those more recently.

For me, this overwhelming reflection on love brought about the recognition that our own families started this way – the vows my parents took and Andrea’s parents took years ago were the beginnings of the journeys that we all shared now as families. Great love stories do not end with the joining of two people. Rather those people create a galaxy of people, drawing others into their lives and strengthening them.

I am filled with joy that my family members have found love.  My brother and sister-in-law, my sister and brother-in-law, Steve and I.  In turn, each of our love stories has been unique – but filled with love and friends and our growing galaxies of love.  As I looked around the wedding this weekend, it’s clear that Andrea and Michael have already filled their lives with tons of people who love them.

No, we all will probably never recreate the friendship that our two families nurtured over all these years.  But that’s okay.  We are still special to each other, and in turn that friendship and love has taught us about our own unique relationships that encircle each of us.

On a lighter note – actually a heavier one – I refuse to look at the scale after this weekend blow-out.  I was relatively good but the food was yummy. But now that we’re home, I’m back on the straight and narrow. I did manage to get in one run over the weekend – in the Merrells.  Worked on the mid-foot strike and clearly I was good at it for my calves hurt all weekend.  🙂

Here’s to celebrating love – with much fewer calories in the upcoming days.

3 thoughts on “Love and friendship

  1. Jenn, the more I read your blogs the more I am blessed with your capabiltity to express yourself and I am proud. I am also proud of my children and children-in-law and five grandchildren. You are right the love we share with the “Smiths” is unique and I am glad that we got to be family/frineds with them. Thank you for reminding us how much love there is between us and our friends. I love you Mom

  2. Jen, I’m crying. I can’t tell you how much our friendship has meant to me over the years, and still means to me, and always will. Like you, it’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve realized how truly unique that friendship is – and that when you find that connection, you need to hold on to it for dear life! Thank you for putting it so eloquently. I love you.

    • I love you too dear. Didn’t mean to make you cry though! You were a beautiful bride and you are a beautiful person. Thank you for being friends with all of us for so long. And for sharing yourself with so many.

      Oh and in case I didn’t say it before – I am so so sorry I accidentally spit gum in your hair on that summer day years ago. LOL 🙂

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