Independence day

“So are these relatives?” Asked my chauffeur. We were on our way to my parents lake house and I had reminded them my parents had guest this weekend. (My dads side is the family has over 50 when we gather I understood his confusion. 

“There is family you are related to by blood and family you chose,” I explained. “This is like family we’ve chosen. They’ve been friends with gramsey and grandpa since before they were married. I grew up with Mr and Mrs Smith and their kids. Now their kids have  kids….”

From the backseat a little voice piped up,”and dare will be little girls dare ‘dat are my best friends!” She sat clutching a container of suckers I’d given her to share with the 2 little girls at the lake house because making friends is easier with candy and I wanted to make this as easy as possible for my shy little one. We been talking about friends and making friends all week in an attempt to get her ready. Some of it seemed to have sunk in. She was excited and nervous but seemed ready. 

“That’s right,” I assured her. I went on to read them the riot act about greeting the adults first and shaking hands yadayada-yadayada.

Drily my grumpy teen said,”we have done this before ya know.” The conversation went sideways for a bit after that. But that’s another blog for another day. 

We got there. We bounded out of the car. My little one clutched her suckers and looked nervously for her new friends. I grabbed her clammy hand and the cooler of food and we made our way toward the company. 

And that was the last I saw of my shy girl. It wasn’t long before she had taken charge and was bossily ordering her 2 best friends through games of chase up and down stairs and in and out of doors. They were a bit younger and didn’t seem to mind her uhhh-lets call it take charge attitude. 

Soon there was giggling and putter patter of little feet. There was not, not once, a little girl clinging to my leg with her fingers in her mouth watching longingly while others played. 

And it didn’t stop there. At one point I watched my tentative girl say something smart to her new friends daddy and then….I still can’t believe it…reach up and rub his bald head.  I also saw her give Mr Smith a hug!

Later I saw her cuddle up to her other friends mommy. Not just snuggle but going so far as to inch her way up until her head was on her shoulder. 

I almost typed the world normal but I stopped myself just in time. This weekend my girl came out of her shell and played just like any other little girl. 

friends in the making

Years ago–more than I care to admit—I’d played and cavorted with these people and now our daughters were playing together. It made my heart happy. 

Little miss wasn’t the only one free this weekend. I didn’t have to worry about being shy. I didn’t have to worry about how I looked or what I weighed or hiding my life. I was surrounded by people who knew me and loved me anyway. I was even reminded that this was the man that dubbed me Bones when I was little because, I am laughing as I type this, I used to be so small. The little fella who sat in my lap and told me I was his best friend was now opening my non-screw cap beer with a scrub brush handle since I had foregotten a church key. I didn’t have to feel awkward or shy. I even managed to forget  I was 45 years old and 45 pounds overweight and jumped off a bridge! (And yes this was before the beer)

the plunge

Sitting on the breezeway, my favorite part of my parents house, I got to hear how Mr and Mrs smith had been friends with my parents since they’d all lived in an apartment complex it Atlanta. I got to hear how my mom, was teaching her roommate to see in night when not once but 4 times they were interrupted by the ringing doorbell inviting them to a party. The 4th time it was dad Doing the inviting. My mom said she later wrote my grandmother a 4 page letter about the nice man she’s met and that the p.s. He has a beard was the hardest part of the letter because beards in those days signaled a rowdy fella. It makes me smile because my dad has most always had a beard and the side of himself he shows me has never been rowdy. 

Saturday night we made our way to a dock party with my chosen family and my real aunt and uncle and all my parents friends. We played in the water while their talented friend entertained us with tunes from the dock. Kids swam from float to float. Big kids floated off to the side and flirted and talked and enjoyed the independence only offered when adults are relaxed and otherwise engaged. It was just like when the smith kids and my sister and I played while our parents played poker or hung out so many years ago

Later my big fella was given the task of driving us all home as fireworks flashed all around us in the lake. He drove skillfully under the watchful eyes of his grandpa. The entertainment he provided was free and I loved watching him make everyone laugh and fall in love with his personality. He was free to be himself and he was loved for it. Not even the torrential downpour that occurred while we were still on the lake and a long way from home dampened our spirits. 

My big girl was polite and pretty and played with the littles. I was proud of her and prouder still when I was complimented on her manners. She didn’t seem to hate me this weekend. She even-gasp-surrendered her phone without a fight when asked. The teen angst didn’t rear its head (much) and she was downright delightful. 

It was truly a weekend of independence. My little girl made friends and played out of my shadow. My boy was 16 and charming as himself. My teen mini-me was engaged and delightfully present and I got to be surrounded by Family we’ve chosen as our own. My parents were happy and relaxed. We ate often and well (too well) and had a weekend full of old memories and made new ones in the process. 


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