Average Jane

Friends: The Un-Family

The last four glorious days have been spent with my family — and I wasn’t related to a single person. You see, my parents are Jewish and my dad retired, so of course they moved to Florida. I was invited to spend Thanksgiving with them, but knew the only thing I’d be thankful for at the end of the weekend was my flight home. My invitation to Thanksgiving with my Aunts and Uncles must have gotten lost in the mail, and my brother is an idiot. So… about a month or so ago I called up my best friend (who you may know as the Cultural Contributor) and invited myself to her family’s feast. They are, and have been for many years, my second family.

The next day, I went to the CC’s parents’ house for Mexican Train (no, really, thats the name of the game) and football. We noshed, and kibbitzed, and did other fabulously Jewish sounding things including having a long discussion about my parents’ and the state of their marriage. The CC has been my friend since 4th grade. She hated me. (I really hope she tells that story in  the comments. It’s fun.) But since then we have grown to be sisters. She knows me better than anyone and has seen me through my ups and downs. No one knows what I’ve been through and how far I’ve come better than she does. Her father is the father I never had. Her brother is the brother I never had. Her mother just cracks me the F up. I love her so much. And CC… well, as I said, she is my sister. She is my heart. No matter what. Always. We don’t always agree, and I hesitate to say that we disagree more than we actually see eye to eye, but then we get in a room and everything makes sense. We become the giggling little school girls that we’ve always been, and to the chagrin of anyone who ever has to spend any time with us together, always will be.

After a super duper ridiculous, Mexican Train filled afternoon, I bounced over to the house of another old friend — the Almost-Rabbi. She is … gosh… it’s so hard to explain. She is wonderful. She’s the kind of person who makes me feel better about being me, if that makes any sense at all. Perhaps that’s a selfish way to explain her wonderful-ness, but it really is true. She was only in town for a few days and somehow I made it onto her short list of people to see, and not just for coffee, but for Shabbat.

In my family, Shabbat dinner holds such a negative sense memory. It was the only time the whole family ever came together, and from start to finish we fought, pausing only to say our prayers and furtively avoid eye contact. For those 3 minutes or so, there was peace and quiet, filled only with prayers… Prayers I prayed would never end. But when I go to the Almost-Rabbi’s house, there is always peace. I got to hear stories of her childhood and stories of her life now. I got to, for a day, have three sisters and two amazing parents who are desperately in love. I got to be part of their family, and how grateful was I.

And today, Sunday, was topped off by a day with Big Spoon and her family… the latest addition to my un-family collection. Lunch, dinner, and more laughs than I could count. Oh, and the food. Holy goodness. The food.

This weekend as I drifted from house to house, family to family, I started to notice a pattern. A pattern that made each home familiar and filled with love:

  • Sights- Football on the TV, smiling faces, food as far as the eye can see
  • Smells- food cooking, coffee brewing, grandparents (oh, come on… you know it’s true)
  • Tastes- meat, kugel, pie, lox, schmear, more pie
  • Sounds- laughter, chatter, debate
  • Touch- hugs, kisses, warmth

Each time I walked into the home of one of my families, I felt… well, at home. I didn’t have anyone to impress. I didn’t have to be “on”. I just had to be me, and that was OK. I knew I was home when I started getting ordered around like one of the family, “Jane, go to the kitchen and get the casserole. Oh, and grab the soda. And make a pot of coffee.” I washed dishes, I cleaned tables, and I helped myself to food in the fridge. I cracked jokes and had jokes cracked on me.

I was so loved. And I loved in return.

I know that I dodged a bullet this weekend: I didn’t have to deal with the drama of my real family. I didn’t have to  put up with quarreling parents or cousins or inquisitions into my dating life or my marital status or my job or my apartment or why I don’t talk to my brother. I know I lucked out. I got all the good food and love of Thanksgiving with none of the actual familiar responsibilities. The words “thank you” started to sound trite, so I repeated them ad nauseum in hopes of being truly believed. How do you thank someone for giving you what you haven’t had in as long as you can remember: a functional family, if only for a night, if only for a weekend.

With my blood relatives so far away, my friends are my family.  They are the family I always wanted and finally got.  So… Thank you. All of you. For being there for me this year. You are truly what I am thankful for.

Note: The next post will be a doozy, so I might just write a super lighthearted limerick filled post as a bonus for your patience during my sappy, reflective couple of days.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * bill the traveling salesman says:

    You had me at “schmear”.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 5 months ago
  2. * bigspoon says:

    Since you’ve been “adopted,” you will eventually get the inquisition about the dating and marital status. I mean, they feel comfortable enough to grill ME about it in front of you, so you really ARE one of the family 😛 I guess I should buy you a Redskins shirt to make you really fit in 😀 Oh, and thanks for trying to help with everything…it might not have helped any, but I appreciated it.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 5 months ago
  3. * Bove says:

    I think that “grandparent smells” actually encompasses a whole sub-section of the nasal continuum. From “6 ft, 20-year-old-Elizabeth-Taylor-perfume halo” to “Sweater du Mothball.” Then there’s the eerie fact that one grandparent always smells like literally nothing else on the planet except “Grandma Phyllis.”
    If your public speaking career, “Be Awesome, Be Jane,” doesn’t work out, looks like you’ve got a vibrant future as an Octogenarian Sommelier.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 5 months ago
  4. * Cultural Contributor says:

    For what it’s worth, I read this during class this morning…and, have been trying all day to come up with something witty, sincere, and all-encompassing to say. However, since I pride myself on being far less eloquent than you…I’ll just say: “I totomon rove you, always!!”

    It was SO good to see you this weekend, and I wholeheartedly attribute my family’s lack-o-drama to your calming presence.

    I’ve even made you a new “AJ” soundtrack to commemorate the occasion. No listening to it on 32 though…

    And, I miss you more every single day.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 5 months ago

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