We just got back from yet another not nearly long enough visit with friends. Jason's college buddy and his wife have 3 kids, two older and one younger than Esten and Clayton. We try to get together at least twice a year, but this year we happened to cram both visits within about 3 weeks of each other. As we reluctantly packed our bags for the 6 hour road trip home, I came to understand that friends, especially friends you want to call in sick just to spend another day with, are really the family you pick for yourself.
I grew up with an Uncle Bill who wasn't even related to us. He was from one of probably the richest "old money" families in the Valley. You'd never have known it to look at him though. In 25 years I never saw him in anything but green Dickies work clothes, and those were typically dirty. He never drove a new truck. But every time he pulled in our driveway I would run through the yard squealing his name - "UNCLE BIIIIILL!!" He always had a huge smile and candy for me. When I was five he showed up with a puppy. Half poodle, half terrier, he claimed to have found it wandering in a ditch around one of his properties and said it was for me. The happy expression on my face was balanced out by the cringe on Dad's. We were not really a "dog" family. Cats were fine, so long as they stayed outside to do their mousing around the barns. Dogs? I never really asked because I think I knew better. Taffy didn't make it through the first winter and was the first and last dog I ever had.
Bill and his wife vacationed in Hawaii one year and returned with a real grass skirt and an ivory necklace for me. Ivory - before it was banned. The grass skirt won me the "most Hawaiian" contest at the Omark Summer Picnic - two passes to the Hydrotube and a bottle of suntan lotion (not sunscreen, dark tanning lotion). I was stoked.
Through the years and even after Bill passed away, I knew that there was a reason Dad had introduced him to me as Uncle Bill. Dad and Bill were such good friends that Dad considered him as he would a brother and wanted to pass that respect for their relationship on to me.
Since the boys were babies, I have done the same with some of our friends. Esten and Clayton have a few Aunties and Uncles that share no blood whatsoever with me or Jason. It's only been recently that it's become a source of confusion for them, as Esten is now making more sense out of familial connections. First was the heartache over why he couldn't marry Kenadie. Can't marry your cousin (in Idaho - lol). That got all turned around for him when he decided then he also could not marry Lauren. I explained that he could if she would ever say yes, because they are not really cousins. I thought the explanation about how Uncle Scot is not really Daddy's brother would upset him, like we've been lying to him this whole time or something, but he surprised me.
"Oh, so Daddy just picked Uncle Scot to be his brother because he loved him even though they didn't have bunk beds together when they were little boys?" he asked.
"Yeah, I guess you could say that", I said. Apparently he fully understood that concept quite easily. I can't wait to see who all ends up in my kids' "family" someday.