I met my best friend when I was eleven. Awkward with boy-short hair and no clue how to fit into my new town. That was me. I had already survived a whole year in a small town where everyone was related but me. To have her move in down the street was a godsend. I can’t tell you what it meant. Obvious things like a place to go on long summer afternoons. Someone to watch Bozo the clown with before school. A best friend that would stay my best friend for decades. Long past the moment we blew past that city limit sign for the last time. What I didn’t know then was how much I would love her children. Three boys. A perfect foil to my daughter who was as reserved and bookish as they were wild and boisterous. They all loved each other almost immediately. Almost. There were some adjustments and some bumps in the road, but now they are family. We go to their graduations and one-act plays and have watched too many basketball games to number. They were all three in my daughter’s wedding and they were among the first people to hold her new son. I have pictures of them all there proudly holding this little person wrapped up in a blanket with a tiny scrunched-up face. They look as proud as his mama. They look as proud as their mama. They are the pictures of a family. Not one any of us were born into. But, one that we have all created by choice. Created over hours spent around a shiny wooden table laughing and eating chips and salsa and talking about everything imaginable. Created on New Year’s Eves when we all played games until we dissolved into hysterics and lost the whole point of whatever game we were playing. Created through sweet text messages from awkward young men trying to comfort us as we were losing my mom. Created by showing up for each other for the good times and the bad. For new loves and lost loves. For new apartments and moving days. For awesome concerts and long days shopping and trips to the beach. When I look into the future, I see us all continuing to cross the miles and being ok with missing important homecomings for a wedding and lifting refrigerators and transporting crazy cats. When Everett turns one I will expect a family picture of all of us. Smiling and gathered around this little boy that has become part of this crazy family we have created. And, that will just be the first of many future family pictures. Family pictures that just get bigger. We are adding people in. Husbands and girl friends and other best friends and lots of dogs! I love that. Bring it all on. Messy and joyful and wonderful. We have two graduations looming and lots of exciting opportunities for everyone around the corner. There will be more moves, and probably some hard times and probably lots more dogs. We will take it in stride and drive to where we need to be and celebrate or commiserate. We will be a family no matter what. I know that for sure. A crazy family that spent precious minutes and hours around a table eating Troy’s quesadillas and green dip and teasing each other and laughing and, most of all, becoming us. Us with our intensity, and inside jokes and ability to make any new person coming in stop for a second and wonder if there is a place for them. There is. It might just take a minute. But, we are worth it. I promise. We will drive you crazy, but, man, will we love you. And, sometimes, on a good night there will be a confessional. Trust me, you don’t want to miss one of those.