In the early 1980s, my pediatrician urged my then-husband and me to never allow our children into our bed at night. It was deemed physically and emotionally unhealthy for all parties concerned. But as a woman who rarely did what she was told to do, I didn’t heed the warning even when craving much-needed sleep. Truth be told, I couldn’t stand to be apart from my babies any longer than necessary. I loved the feeling of a tiny body spooning mine at 3:00 am as it made me feel not just connected to their bodies, but souls. To our pediatrician’s surprise, we all survived just fine. Thirty years later, the tradition found its way home again.
On my youngest daughter’s twenty-sixth birthday (she’s now thirty-seven), I took Lauren and eight of her closest friends out to dinner at The Los Altos Grill to celebrate. Several hours later, after stuffing ourselves and making merry with several bottles of wine, we came home for a Jacuzzi and sleepover. And, just like the early mornings in her youth, I found my child curled up with me the next day, snuggling close, ready to rehash the previous night’s events. There were waiters to talk about and jokes to be retold. Before I knew it, the others sleepily sauntered down the hall and climbed in as well— six women and three men. Nine large adult bodies all vying for my soft blankets.
At first, I was a little squeamish. After all, I was dressed in only a skimpy nightie and looking rather scary with my bedhead and no makeup. But as we lounged, giggled, and conversed, I began to thoroughly enjoy the moment. Then, while relishing in the fact that I was allowed to participate in this morning-after-huddle, I was hit with a revelation. These kids were not only Lauren’s closest friends but people she considered to be “her family.” They were part of the village she was creating away from her biological unit. Her comrades in times of celebration, worry, joy, and tears.
Many years ago, I, too, created my tribe with several wonderful families. Carefully selected to be a part of my inner world, they aided not only in raising my children but also me. They stood by me through thick and thin when my blood family was absent. With their love, compassion, warmth, and encouragement, they believed in me when I lost all faith. They also played the devil’s advocate when my self-worth was in doubt, holding me to the truths they saw hidden deep within. For over forty years, we’ve ridden life’s roller coaster up and down, arms tightly intertwined like the branches of a mature wisteria vine, enjoying one exhilarating ride after another.
Long ago, I smiled as I watched my baby girl nestled amongst her buddies, chuckling, telling stories, and reminiscing about shared history. This was her budding community, her clanship she was forming, to run the course of her life. These beautiful young adults were her future, and I felt secure in knowing she’d be forever surrounded by the warmth a loving circle brings, even if I couldn’t be there to give it to her.
We all have people in our lives with whom we’ve created long-lasting kinships. Men and women who, at times, were more like brothers and sisters than mere friends. Now, I don’t recommend you invite all of them to climb into bed with you — it does get rather crowded — but I suggest you give them a call and tell them how much they mean in your life. I don’t know where I’d be today without my amigos.
To all my wingmen and wingladies, thank you. Like Downy Fabric Softener, you’ve neutralize my static cling, smooth life’s wrinkles, awaken my senses with your delightful scent, and make the sheets of our family bed incredibly comfy, cozy, and secure.
We meet our extended families in a variety of ways. I found mine while raising my kids in their schools, sporting events, and ballet recitals. Where have you found yours?