Better Than Chocolate

Who’s your Valentine? Who do you send a card to, give a hug to, remember fondly? February is hearts and flowers time. As the 14th draws near I can’t help but think of love and chocolate. Although, to be honest I purposely looked away when the stores displayed all the Valentine gear before I had swept up all the New Years confetti. But now “V” day is around the corner and I have some “sweethearts” to celebrate, multiple sweethearts. I hope you do too.

I’m talking about those people who have slipped past friendship into a zone I’ve named “framily.” Twice recently I’ve been caught by surprise when someone with whom I share no name or DNA, has referred to me and mine as “family.” After the lump in my throat subsided I gave the designation some thought.

The first “framily” label occur ed when the college age daughter of friends announced at my Thanksgiving table that spending the holiday with us was simply spending it with family. The 2nd occasion was in a hospital’s surgical waiting area. The son of our long time friends was undergoing serious surgery and we had come to sit with them early one morning after Christmas. When the surgeon came in to talk to the parents he looked at my husband and I and said “Are you family?” The mother without a moments hesitation said “Yes, they are family.” And so we are.

I recently read that we build the family we didn’t have from the friends we choose. This framily creation may happen accidentally. But if you are smart, you will build this “framily” over time with effort and love.

My husband and I are both from small families, we’re low on siblings and cousins. And, we both live out of the states we were raised in. Over the years our “framily” has been through a lot with us; the addition of our children to our families, the drama of adoption, the loss of our own parents. They have come with us to court, lent a hand when a trip to the emergency room was needed, helped pack up a parent’s last household. And I like to think that we have been there for them as well. Their children may call us “Aunt” and “Uncle.” They call for advice. My son asks about them when he calls home. My daughter has their numbers programed into her phone. They both know their “framily” is a “contact person.”

So this year I’m sending them all a Valentine. To the childhood friend of my husband who lived on my floor in college, to the neighbor who visited my parents when they were ill and I was out of town. She moved out of state but maintains our relationship with love,long distance. To the former co-worker and neighbor who says my kids were her first “grandchildren”, and to all the others, Happy Valentine’s Day. A proverb from Ghana says “A family is like a forest. When you are outside it seems dense. But when you are inside each tree has its place.” Thank you for adding us to your forest, for letting my saplings gain aunts and uncles, cousins, “framily.” Happy Valentine’s Day, I’m just say’n.

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