I’m reading Shauna Niequist’s book, Bittersweet, right now. I love reading her stuff because I feel like I’m listening to a friend. Her voice is so relatable and honest, it’s almost as if she’s sitting next to me rather than speaking up from the page. I just finished a chapter called ‘The Home Team.’ In it, she talks about her inner circle. The people, as she says, who can show up with 5 minutes notice with tacos. The people you don’t have to put on makeup for. The people you don’t have to do dishes for. It got me thinking about my own home team, how it’s changed over the years, and how it’s evolving even now.
I lost two of my dearest girlfriends within 6 months of each other in late 2009 and early 2010. These girls were, in so many ways, the anchors of my home team. We had the kind of relationship that epitomizes the inner circle. These were literally my “drop everything and get on the first flight to wherever they are” girls. I lost one to an awful fight followed by months of festering emotional wounds and the other to a car accident that, cruelly, took away her mind but left her body. The toll that these losses has taken has been one of the greatest struggles of my life. I feel their absence every day. I’ve spent a great deal of time since losing these friends trying desperately to replace them, or distract myself from the gaping holes they left that no one else can quite fill.
I have a friend who is an “open book” kind of guy. He’s willing to open all of himself to anybody who asks and show them around every corner of himself. I am, decidedly, not that way. If my life is a house, then the people closest to me are the only ones allowed upstairs and into the bedroom. The living room is full of folks. I’m fine with people in the living room. That’s where we love on one another, drink wine, play Catchphrase, and watch Modern Family marathons. The living room is a blast. There are very, very few people who are allowed into the bedroom. My family are in there. Brandon is there. Faryn, Tara, Dan, and ReAnna works shifts, God love em. That’s about it.
ReAnna and I have the kind of incredibly special, rare, and invaluable relationship that allows us to take months apart and come back together as if no time had passed at all. We’re in and out, but always available. She is such a do-er. ReAnna wanted to live in Paris, so she moved to Paris. She dreamed of living in NYC, so she moved to NYC. She makes things happen. She is a traveler, and explorer, and a friend I can curl up on the couch with for a marathon of Sex and the City DVDs during a hurricane. Everyone ought to have someone like ReAnna.
Tara and Faryn and I are hundreds of miles apart, but either of these girls could show up on my porch and make themselves at home. Faryn and I have known each other since 7th grade, Tara has been in the family since 10th. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about these girls. Sometimes, I ache knowing they’re so close to one another and can drop by anytime for movies and wine while I’m in Nashville unable to join. These are my middle of the night girls. If we lived closer, we’d live at each other’s houses. Despite the distance, we’re a unit. They are, without a doubt, long time members of the home team. Faryn and I can spend hours alternately watching Friends in our pajamas, talking about and decorating our homes, and can call each other up at the first sign of a crisis and talk each other through it. Tara keeps me on my toes. Tara is happy to lounge around for a while, but it won’t be long before “Let’s DOOOO something!” comes out of her mouth. She’s like a jack in the box, like that. Quiet and tucked away, inconspicuous and content until POP! Time to go! It’s good to have a Tara in my life.
My mom is my best friend. We’re in the middle of this transition from mom and kid to two adults who can talk to each other about things other than the family, and make each other laugh and think and grow. Almost everything I’m most proud of in myself is from her. She taught me to be a good listener. She taught me to be a comforter. She taught me to be strong, capable, and smart. She taught me to visit museums and try strange foods. She taught me how to be a good hostess, and how to make soups that literally warm you up from the insides of your bones. Mom and I talk every day. I love becoming friends with her.
My dad and I are road dogs. Growing up, he took me on the road with him for as long as I can remember. Some of my best memories with my dad are from trips we took when I was a kid. Dad and I do projects together. We build things and paint things and hang things and talk. We daydream about trips and cars together. Seeing my dad laugh is probably one of my favorite things in the world. Telling him something he didn’t already know is up there on the list, too. I’m pretty sure my dad has the answer to just about anything, even though I’m not 6 years old anymore, so when I tell him something new it’s a pretty big deal. At least, it is for me. Don’t tell him I told you that, though.
My younger brother, Alex, can make anybody laugh. He’s sharp and quick and sometimes irreverent and totally hysterical. He’s also got the biggest heart of almost anyone I know. He works at a family of group homes for mentally handicapped adults, and he loves those people. He grills out for them, makes them breakfast, and listens to their crazy stories because he genuinely enjoys them. He gets it when I’m frustrated or diappointed, and he can find a way to make it funny without discounting how I feel. He’s completely authentic and comfortable in his own skin, which makes me a little more comfortable in mine. He’s becoming quite a man. Also, he’s wicked good on the drums, and that’s pretty damn cool.
Dan is one of the most loyal people I’ve ever known in my life. He’s another one like ReAnna, who I’m not always in contact with but know I can call at any moment with a crisis or a miracle and have Dan’s total attention and love. He sacrifices for his friends and family. He takes it for the team. He will ALWAYS show up for the people he loves. Dan has the soul of an adventurer, and will chase down a good story even if everyone else bails. He follows through. He has such integrity I sometimes feel like just being around him makes me better. He will be the most incredible husband someday.
Kyle and Tara are also regulars on the home team. They’re such goofballs and dreamers. Kyle will absolutely not let anything get in the way of his first true love, soccer. He’s a grown man and still kicks a ball around with the kids every day. He holds on to the things that matter. He gives second chances. He loves long and hard. Tara will, I think, always find a way to be on stage somewhere at least once a month. She is a born performer. She’s also just about as fiercely protective as her husband. I know these two have my back.
I should mention my Gammy. In sticking with the bedroom metaphor, Gammy is the ultimate organizational expert. She is the calm, the fresh air, the one that points out where things ought to be. She’s always been there to help me rearrange the place, and keep things in order. I like to think of Gammy as sitting in her reading chair, with a cup of tea and a Bible, watching over my bedroom. She’s my direct line to Heaven, my Gammy. Without her, I don’t think I’d know when to shut the door and say, “There. That’s enough.” Even in the bedroom, with the home team, things can get a little crazy. Gammy, through her counsel and prayer, keeps the crazy to a minimum.
And, Brandon. I’ve started crying a little bit just beginning to write about him. We’ve learned so much together. I am a better friend, sister, and daughter because of the things Brandon and I have journeyed through together. He is my person. Brandon knows me so well it’s scary sometimes, which is crazy because we still have a lifetime of things to discover about one another. Brandon has taught me how to be loved. He’s taught me how to trust. He’s helped me loosen the grip of control that I thought I needed to have on EVERYTHING, and shown me how to let people in. He won’t let me be lazy in my mind or my heart. He asks me what’s going on and really means it. Brandon and I can weather the storm together and come out stronger for it. He writes poems and music for me. He unloads the groceries and puts the dishes away. He prays with me. He asks hard questions, and gives honest answers. Just being in the same room as Brandon makes anywhere feel like home. He laughs and everything else is background noise. Brandon, well, Brandon is my person. My partner. My very sexiest friend.
The home team rotates through sometimes, and not everyone is in this magical bedroom all the time. (Now, wouldn’t that get crowded? Think about it.) But, these people are my people. We’re spread across the country and sometimes go a good long time without seeing each other, but they are all MY people and I would be a sad version of myself without them. I love you guys.