Monday, August 22, 2011

The Stuff That Makes it Worth the Effort

Going back in time around thirty seven years years, I met this little Italian girl with big brown eyes and a dangerously contagious laugh.  Being a little Jewish girl who absolutely loved to laugh, we giggled our way into a friendship which has spanned boyfriends(most better forgotten), stubborn tiffs, husbands, 3000 miles and children.(seven to be exact, several foster kids, two son-in-laws to date, and three beautiful grandbabies-hers, but she shares)  We grew up together and now, God willing, we will continue to grow old together  We might not share ethnicity or DNA or even the same home state(she is now in Nevada), but we do share a history and to me, that is what it really takes to be a family.  These people are my family.

Last weekend, they came out to California to visit the happiest place on earth.  They also came to introduce us to baby Kasen who also happens to be a cousin of baby Scarletts!  You might remember Scarlett from a few posts back.  She is the precious baby who came to see us a few weeks ago.  I have been in baby heaven all summer thanks to Donna's beautiful daughters.  First Scarlett,  and then Kasen and his big sister whom we adore, Aubri.  We love babies!
AD4 fell hard and fast for baby Kasen and he was just as smitten with her.  Kasen is an extremely happy little boy with gorgeous brown eyes and a contagious belly-laugh.(seems like genetics are definitely at work here)  It was both beautiful and bittersweet to watch the relationship that was forming between my youngest Angel Daughter and my oldest friend's sweet grandson.  It brought to mind "the circle of life" and all of that weepy, nostalgic stuff but when we get together, there is mostly only laughter.

And since laughter is what gets us through it all, Lord knows that none of us take ourselves too seriously!

Over the past couple of years, AD3 and AD4 have grown to have not only a sibling relationship, but a lovely friendship, as well.  There have been times over the years when I feared that these two might not have found their way to a common ground.  They are the closest in age of my four Angel Daughters as they were born only twenty-two months apart and there are times when their chronological ages are only one year apart.  AD3 was less than two years old when AD4 was born.  I think that was very hard on her.  She was still just a baby and suddenly, an even smaller and needier baby entered our family.  Their personalities are quite different which complicated things even more.  AD3 is more reserved, cautious and refined.  She likes to feel familiar with her surroundings before she feels totally comfortable in expressing who she is.  AD4 is gregarious, outgoing and quite bold.  Whereas AD3 might tentatively enter a situation testing the waters until she takes in the mood of the room, AD4 will bebop right in with a big smile on her face and an extended hand.  In high school, AD3 followed both AD1, who was an actor in the Theatre department and AD2, who was a cheerleader.  She could not seem to immediately find a place for herself.  Enter outgoing sister number four who she had to drive to school everyday.  The equation just became more complicated.  But now, their relationship is best described as it appears in the photo right above.  They laugh together.  They have a lot of inside jokes that I am not privy to...Hmpph!  They introduce each other to different music and they meet each other for lunch.  They are best friends.
As parents, we want our children to appreciate one another in the same ways that we appreciate each and every one of our own babies.  We want them to not only love each other, but also, to like each other.  Unfortunately, that is not always the way that things work out.  Sometimes we just have to allow things to evolve on their own.  Yes, we must nurture what is already there and set a great example, but personalities, birth order, and preferences all come into play in the development of a relationship.  Our children are really no different than the rest of the world.  They cannot be forced to like each other.  These two beauties are an example of how things can transition naturally from a familial relationship into a true and lasting friendship.  I am so proud of them, so proud of all four of my girls.  In spite of their differences, or maybe in light of them, there is a bond between these girls which transcends the bond of similar DNA.  What I have learned, as their momma and as the sister of only one brother who is now gone, is that the love between siblings is usually a given.  It is the like part that must be cultivated in a relationship that is separate from the parents.  It might be a tough one for parents to let go of, but when it happens on its own, it is definitely something that is worth the effort.
This is Donna's oldest daughter and Kasen and Aubri's momma.  The beautiful little blonde haired, blue-eyed impish angel is Aubri, Kasen's big sister, Scarlett's big-girl cousin.  Aubri looks a lot like her daddy.
Kasen(I had to get one with the boo-hoo face), is mommy all the way.  How does that happen?  I guess it happens in the same way that personalities are determined.  Plain old genetics and a bit of nature versus nurture thrown in for good measure.  As I watched Aubri going through the "that baby can do anything and make everyone laugh, why can't I?" stage, I thought about how difficult it can be for siblings to determine their places in the world.  We all have combinations of qualities that make us extraordinary and unique, however, it is usually what somebody else has that we seem to focus upon.  Part of our job as parents is doing our very best to try not to compare our children's differences.  They spend enough time doing this themselves and they do not need us to shine a bright light upon them.  Rather than comparing, it is best for us to bolster the diverse attributes and to enjoy and embrace the differences.
Growing up, people often mistook Donna and I for sisters.  We were even asked if we were twins on occasion!  The truth is that we sometimes argued like sisters but, we always came back to each other.  Always.  We embraced our differences and enjoyed our similarities.  Aubri is learning how to be a sister now.  She is also learning that family can also be chosen and that, is a beautiful lesson.
I love the way that Aubri wrapped her sweet little arms around our necks.  To feel that precious hand resting on my neck, was to feel unconditional, uninhibited love and in some ways, it reminded me as to why thirty-seven years of friendship has absolutely been worth the effort that it can sometimes take to make a friendship last.  All relationships take effort and work and even blood, sweat and sometimes, tears.  But to have someone who is still hanging around after knowing me for thirty-seven years, from teenage hormones to peri-menopause, that is definitely what makes it all worth the effort.  And if we make it for another thirty-seven plus years, OY VEY, are we going to be cranky with each other!

I wish that for my girls.  I wish that for Donna and Keith's children and grandchildren.  And I wish that for you.

*As an aside to this post, if you look at this picture carefully(or not so carefully as Jacob pointed out), it almost appears as if Donna's arm which is wrapped around Aubri is attached to Keith and that Keith's baby hand is resting on Mark's neck.  We all found this very, very funny(except for maybe, Keith, who is just a tiny bit self-conscious about his baby-hands) which is yet another reason why this friendship works so well.  We try not to make fun of Keith's baby-hands, but sometimes it's just hard not to...


Mark said...

Aw, Man! I was just about to comment on something else and now all I can think about are Keith's baby-hands. And now I have no idea what to say. Maybe it had something to do with those gorgeous babies or of a long-lasting friendship, who knows! Don't do this to me. Stick with one subject!
Hey, I'll have you know that I just experienced my first earth quake. It was cool!
Your Friend, m.

Kathleen Botsford said...

I know exactly what you mean about the siblings. My two girls have some growing to do to get there but they do have 6 years between them. They both think their brother is their best friend and fight about him often! Glad you had the time with your friend and her beautiful family. AND glad Mark thought the earthquake was cool!

Miss A said...

I loved reading about your amazing friendship. I have the most faith in long-lasting friendships and your post is a sweet testament to your friend and to you. Your daughters are so sweet, and I'm not surprised that the baby loved AD4 and that she loved him back so well. And having daughters who get along is a beautiful thing.
I've said it before but reading your posts on your family brings me to a happy place and grounds me. At this point, much more than a lot of other things.
Lots of hugs and happiness to you lovely lady/mother/friend.

LauraX said...

such beautiful thoughts and photos Deb...while I only have two daughters I see watch how there friendship has shifted over the years...and how connected they feel to their cousins as is a beautiful thing to witness.

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