I was in high school when I first met the Senecal family. The two girls that were my age were quiet, and I - well, I was never quiet. Needless to say, we didn't hit it off at first. I liked to shop and flirt with boys and wear clunky shoes that made me four inches taller than I already was. And I was loud. Heck, I'm still loud.
But my life changed because of my parent's divorce and my mom's drinking. All of it ended up changing me.
I'd like to think that one of the blessings that came from that hard time were these friendships - Sarah, Rachel especially. Their family took me under their wing and loved me like I was one of their own. It felt good just to be known by them. In all of my pain and hurt, they were my haven.
My aching seventeen year old self needed their love and care. A safe place to be, to cry, to talk about how I felt. Their home, their family, their dining room table where we would play Chicken Feet - they were places I was allowed to laugh and play and talk. They delighted in my company. Even if I was loud.
One Sunday morning at church, I was there alone. At that time, my dad would drop me off and I would go to church by myself and my mom was almost completely out of the picture. That particular morning, our pastor invited each family to go to the communion table and partake of the bread and wine together, rather than have it passed out and taken individually in our seats like usual. I sat there and watched family after family huddle around the table at the front of the church. I remember my heart pounding within me not knowing what I would do. Where was my place? Should I go up there by myself? I wish they were here. That should be my family up there. I hate this. I hate them!
As I sit here and recall this memory, I have tears in my eyes. It's amazing how I can still remember the panic and abandonment I felt in those moments. I was alone and watching these families....together, not broken....was simply too much.
Sarah sat next to me that day. I didn't say anything and I didn't need to. She knew what was going on for me. She squeezed my hand and whispered, "You can come up with us if you want to. You're family."
It was a beautiful offer and one I was hoping for. I wouldn't be left out - they had remembered me. I felt relieved, yet her words made the hurt I was hurting throb with more intensity. Sitting there became more than I could bear. And in dramatic fashion I got up from my seat and literally ran out of the church sanctuary.
I don't remember much after that point. I think some ladies came to comfort me. But I do remember that I spent the rest of that Sunday with the Senecal's - my surrogate family at at time where my own was falling apart.
Those were the formative years. Since then, we've stayed close and developed deep, meaningful, and lasting friendships. We've been through much of life together. We've shared in a lot and journeyed along side each other for years. Many, many pieces of my story are colored with their impact on my heart.
The relationships I share with the Senecal's, and with Sarah and Rachel especially, are life-long. We've been tried by time, distance, hurt, circumstance - yet our love for one another still remains.
Yesterday evening, we had a little "family reunion" of sorts. Rachel and her family were in town, so we hosted a little gathering at our house.
Our children - the ones we would dream about when we were teenagers - played in the mini-pools outside.
Me? I have both. And I am very, very blessed.