My mother met her best friend Cheryl when she was eighteen years old. My mother was young, rebellious, and to a point, she still is today. Cheryl’s boyfriend and later husband Marte managed the grocery store where my mom worked. They were great friends and so on and so forth.

Cheryl and Marte married, and they had a son, Brandon. A few years later, they had twin sons, Sean and Cory. In 1987, my mom and dad married, and I was born on January 1, 1989. Our families were close, real close. I spent a lot of time growing up with Brandon, Sean, and Cory. When I was two, I gave Sean a bloody nose. They our parents made the rule that the boys could hit back, but only if I hit them first. It may seem slightly barbaric, but how fair would it be if I could just wail on them and they couldn’t do anything about it? No matter. The boys were my protectors, when it came down to it. They always seemed like cousins or some sort of blood relative to me. We had fun playing football, wrestling, playing video games, swimming in the pool, riding bikes – I used to sit on the seat while one of them pedaled – playing paintball, and lighting fireworks. We got in trouble together, or evaded trouble, whether it was the time we went trespassing, killed a bat, or jumped off the garage roof into a giant pile of leaves we raked up.

When my mom and dad divorced, Cheryl and Marte were there to support my mom, even though they had moved to Indiana. Later, my mom and I moved to Indiana, too. My mom had met Cheryl’s uncle, Paul, and they decided to get married. I won’t go too much into it, but we had our good times and our bad times, and after nine years, Paul and my mom divorced. It created some tension between our families, since my mom had always been a good friend of Cheryl and Marte, but Paul was a blood relative. As for the boys, they grew older. They got cars, jobs, girls, and beer. I… less so. We didn’t talk much, but we still knew the important bond between us.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve seen all of them. Sean graduated from Ball State  last year, and Brandon and Cory had their own lives and jobs. I saw them, and everyone else in the family, for Sean’s open house, but not since then. Earlier this year, Brandon got married. Married! It’s unbelievable to think that he’s now married, you know, since I can remember the days when we played with Power Rangers toys. He and his bride, Christi, had the reception last night. My mom and I went, and while we were nervous about it at first, we ended up having a really good time. I got to talk with Rhonda, Connie, and Sandy – other friends of the family – about college and just life in general, and I got to catch up with everyone. I felt like I was saying the same speech all night, but I didn’t mind: Yes, yes, I’m still at Ball State. I’m going there for English education. Yes, I think everything will work out just fine. Yeah, I do have a job. I work at the library! I only have one year left! I’m twenty-one. Yeah, I know, crazy, right? Brandon laughed when I mentioned I still worked at the library. “I’ve never understood you and libraries. You always were a bookworm, though, I guess.”

I got so many compliments on my dress, and everyone couldn’t believe how tall I was. It’s cliche, but I swear, they said it. I’m sure it was only the heels that made me taller, but it was still nice to be considered so pretty. Everyone seems to be really proud of me, too. I was honored, and I told them I’d let them all know when my open house was. I guess that will be the next time I see everyone, but if not, there is also going to be Cory’s wedding, too. I can’t believe he’s engaged, either. It just blows my mind. And one of their neighbors/family friends who is Cory’s age has a three-year-old. I hadn’t seen her in at least ten years. It was shocking.

All in all, it was a good night. I even danced the Macarena with Cory and his kickass fiancée. I was sad to have to leave, since it was such a whirlwind trip, but I know we’ll see them again. Mary, Cheryl’s mom, told me some stories I had never heard before. I guess I didn’t realize how close she was to me, or how truly like a grandmother she’s been, but she reminisced about how my mother didn’t show  that much when she was pregnant with me, and that sometimes when Cheryl was babysitting me, Mary would be leaving and kiss her grandsons goodbye. I would reach out to her and say, “Gramma! Gramma!” and the boys would say, “Yeah, don’t forget to kiss Sammy goodbye, too!” And then when we were saying goodbye last night, Tom, Mary’s husband, hugged me and kissed me on the top of my head. I don’t think he’s ever done that before.

Last night’s reunion really touched me, and I came to the realization that no matter how rocky life gets, there is always going to be a family for you, willing to greet you with open arms. They might not be your blood, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that love is there, love is always there, and one should never forget that. I think I had forgotten that, but I know I shouldn’t, and now, I won’t.

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