Tribe. Family. Familia, famiglia, rodzina, teulu, tribu, tribua, stamme, kabila … words that all mean the same thing in many languages, these words also mean the same thing to me. Both AJ and I bear matching tattoos on our forearms we got together the day before brainstorming Sorella to life in my kitchen, written in two different languages they mean the same exact thing, hers reads “Famiglia” while mine reads “Familia” (the former Italian and latter Spanish).
As a woman who lives thousands of miles away from her blood relatives, and is not close with my husband’s family, I’ve learned in many cases my tribe, my support group, my people, those who I choose to spend time with, mean more to me and are closer to my kids and I than some of those blood relatives. I’m not saying either is more important, I’m not suggesting anyone go out hunting for this great magical tribe. Wait. Just simply wait. Whether it is blood relative, your best friend who has the same name as you causing the kids to start calling you by your last name, the nerd friend who you only met through your husband, or someone from a mom’s group, you will be sitting one day watching one of them interact with your children, and it’s going to hit you like a damn freight train. This is it, this is who you’ve been waiting for, this is the understanding of ‘it takes a village’ right here in front of your face. I urge you to latch on to this, to make it work, to understand this is not something to last easily. There will be times where you want to walk away. You don’t find family, you don’t find a tribe, you MAKE it.
I have also learned your tribe can be made of many different branches, as many or as little as you choose, and it changes as time goes on. I have some branches from years ago if I reached out now to grab, would still be there and would still love me just a fiercely as when we were first close. Realizing you have a group of people with wildly different views on religion and politics who can be just as close as the ones whose thoughts line up similarly with your own, can be quite an enriching experience. It teaches you your ability to love someone has to do with who they are when they are around you, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Leaving microscopic scars on your brain, these people will be brought back to memory when you see something, hear a word, or smell a certain scent, and you will smile thinking about this small memento they have given you of them. I often wonder it is the same if for others, if they must stop sometimes and savor this sweet moment thinking about their tribe person like I do. Eventually, you begin to think of them daily. Not in a crazy stalker ‘I am going to smell your hair’ kind of way, but in simple ways. You’ll be scrolling through Netflix at 1 AM because you can’t sleep, and you will see ‘Making a Murder’ season 2 and smile. You’ll watch it and think about that person for the hour (or 3, depending if you have insomnia like I do). You will be in a book store and see a purple bible, and while you are an atheist, it will make you smile and you’ll pick it up and thumb through it while thinking about her, because she also has a purple bible you’ve seen on her bookshelf more times than you can count. These are the small marks they leave. Even years later, there are small things that will stop you in your daily life, making you think of that person and you will send up a little thought about them to the great big blue sky.
You will slowly notice these people will not only leave these marks on you, but they will also start to change who you are. Sometimes, they will be the conscience on your shoulder telling you maybe this isn’t the best idea. Or they will be the devil on the other side of you saying, “hold my damn beer.” Other times they will talk to you about their passion for Excel and school, and tell you about all their fabulous things they see and do. You will start to make notes of these, and begin to apply them to your own life. You will learn about their darkest secrets and about things important to them. Some will teach you the importance of using correct pronouns when addressing them and once you learn, you will make it a point to know their preferred pronoun and make a point in using it correctly. They will be the reason you wear a safety pin on your blazer to work every day.
These are the people who you call when your son starts asking questions about God and heaven that you cannot answer beyond “This is not what I believe in, but I will do everything in my power to make sure that you can make your own choice in that.” They are the ones who attend school IEP meetings and stand strong next to you because you are scared to face it alone. They will be there, no questions asked, no favors asked in return. You mention jumping and these people will drag out the trampoline to jump with you. You do the same for them, it’s just second nature, it is an easy thing to do. Answering the phone at 2 AM because someone passed away, driving to see a new baby born, cooking dinner for a holiday making sure that Every .. Single .. Thing .. on the table is safe for your friend’s son, who has several food allergies, to eat. You are the person they call, drive an hour and a half to see, drink wine with, and spend an evening talking about juicy sex stories, among all sorts of other inappropriately glorious things. Loving someone is one of the easiest things to do, it is one of those things you yearn to do more of more often.
These people will spend time reminiscing with you over people you have lost, both ones they have met and ones they have not. They will remember the anniversaries and sometimes they will even drink on them with you. They will remember your birthday, your anniversary, and your kids’ birthdays every year without fail, even if it’s just a short text message (unless they DO fail, and then will always act like some huge injustice has been done to you). I know nine wedding anniversaries, probably somewhere in the range of 40 birthdays (no, I am NOT going to list them all out, we simply don’t have that long!) I know many who have lost a parent and the anniversary of that day. Because I have an idea of how much it hurts.
Some will always hold that special place in your heart, even when you don’t talk for years. One of my best friends and I are 6 months apart in age and we used to speak daily. We talked multiple times a week, for hours on end, night after night. Then one of us had kids and moved away. We lost touch, but I know somehow deep down, it’s still there. She’s still there and I could call her, and it would be like old times. There may be more screaming kids on my side of the phone, and a boyfriend on hers, but it’s still there.
They will introduce you to new things to geek over. You might find yourself spending multiple nights binge watching Star Wars with a running Facebook commentary and hundreds of people following, because you have NEVER seen Star Wars. It is golden, they’re going to be a part of your life from there on out, while you sit realizing your tribe tree just grew another branch. A big, lush, beautifully complicated branch. One that you will cling to desperately.
I know this is probably where what I write is going to be the “cliché” part of this post, but a tribe is so much more than anything any one person could ever easily describe. They are the ones I want my kids to model themselves after. (I also intend to tell my kids they have a whole lot of “blood” cousins because they are NOT allowed to date any of the tribe’s kids until they are at least 30!) They are the ones who I often try to model my own thoughts after and try to show them how much they really mean to me, though even after this post I doubt they will ever truly know. I didn’t mention any names here, because it is not my place. They will read this and know who I am talking about. I haven’t even mentioned all of them, because I could go on for days and we just don’t have the time for that.
That is my tribe and these are my people. I couldn’t survive this life without them.
Helping one of these gloriously imperfect people is exactly how I find myself writing in this blog. <3