i found this essay browsing NPR’s “This I Believe” and had one of those moments when i thought “man, why didn’t I think of that?” family as a verb. to family.

we familied over the turn to the new year with friends (a, j1, j2) who now live nearby. before we moved to our new home/city/state in may, these friends were an 8-10 hour drive away through some dull country. now they’re 90 minutes up a major highway. we drove up on new year’s eve for a wintry dinner of risotto and wine, watched tv through the obligatory midnight hour (and oh, how my heart sank for poor dick clark), ate 12 grapes each, one to signify each month of 2008 (i wanted to be like the italians and shove as many grapes in my mouth as possible, but the family (a noun) opted for the more delicate spanish mode and i’m not one to make waves) and stayed through the new year’s celebratory meal of hoppin’ john, when we were joined by our other dear friend p and p’s new friend c.

given this wealth of food and friendship, we familied well. in fact, we familied better, and more happily, and with more verve and style and with less exhaustion and tension than i could ever dream of doing with any of my blood relatives. j1 laid a beautiful table featuring a crushed orange velvet tablecloth from denmark. a fed us with absolutely brilliant food, and put up with us while we all drank. we took a brisk walk in the bitter cold just as snow was starting to fall, and came home to warm with up french-press coffees. we stuffed our gullets with lovely homemade chocolates, a holiday gift to j1 from an old college friend. i learned that i really like c and now can genuinely hope that c and p will be happy together. i told p some things i wasn’t sure i could, i listened to j1 tell me about some problems she’s facing this coming term (that’s school, not pregnancy), i admired j2’s new thomas the tank jammies, i watched m toddle around and befriend befamily absolutely everyone with equal enthusiasm, and i listened to a & s talk about music and smoking and “taboo food” in northern england.

the group of us celebrating together is a subset of a larger group that vacations together usually once–sometimes twice–a year, and has done so for eleven years. we have long described ourselves as a family of choice, since many of us (especially the women) have major issues with our families of origin. but to family: to family by choice. i like that.