I love this essay by Mikkee Hall (“Why I moved 1,600 miles to live downstairs from my godchildren”) on expanding families and supporting unusual vocations to love in the Washington Post.
As I hit my mid-30s, I knew it was time to make a radical change. So when my best friend and her husband moved their family of six to Denver, I packed up what would fit in my car, sold the rest and joined them to live in their basement.
I live in my friends’ basement apartment with the sounds of four young children running (and jumping!) above me. On Wednesday nights — dubbed “Mikkee Night” — we play and craft and do science experiments together. They see me without makeup. I get frustrated with them when I have to chase them around the back yard to get them in the bath. I accompany the kids, with their parents, on their first days of school. When their school has grandparents’ day, I go in place of their grandparents who live far away.
We have become a family.
One of my mom’s college friends was dubbed my “honorary grandmother” when I was growing up (since my grandmothers on both sides had died before I was born). Mary didn’t live with us, but she did turn her close relationship with my mother into a relationship with the whole family (which presumably strengthened the friendship as well).
Mary taught me how to embroider and how to sew. She gets sent the things I write (and responds with grandmotherly pride). And every year, she comes to our house to make Christmas cookies with me, my brother, my parents, and all of our friends who can make it.
I’ve been really lucky to get a bonus family member, and it sounds like Mikkee’s godchildren are, too.
There can be a range of relationships of adoption. In my case, “grandmother” seemed just right, given the gap I had, the sewing, and the fact that Mary lived far enough away that seeing her meant a deliberate visit (of course, that hasn’t always been true of grandmothers!).
I’m trying to live up to being an honorary aunt to the toddler of one of my college friends. (She sometimes mashes up my name into “Leahbresco”)
And if I’m lucky enough to be married and have kids, I hope my children will wind up loving and being loved by some of the adults who love me.
Living together isn’t the right choice for all of these adopted family members, but I strongly suspect that the ideal balance involves a lot more honorary aunts in the basement or even two families sharing one house than we have at present.