In the movie Meet the Parents, which is a favorite movie of ours -- we own it on DVD -- Robert DeNiro's character talks about his family "circle of trust" and although it's sort of sinister and funny, the way he says it, if you take it out of that context it's a perfect metaphor. I have been thinking a lot about circles of trust in the last few days.
If you had to name folks in your "circle of trust" who would you name?
My aunt sent me photos of her birthday luncheon recently, and I bet she would put those ladies in her circle. They all get together and eat a nice lunch out at a restaurant for each others' birthdays, and the birthday girl wears a cute birthday hat. These ladies are all in their 70's and 80's and they all live in the same retirement community. The photos are adorable. My aunt's birthday is unfortunately Christmas Day, so I am glad she has friends who celebrate ahead of time and make her feel special. (Since my birthday is the 4th of July I understand, to some degree, what a bummer it is to have a holiday birthday.)
My son invited a group of boys over last night and they built a fire in our firepit and sat out there for a couple of hours. I made some chocolate chip cookies and took them out there and they devoured them very quickly -- and we're talking several batches of cookies. Michael was happy I made the cookies. He had been in a foul mood all day until he brought his buddies over to sit around the fire. I think just gathering around the fire to talk (and not just stare at phones) is a really good thing for young people.
When I was in Kazakhstan adopting Michael there was a group of Americans all staying at the hotel, all adopting. We all arrived within a few days. We all went our own ways during the day, but in the evening we would gather at a big table in the restaurant to talk over our days and just visit. As a single woman in the country alone, I found it very comforting to have other Americans around me, and I have stayed in touch with some of these folks.
My father always invited people he worked with to come over and eat dinner with us when I was growing up, often giving Mom only 30 minutes' notice that she was going to have to stretch the meal to feed several grown men. She was a good sport about it. The image below is one such dinner but since David brought his wife I know it wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing.
I couldn't have articulated it last night, but today as I ponder it I realize that in all these instances, being around a group of people we like is a healing experience that I think is much more profound than simply family or friendship.
Of course, as an adoptive mom, I can tell you that loving someone as though they are family really has nothing to do with biology.
I was feeling a tiny bit sad, and nostalgic, as I pored over old photo albums all day Saturday and scanned in a bunch of photos to send to one of my cousins. We were always getting together when I was younger, when Dad and his brothers were alive. The three families got together at the beach, in the mountains, at our lake cottage. We cousins grew up together. I take comfort in the fact that even though I don't see them often, I am in touch with my cousins and feel close to them. Even though we lost my cousin Chris Thompson last summer, we are still a family.
That's most of the group, below. I am standing next to my uncle, who is in a green shirt. It seems like yesterday that that photo was made, but it was 1978, almost 40 years ago. My dad and uncles are gone, and the lady in the black and brown dress is a grandmother. Wow, how time flies.
Since we are close to Christmas now, I just wanted to put this out there for y'all to ponder: who is in your circle of trust? Who do you think you could call at 3 a.m. and say "Hey, I'm in jail in Tijuana and I need you to get down here and bail me out asap!" That scenario is something I ponder in deciding mentally who should be in my own personal "circle of trust." Who is going to be there when I really need help? Who can I count on?
Who do I enjoy just hanging out with?
If you haven't got a circle, build one. If you don't have a big family or they are not close by, you can find folks at work, or church, or in the neighborhood, or a Meetup group. Build a circle, or expand your existing circle. It will enrich your life immeasurably.