It’s often said that we are the sum total of the people we surround ourselves with. The people around us have such a deep and profound impact on our lives. Some of those people are chosen for us at birth – our blood, our family. There are other people who become acquaintances or friends. Then, another set of individuals we choose along the way, our framily.
Neither my wife or myself have a very big immediate family. Both sets of grandparents have long passed on. My mother never got the chance to meet my wife or my two youngest. Both of our fathers live out of state and we rarely get a chance to see them. My amazing mother-in-law, Colleen, stands as the matriarch of our small, but mighty unit.
We have three amazing children, Jordan, Lauren, and Landon. I have one brother, Michael. Kerrie has two sisters, Jenny and Sandy. And we have two nephews, Dustin (Jenny) and Matthew (Sandy). That’s the extent of our small, immediate family. Over the last 20 years we’ve seen each other through so much. I love them more than I can express in words.
Having their support, love, and encouragement along the journey of the last two decades has made me a better husband, father, friend, and educator. I don’t know where I’d be without them.
I know what you’re thinking by now, though – but, James, your word is ‘Framily’. Did you just misspell ‘Family’?
Look at y’all, lookin’ out for your boy with the grammar check!
However, the word is spelled correctly. The word for the week is framily, as this week I was reminded of the deep power of having friends who become like family.
Framily are people we connect with in a deep and profound way. Although we share no DNA or kinship, they end up becoming an integral part of your lives. If you need them, they’ll be there. They show up in times of struggle and times of celebration, alike.
As we sat at Sunday brunch I looked around this table of nearly 20 people who’d gathered to celebrate my wife and sister-in-law’s birthday. I thought about the moments that each of these people walked into our lives. I reminisced on some of the amazing journeys we’d been on with them. Additionally, I reminisced on the challenging moments we’ve all walked through together.
Surrounding this table were people who we loved, and who reciprocated love. Framily. Friends who’ve become like family, truly. While the table was filled with so many amazing individuals who capture this sentiment, today, I’d like to focus on a specific couple. The Amayas.
Tio E & Tia Ash
Soon after we found out we were pregnant with Landon back in 2011, Kerrie reconnected with one of her good friends, Ashley. They’d worked together back in the day and now had a new bond – they’d become first-time mothers around the same time the next fall.
As August of 2012 rolled around, Ashley gave birth to a baby boy, Braylon. Her and her husband, Eric, were now parents to a beautiful newborn. A few weeks later, on September 7, Kerrie would give birth to Landon, our first child together. Since then, the Amaya’s have added another beautiful child to the mix, my niece, Layla, who reminds me so much of my baby girl, Lauren, when she was a young girl (happy tears).
Within weeks of Braylon and Landon’s birth, our families bonded over our similar life circumstances. We were all rolling in the deep of the wondrous opportunities that come with trying to navigate the operation of these new humans who came with no manual. A friendship that had always been there between Kerrie and Ashley had been rekindled and strengthened. In an instant, they became more like sisters.
And Eric and I, while we only knew each other in passing prior to the arrival of our newborn baby boys, became like brothers. Without question, I know I could pick up the phone and call him right now and he’d drop whatever he was doing to be there for me and my family. He’s that dude – my brother from another mother.
As their precious family of four walked through the doors of the restaurant for brunch last Sunday I couldn’t help but feel as though our crew was now complete. If you know, you know – the Amayas are gonna be late (but always fashionably) – Amaya Time, as we call it. So, naturally, they were the last piece to the puzzle. Eric and Ashley are truly two of the most thoughtful, caring, generous, and loving people. But don’t get it twisted and mistake their kindness for weakness. Similarly, like Kerrie and I, you best believe that when they have to rear that protective side, they will. And It’ll be for a just reason.
Over the course of the last decade we’ve done life together, as framily. Vacations, birthday parties, funerals, pool parties, concerts, brunches (that always stretch well into the evening hours), and everything in-between. Most weekends you can find the Amayas and Whitfields together somewhere, having a good time.
We’ve laughed and celebrated together.
Cried and mourned together.
Sent vast amounts of silly memes to each other in our group chat.
Developed a million inside jokes based on our shenanigans (#ElbowsIn, #ButDidYouDie, #LightsOn, #Armicron, #TwoPhones – just to name a few 🙂)
We’ve stood by each other in tough times.
We dream of opportunities to create a better life for our families.
We do life with each other.
They’re our framily. Life becomes immeasurably better when you have folks such as the Amayas in your life. Their presence is a beautiful reminder that family is not just about blood, but about the deep connections that we make with people around us. If you have a framily, cherish them, let them know how much they mean to you. And if you don’t, I hope you find them soon. They’ll enrich your life in countless ways.
(I must add – it’s my brother, Eric’s, birthday this coming Monday. Wishing you the most amazing birthday, Tio E!)