There is nothing like family to make you really appreciate your friends.
Wait. Maybe that didn't come out quite the way I meant it. Or maybe it did. Because no matter how harmonious your household, no matter how enchanting you find your own little clan, throwing a few carefully chosen friends into the mix can ratchet everybody's happiness up a few notches.
The Fortunes recently spent a long weekend at the beach with one of our favorite families - our friends the Fridays. Each family has one mom who runs a lot and works a lot, one dad who works odd hours, loves golf and spends lots of time with the kids, and two sons. The four boys are 6, 7, 10 and 11.
In just about every way, this equation could not come out better.
Because I have to name everything, I think of this group of eight as the Friday Fortune Alliance. In addition to all the other groovy things about friendship with a family with whom we have this much in common, I'm pretty sure those are the two coolest last names in the world (and I get to say that because I married into mine).
This long weekend at the beach was the first time the Fortunes had ever vacationed with another family. And though I am admittedly prone to hyperbole, I am not exaggerating when I say that it was the best weekend in the history of weekends.
My husband had someone to golf with. I had someone to run with. The four boys played in a rowdy, happy mass up and down the beach, in the waves, in the pool. We all cooked together, ate together, played together, but we also carved out time to spend with our own families.
It was perfect.
But one thing I've finally figured out after 15 years of couplehood and 11 years of motherhood is that every phase is finite. Even as you're neck-deep in the toddler years, they're passing you by. As you're reveling in the fun of having an 8-year-old, he's creeping up on 9. And as you're agonizing your way through a health scare, a job loss, a marital rough patch, you're working your way inevitably to the other side of it.
So while I had everyone together that weekend at the beach, I recruited a stranger to hold my camera and I made the entire Friday Fortune Alliance pose for some pictures. I need a record of this. Because it's lightning in a bottle, this time we have with our friends and our children.
The kids are old enough to be self-sufficient and genuinely fun but still young enough to want to hang around us. Our jobs and our homes are all in Chattanooga, our sons all attend the same school and our schedules and dispositions sync up nicely.
We run together, and we golf together. The guys talk about whatever it is guys talk about. The girls talk about their feelings (ongoing joke at my house: My husband teases me about how much girls talk about their feelings. "I can talk about my feelings," he says. "I feel hungry. And now I feel sleepy.")
One day, jobs or schools or schedules or temperaments or something we can't predict will shift, and the perfect calculus of the Friday Fortune Alliance will shift, too.
But I'll think about that later. Right now I'm just looking forward to a summer spent with family, friends, and lightning in a bottle.
Email Mary Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org.