As a sophomore in high school I begged my parents to host an exchange student for half the year.
“Come on,” I said. “I’ve never had a brother or sister, so just let me do this.”
I don’t know if it was my incessant begging, or the fact that my parents thought it would be a good experience for me, but whatever it was they eventually gave in.
Zhenya was from Moscow. She was very sweet, but we had virtually nothing in common (except the fact that we were both living at my house), and although I did pick up some Russian words and phrases, it made me realize that I was not cut out to share my parents.
I always wanted a big family when I was a child. I thought it would be so awesome to have built-in playmates.
Because of that, my house was always the house where everyone congregated as I got older.
My parents bought root beer by the gallon jug, and stocked up on tea they never drank just so my friends and I could take over the living room, sprawled on the carpet laughing and making fun of each other.
It was not unusual to find a friend or two of mine waiting for me to get home, sitting in my kitchen, having coffee with my mom.
My friends have always been my family since my actual relatives live all across the country.
In high school my friends were the people I played field hockey with, or whom sang with me in choir. They were the boy down the street, and the girl who sat next to me in class.
In college, my rowing teammates were the people who held me together, bonding over waking up to run 3 miles to our boathouse, row 6 miles, and run 3 back all before we had even consumed breakfast.
Running though, running is the one place I’ve managed to find that big family I wanted when I was a kid.
A run with Laura can heal any bad day, a RUNch with Kathleen for giggles, early morning miles with Meg and Florence, foggy miles next to the river with John, runs past Starbucks with Kris and Jon, chatty miles with Jess, running “just one more” with David, my marathon man…
And now, a whole new group of people and women I’ve never logged a single mile with, and yet, already feel like home.