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My Spaghetti Family

We have all been missing a lot since March 2020.

On March 12, 2020, schools shut down, and then slowly, the world shut down, one door at a time. We started wearing masks and gloves and did as best we could to stay inside and avoid the Corona Virus.

It was a long Spring.

But then Summer came, and we went outside again. We took up biking, kayaking, surfing. We read more books, learned to play the ukulele. We FaceTimed with people we’d lost touch with years ago.

In many ways, while we began to miss a lot, we also filled our cup in new ways.

* * * * *

I come from a weird family. Some might call us crazy, I’d say You’re right. You’re just missing all the love that comes with the crazy.

My parents have been hosting Spaghetti Night since I was in middle school. It started with Wally and Jen, and then Wally and Jen and Matt and Kate. Then it kept growing. Soon, what was a weekly spaghetti dinner with our family of 9 +2 became 9+10 and then 9+30. If you know, you know. It depends on the night.

And this is what I have been missing the most.

My parents raised us as forced extroverts: Getting homework done on the couch while an entire team of adults drank red wine and snacked on tortilla strips and Marco’s guacamole, buffalo chicken dip, or whatever someone decided to bring that night. Reading a chapter of the class novel while being interrupted by a non-family member asking how school is going, how the boyfriend is, how’s the soccer team doing.

And I miss that.

This was so normal to me growing up. Then, when I “grew up,” I started to think, How do they do it every week? And yet, I’d find myself driving the hour back home whenever I needed to fill my cup.

* * * * *

Spaghetti Night, as I’ve realized since losing it for the past year, was a night to see the people that chose to be our family every week.

To see Wally, who’s known me nearly as long as Fitz, and is one of the only people in my life who understands what I go through with my “other dad,” and asks, and his family: Jen, who has understood anxiety long before other grown-ups caught up, Lyle, who’s like a teenager all of a sudden, and Kendall, who never doesn’t have a story to tell my sisters and me.

The Copley’s, who are the aunt and uncle we all need: Paula, who will always make you feel pretty, and Geoff, who can get away with calling anyone a term of endearment because of his Irish accent. You can count on the Copley’s to be the first to pour you your next glass of red.

Sally, who has the most consistent eye contact of anyone I’ve ever met, and will always remember what you were talking about last, even if it was months ago. And Cath, who might be caught taking a smoke break out back by the fire, but who always greets you with a warm hug.

Tom Cummings, who always seems to arrive in a shirt with a pattern you haven’t seen before, and usually brings a gallon of milk because he knows how fast my family goes through it. Alexandra, who dates Tom, and whose voice will calm you down as soon as you hear it.

Joy, whose red hair can be seen before she even opens the front door, and whose smile is so real that it actually does bring joy when she enters the room. Her husband Dave, who always talks to me about teaching, and who isn’t shy about showing how much he loves his wife.

Ted, who might be one of the kindest, most woke white males you will ever meet, and whatever DIY contraption he has brought for us to play with (the gigantic bubbles are a huge hit). Tracy, who I met even before my parents because she is just that cool, and so nice that she helped with The Kitchen Project before ever meeting our family.

Mr. Stevens, whose name is Mike, but he used to be my tech-ed teacher in 8th grade and I still can’t bear to call him by his first name. His wife, Nan, who reupholstered my favorite rocking chair.

Drew, who loves his wife Laraine and never fails to reach out to me on social media to talk feminism.

Other Tom, who is quiet and kind and married Martha, the mother of a boy I played soccer with and dated in high school.

The Beautiful Family, who come by occasionally and whose kids are the cutest, most polite kids you’ve ever seen.

Melissa, who has been by my side since high school, and who always shows up when I come home, even if she’s tired and doesn’t like large groups of people as much as me.

The Candella’s, who I haven’t seen in a while, but whose kids grew up coming over to eat; Mike sometimes surprising us at the piano.

Tania, who shows up with her two kids sometimes, whose hair is unbelievably blonde and who is unbelievably badass, and who helped me get through one of the most challenging summers of my life.

Simon, who’s from camp but now lives in the area and always shows up around 10 pm to rile up the dog right when my mom wants to go to bed.

Our neighbor Keith, whose voice is always excited about something, sometimes stopping in for a beer after his dog wanders into the house.

John Dramanatta, who used to teach Drama at Sewataro, and whose bald head used to be a source of amazement as a little kid, who has the ugliest-cute dog you will ever meet.

* * * * *

These are only some of the regulars; Only some of the personalities that have shaped me throughout my life.

What I’ve missed most during this whole pandemic is seeing the family who chooses to be our family each week. The people who had a busy week, but show up anyway. The people who are tired, but know that Spaghetti Night will wake them back up. The people who will squeeze themselves around the dinner table and take turns filling their plates with the meatballs rolled the day before. The people whose conversation and laughter crooned us to sleep each week growing up.

The people who always, without a doubt, fill my cup.

Thanks for showing up, everyone.

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