Shortly after that, I came across the photo below, and decided I wanted to tell you about a family member who shares none of my genetics. There is nothing else this person can be for me, except Family - Family in the most profound way possible.
We met when I was 13 - a gangly, awkward and - frankly, ugly - 13. He was 14, newly arrived in the country and at school. The seventh and eighth grade were all a-flutter over his Australian accent.
We found out we were both into Oingo Boingo and Talking Heads when many of our peers were embracing Bon Jovi and Richard Marx. And thus began a music geek friendship that would take us to concerts around the world - from outdoor festivals to huge stadium events to tiny grotty clubs in London. My parents trusted him implicitly, and as soon as I assured them I'd be with Jamie!, I was allowed to go pretty much anywhere.
We commiserated over crushes as well as breakups through the years. He was best friends with my high school sweetheart, and yet he said nothing unkind when we broke up; he found a way to stay friends with both of us.
|J and K, circa 1993? 1994?|
He went off to England for college, and I missed him. I'd get the infrequent letter scrawled on pale blue aerogrammes, apologizing for not writing more often. The next year when I was utterly lost at the University of Maryland, his letter came: Kir - You sound really unhappy. Get on a plane and come to England already. I'll look after you!
Five weeks later I stepped off the plane at Heathrow and was met by his friend (thanks again, Brian!). Jamie had arranged it all for me ahead of time. We adventured all over Europe - rode silly bikes in Belgium, slept in parks in Paris, stayed out all night in a club in Berlin. Again, my parents were happy with only the occasional collect call because they knew - I was with Jamie.
We've seen each other at our our happiest, our saddest, our most inebriated. I attended his eighth grade graduation, his high school graduation, his college graduation. He once changed a tire for me, I cooked a fair few dinners for him. We've watched each other get into dustups with friends and partners, but I can't think of a single time we've fought. (Of course, sarcasm and snide remarks don't count in that tally.)
I sat in the car with him the day he decided to leave America for good. We knew it meant he'd miss my wedding two weeks later. We also knew we wouldn't see each other for such a long time.
I've only seen him once since then. And every minute of that visit was like having all of our teenage years back again, only better. That visit he brought with him the beautiful Justine, who was (and is) perfect for him. The day it was time to take them to Heathrow, my heart broke all over again - knowing it would again be years before we would hang out.
Jamie has taught me much, but most important is this: he taught me that family can be many things beyond shared genes, the same blood. Jamie is my family, just as surely as my brothers are, and he owns his very own place in my heart.
Miss you, my friend. Miss you so very much.