They say that friends are the family that you choose, which works for people who aren’t close to their own families and need to create their own. For me, it’s more like, “family are the friends you’re lucky enough to be bound to forever.” I talk to one or all members of my immediate family at least daily, and we all have an informal pact to always live within a few hours of each other, and I always look forward to going home. My extended family, though is sort of another story. We aren’t dysfunctional, really, but we’re on different pages and in different countries, and if we’re not in different countries, we might as well be. For Thanksgiving, as usual, I’m going home to cook with my parents and my brother, and the four of us will eat and then clean up together, and we like it that way.

I have to work the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is actually a good thing, because i have auxiliary Thanksgiving plans. Every year, one of my best friend’s family invites old friends, new friends, and colleagues who are far from home over for a Thanksgiving feast. This year, my best friend won’t be there, but that won’t necessarily stop me from going to see her parents and siblings who stand in for an aunt and uncle and cousins who I can tell about my job and who I can hug like I mean it. And I’ll anticipate going over there for Chanukah, Passover, and July 4th, even though I’m not Jewish (or patriotic).

The weekend before Thanksgiving, if I get off work at a decent hour and if I don’t have a throbbing lower back with an electric impulse that travels down to my left foot (I’m working on it.), I’m going to a Fall Feast, described as, “We’re going off to baby’s daddy’s house to eat with his family for thanksgiving, so we want to have a parting feast of gratitude with our true family lest the ex in-laws and I kill each other over the holiday.” It’s hosted by a friend of mine who does need a surrogate family, and I love being a part of it. I don’t know a lot of the other invitees, but I know that they’re all activists and we’ll recognize each others’ faces because that’s how the Atlanta queer and activist community is.

On Facebook, both of my parents and my brother are both listed on my profile under the “family” section, and so is one of my other best friends. Because we think the same, we call each other “brain twins,” and she and my mom are friends on Facebook and IRL. When I went over to her house and met her mom, we all agreed that it woundn’t be the last time. Neither of us have biological sisters, but we are sisters by choice.

And then, the other day, I was telling an old friend about my friend who happens to be one of my managers. I told her about going to her house and sitting in the sun in her backyard, drinking beer and knitting, and my friend looked flummoxed. That’s how my work is, though. Sure, my manager has snapped at me when I’ve done something dumb, because she is my manager and I do do dumb things. But she’s also my dear friend who opens up her house and her office if I just need to talk, and we go deeper than boss and subordinate.

Yesterday, an amazing woman who worked as an activist in the same circles that I work was killed in a car accident. She worked at my clinic several years ago, and many of my co-workers knew her. I knew of her, and in fact, I spoke with her about an internship that I turned down (I can’t remember why) a few years ago. In response to a Facebook tribute, I wrote, “I only met her once, but condolences and hugs to all of you who were fortunate enough to know her. Let me know if you need anything.” And my dear friend and former co-worker Ali answered, “@Laura–she is FWHC [my clinic] alum…so you do know her..b/c all of us are this eternal family…all of us who passed through those doors and worked for women (clients and staff alike)…” Which was the saddest, happiest, most beautiful and fitting thing I’ve heard. And to that, I say, RIP Errin, member of the Atlanta Family.

People wonder why I love Atlanta, with its intolerant southern roots and its lifeless downtown, and the reason is because the city is my extended family. People in my activist circle have come together after deaths, rapes, and terrible legislation, as well as victories, happy anniversaries, and fundraisers for ally organizations. And even in Jiffy Lube–when we recognized each other and chatted and she shared a coupon with me. Things like that have never happened in the mush smaller and allegedly friendlier towns that I’ve lived in. And if I can’t always be with the immediate family I was lucky enough to be born into, I’m so glad to be with my adopted extended family.

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