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Friends are the family we choose.”

Jess C. Scott

I have always said that high school was one of the best times of my life. Not only did I have unforgettable teachers and coaches, but it is where many of my extraordinary friendships began.

I was 9 when my family moved from Cheektowaga to Akron, and I was forced into a new school. That was where I made my first long-standing friend. She was sitting at my table in our fourth-grade classroom, and we hit it off instantly.

It’s been almost 30 years, and we are still friends. We have stood up in each other’s weddings, gone on various trips together and complained to each other through pregnancies and the like.

The best part is, we still get together. The two of us, along with our high school “core group,” live within a few miles of each other. We make a point to have regular gatherings – whether it’s game nights, cookie parties or book club. Though we have matured and become wives and mothers, when we get together, it’s a high school flashback. We act silly, be ourselves and are accepted and loved unconditionally.

When I began dating my husband as I was becoming a high school senior, something wonderful happened. I met his group of high school buddies, all from Akron as well. It didn’t take me long to realize that they were the best friends a guy could ask for. When Doug and I married five years later, our wedding attendees reflected just how important our friends were to us both.

Fast forward 16 years and you will still find us together often. I used to catch myself talking about “Doug’s friends” and labeling them as such until one day I realized that they were not just Doug’s friends anymore. His buddies and their wives are my friends, too. They may have been brought into my life because of my husband, but they are still in my life because I love them as much as he does.

This past spring, when my sister moved to Florida, I felt like I was losing my very best friend. She said something to me that has stuck in my head ever since: “I know you will be OK, because you have all of your friends around you.” Though nobody can ever take the place of my sister, I have now come to understand what she was talking about.

I knew this summer was going to be hard without her here, but it came and went with such a whirlwind of activities that I never had time to sit and feel sorry for myself. Instead, I have been surrounded by my friends, who knew just what I needed: their shoulders, their laughter, their presence.

I often reflect on all of the memories we have created together. We have helped each other move into new homes. We have been there as our babies came into the world. We have struggled through miscarriages, deaths of loved ones and cancer together. My children have grown up with their children, like family.

I am thankful for all of the friends in my life, but those from high school will always hold a special place in my heart. Whether they started with me or Doug, these people have remained a part of our lives for a reason. We are comfortable around each other and can talk about things most people would never think to share. That is what makes our relationship so unique and special.

That is what makes us family.

Lynn Lombard lives in Akron.