I met Pao right after I “lost” Roberto to Germany (almost) four years ago. I was singing with our friend Angel in a deserted restaurant and she was there, shouting names of songs I didn’t know.
Pao’s the kind of person who makes you really wish you knew the song she’s requesting.
I loved her immediately. Then, she bought me a tequila. That was that.
Pao was part of my family before Roberto even got close. Spend Christmas Day at the police station with you after you’re mugged kind of family. Teach your stepdad how to salsa dance kind of family. Cry with you when you’re heartbroken, laugh with you when you’re an idiot, thick or thin, true blue kind of family.
I imagined Pao at my wedding back when I was still single. You know that game little kids (and big kids) play, when they mentally slap formalwear on their crush of the moment and imagine what they’d look like saying “I do”? Yeah, I do that with people I love. Twirling my gum on my finger as I imagine what it would be like to celebrate a major life event with someone dear to me.
Except, in the real life version of this fantasy there is no formalwear. No choreographed moments with a photographer in front. Just Beto and I in a coat and a sweater and Pao in a cute pair of boots, an evening wedding in our garden after lunch, beer, and a spirited discussion on education reform. A typical day with family.
And that’s exactly what Pao said when she married us:
I am so happy to be a part of this wedding and this family.
It sent chills down my spine.
The thing about familia escogida — chosen family — is just that. You choose them and they choose you. It’s what blows me away every time Roberto asks me to marry him. He is choosing to love me in that moment.
I knew Roberto was my choice when he passed the Pao test. He was family before he was my husband. Coach you through an eight hour panic attack kind of family. Hold your hand on the worst day of your life kind of family. Move across the world, marry you every day for a year, day in day out, no matter what kind of family.
To have Pao — one of my chosen sisters — marry Roberto — my chosen partner — and I in our 42nd wedding and choose to be a member of our new family, here in our garden on a random Saturday night, is better than any “I do” fantasy with a white dress and a photographer that I could have twirled my gum about.
Love is a verb and a choice. So is family. Pass it on.