My daughter's best friend's family is moving to a different town, and I am going to miss her.
My daughter is 10 years old, and she has a best friend. Every day they walk home together from school. Almost every day, M comes home with Y alongside her, and they do their homework together, sit side by side on the couch reading for hours on end or at the table playing cards. They splash together in our little pool and play silly games. Each of them is the others go-to person if they are bored. Y is used to my daughter’s occasional tempers and waits patiently for her to snap out of them if they happen while she's around, while my daughter knows when Y will feel shy and how to make her feel comfortable. They share secret words and funny nicknames.
But this is the thing: Y is more than 'just' my daughter's best friend. We recognise her schoolbag in the hallway and her shoes on the stairs. We know which foods she likes and what games she likes to play. My younger son treats Y like another older sister; she helps him with his homework, and he shouts at her not to tell him the answers just like with his real older sister. Once I was coming in from picking up Son from school, and we passed M with Y just walking home. The girls said goodbye to each other and separated to their own homes, and Son said 'Where's Y going?"
“She’s going home,” M answered.
We've had our fair share of bnei bayit, it has to be said. Special individuals who have come into our lives and made themselves at home here. They build their own relationships with our children and with us, and learn their way around our kitchen. Sooner or later they leave for university, get married, or in some way or another move on or move away. Each time, we know that we have no claim on our bnei bayit like we have on our real children. They are part of our family because they chose to be, and unlike with our own children, when they leave us they can move entirely out of our lives. Each time, it is a little bit of a loss. Each time, we wave them off knowing that they may never really be in touch and the relationship will probably fizzle out, even though they think that it isn't likely. But we - and our children - gain so much from these bnei bayit that it is worth the sadness.