Senior Hannah Ratliff is an A&E Page Editor for the Shawnee Mission East Harbinger. This is her second semester on staff. She enjoys visiting new places, watching action movies and being with her dogs. Read Full »
Picture a house in Prairie Village. A house with five kids, two parents and one enormous black lab. Picture a family who makes a point of having dinner together every Sunday night. A family whose Christmases are filled with food, laughs and a lot of the movie “Elf.” But don’t be fooled by the white picket fence. This is not the picture of any old typical East family. Funny thing is, the kids sitting around the dinner table are technically just friends, and the two parents aren’t even married.
When an 8-year-old Lindsey Grimm met Victoria Sabates during a summer swim practice at the Carriage Club, she thought she was just meeting a new member of her relay team. But after a few days of swimming together, it was clear that Lindsey had met someone who would become one of her closest friends.
“We were inseparable over the summer,” Lindsey said. “We lived at each other’s houses… It was like a gang.”
Since they clicked right away, it made sense that Lindsey could pass her summer nights staying up late and reading teen magazines with Victoria and her little sister, Catherine. No one was surprised when the trio’s budding friendship became a special bond. But the girls never could have guessed that four years later, they would have an even more unique bond — as almost-sisters.
When Lindsey’s parents separated in 2008, the change was difficult. Frightening. Confusing. She took parents’ divorce hard — how any 13-year-old who was blissfully unaware of her parents’ marital problems would handle a such an abrupt turn of events. Her parents’ separation was difficult to comprehend, just as her friends Victoria and Catherine’s parents’ split had been roughly a year ago.
But when Lindsey and Victoria found out that there were new relationships in their parents’ lives, their reactions couldn’t have been more different. When Victoria’s mom had told her that she was dating again, she was at peace with her mother, Lynda Sabates, seeing someone new. But another sudden change was not as easy for Lindsey to handle. The divorce was fresh in her mind, and she felt uncomfortable with the idea of her dad around a woman who was not her mother. But what upset her even more was not just the fact that her father had a new girlfriend — it was who he was seeing. Lindsey couldn’t imagine her father dating any other woman, let alone Lynda, the mother of one of her closest friends.
“I was shocked,” Lindsey said. “Because [Victoria and I had] grown up together and been a part of each other’s lives for so long, and then, oh, my God, our parents are dating.”
But as their parents’ relationship became more serious, the girls’ shock began to wear off. Slowly — and somewhat awkwardly — the two families learned how to blend into one. Their new home together, lovingly referred to as “home base”, has offered them a place to bond, even if the kids only stop by occasionally since the home’s renovations aren’t complete yet. Gradually, the girls started to notice what they didn’t in the beginning: that their parents couldn’t be happier together.
“I couldn’t even picture anyone else with my mom,” Victoria said.
As Lindsey became more comfortable with the new parent in her life, she began to see how it was changing her relationship with father. After making it through the difficulties of divorce together, conversations were more open. Though their relationship was rocky when he first began to date again, their bond has been reinforced by all that they’ve been through together.
“I kind of learned to roll with it,” Lindsey said. “I know that my dad is incredibly happy, and I love them like my own siblings, so it just works… I’m so grateful that [considering] the situation, how awesome we work together.”
Though the transition from friends to family hasn’t always been easy, the girls are grateful for a bond that they never imagined they’d have. Catherine never thought she would get the opportunity to be the big sister she is to Lindsey’s younger twin brother and sister, Peter and Sarah, while Lindsey is ecstatic to have two sisters so close in her age to relate to.
The girls’ families worked to become even closer once they blended their family traditions. The tradition of going bowling together on Thanksgiving began when the Sabates and Grimms became one family, allowing them a holiday that didn’t belong to one or the other — it was uniquely theirs. And even though the Sabateses had never celebrated Christmas with fondue on Christmas night until they became a part of the Grimm family, this tradition was just another opportunity for the two families to become one. But at this point, they don’t even have to try to mesh anymore.
“This was the first [Christmas] where we were together the whole time,” Catherine said. “The whole day and night we were together. Usually my mom and dad would split the day and we would go to my grandparents’… but I had more fun here.”
For a full day, all the Grimms and Sabateses were one. Christmas was spent opening presents, having three equally gluttonous meals, and being happy and grateful together. Everyone, including Lindsey’s mother, Amy, was able to coexist and share the holiday that was meant to be spent with the ones you love. They may not be conventional, but there’s no denying that they’re a family. When asked what they hoped life would be like once the house was completed, Victoria answered “I don’t know. What we already are.”
“Family,” Sarah responded.