New Jersey couple redefines family after taking in friend during pandemic

“We all thought [the stay] was going to be about two weeks when we first learned about COVID, but H Michael has been family for a lot longer," Jason Friel said.

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A group of friends in New Jersey are riding out the pandemic together and redefining family in the process. 

For a group of longtime friends in New Jersey, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity to grow even closer. Jason Friel and Jim Wall are a couple who’ve been married for 14 years. When COVID-19 cases began rising in New York City last spring, they reached out to a friend, H. Michael Morse, to see if he wanted to stay at their home in Belmar, New Jersey. The new family has been riding out the pandemic together for a year.

Tamron Hall Show New Jersey family thegrio.com
Jason Friel, H. Michael Morse and Jim Wall (Credit: The Tamron Hall Show/screenshot)

On Monday, the trio appeared on the Tamron Hall Show to share how Morse’s immersion into the household has broadened the family unit.  

“We all thought [the stay] was going to be about two weeks when we first learned about COVID, but H Michael has been family for a lot longer than this time and it just didn’t make sense not to have him here with us and with our kids,” Friel told Tamron Hall. He and Morse became friends after meeting their freshman year in college.

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Friel and Wall are white and have two adopted daughters. Their youngest daughter is Black. “One of the biggest advantages to having a person of color in the family is having a role model for [our youngest] who can give her a sense of her culture.” 

Morse, who works as a public relations strategist, is Black and spoke to the privilege of being present in the kids’ lives. “Living with Jason and Jimmy has been a gift for me, not only as a respite from the big city, but because [the kids] are at such special times in their lives and watching them grow and being a positive role model is the best gift in the world”. 

Morse isn’t the only one who’s done some moving lately. Roughly, 22 percent of all US adults either moved or know someone who did as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Pew Research Center

The trio’s ‘modern family’ is also reflective of recent demographic trends in the US. About 135,000 children are adopted in the US each year according to the Adoption Network. US Census data from 2019 also revealed that there are nearly 1 million same-sex households in the US, with roughly 58 percent of those couples being married partners.

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After “discussing it as a family,”, Morse is staying put in New Jersey for now but plans to return to New York in October. 

“The kids definitely notice when Uncle H. Michael goes to New York every month, and the dog notices. It’s a little more quiet and less fun and we’re not looking forward to the Fall,” said Friel. 

Watch the segment in full below.

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