Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Do Too Have Friends!

Recently I read that bloggers should keep things short. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Just a little, I don't. And I like it that way. Thanks for asking.

If you think about it, it's an amazing thing...the resiliency of a human heart. The heart can be ripped out, shredded(confetti-style), stomped, or shattered. On occasion, the heart is not ripped out, but rather plucked, and pieces are chipped away by years of neglect or mishandling. Then there are the times we share our heart with others. We actually choose to give pieces of our heart away. Somehow, regardless of the circumstances, the heart manages to pick itself up and find its way back into your chest. Really. Amazing.

The life I lead holds little resemblance to the life I once imagined for myself. (Why do we always think the worst when someone says that? Immediately assuming the person must be disappointed in how things are turning out?) There have been sorrows so deep I did not know if I could possibly survive. There have been horrible disappointments. There has also been tremendous joy. Laughter. Peace. Happiness. In many ways, my life far exceeds what I had pictured.

Before marriage, it never crossed my mind that I would move, on average, every three to four years. I am not adventurous, so the first move was beyond difficult. (Why am I not adventurous? Look, I had a lifetime of adventure dumped into my lap by the time I was only 23 years old. I wouldn't want to take more than my fair share.) The move was tough because I had always relied solely on family for emotional support. I had no idea that people, not connected to you by the traditional term "family", could become just that. Now, I know.

Mississippi, Texas, back to Mississippi, Missouri, back to Texas, Maryland...the order of places I have lived during my 15 years of marriage. You can find pieces of my heart in each of those states.

Despite all of my snarky, tough-girl talk, I love very easily. I am a hugger. I am quick to tell you all of the reasons I think you are wonderful. And, if I give you a piece of my heart, you will have it forever, unless you choose to throw it away. (Sidenote, if you do choose to throw it away, we're kinda done...I walk away from people who mishandle others' hearts just as easily as I loved them in the first place.)

I have written about pieces of my heart the Captain holds. If you missed it, you can read about him
here or here. If I were to write about him again, he would say: "Stop writing about me. No one cares about all of that." I have written about pieces Snarky Mama holds. If you missed it, you can read about her here or here. If I were to write about her again, she would say: "Oh yeah, keep it coming. I like it. No one cares about all of that, but you don't have to stop writing about me." Today, I awoke with thoughts of friends. Friends who have become family. One day I will write of each one. But today I was thinking of those I will soon have to say goodbye to, because in a few months, I will have a new state added to my list.

A Southern girl on the East Coast. It just wasn't working for me. The cultural differences alone were enough to throw me for a loop. My children were criticized for saying "ma'am" and "sir". It upset me, more often than not, that my husband and sons held doors for others, but rarely heard a "thank you". Most times they didn't even receive a glance in their direction. I was shocked by how completely oblivious people were to those around them. I was not a fan of those who felt making fun of the South made for good conversation. Nor did I enjoy the assumption that just because I am from Mississippi, I must be racist and stupid. (I am not trashing the East Coast here, but facts are facts. And this was my reality. Things were different. Different is not necessarily bad, it's just, well, different. I had to get used to some things.)

A Delaware girl, a Maryland girl, and a girl from Queens. I wonder if my 3 dear friends know I consider them family? Do they know that I have grown to love parts of the East Coast because of them? Do they have any idea that strictly because of them, I will look back on my time here with fondness? Do they know I look forward to conversations with them because laughing is an unavoidable outcome?

I wasn't sure I could hold it all together the first year I lived here. The Captain was working over 100 hours a week at Walter Reed. Most days, we didn't see him. And when he was home, he did all he could. But, I saw it in his eyes, heard it in his voice. The war, and its casualties (both living and dead) were wearing him down. He wasn't really ours that year, but his country's. In some ways, I felt like a "single" mother. I quickly learned that if a mother is married to a man serving in the military, there will be times she must function as a single mother.

That year, Delaware girl was my sounding board. Truly, she was my sanity. I saw her, or talked with her on the phone, practically everyday. The time I was so stressed and exhausted that I beat the Swiffer vac on the floor until it broke into pieces...the time I wasn't allowed to send anything to my son's classroom because I was labeled "insensitive to peanut allergies"...the times I thought I could never step foot in church because the people were so cold? I called her. I cried. She is an amazing listener. No judgements, only kindness and understanding. She promised me I wasn't crazy. She laughs at me even though I'm not all that funny. She holds a piece of my heart. Forever.

I wasn't sure I had made the right choice. I would quit working from home, and teach preschool three days a week. The T/Th teacher and I would share a classroom. I was in the hallway of the school the first time I met her. Within a half-hour, we wondered if we were possibly twins, separated at birth. We held the same type of at-home jobs before deciding (at the same time) to teach preschool. You name it, we agree on it. Weird. How many times did we say that the first month we knew each other? Our pasts are different, but the lessons learned...identical. Our thoughts, our reactions to pretty much everything, our likes and dislikes...freakishly similar. At one point we decided to stop being surprised at the similarities; it was becoming entirely too creepy. We are certain her mother and my daughter played a role in helping us find each other. And please, don't try and tell us any differently. Maryland girl holds a piece of my heart. Forever.

Dropping our kids off at preschool, we would nod and smile politely. I would listen to her talk and think, I have got to learn more about this girl. I am so grateful I did. Her signing was unlike any I had ever seen before. I felt like I was watching art in action. There is something different about the way she moves her hands. I was sure she must have deaf family members. Certain she must have been signing her entire life. Turns out, Queens girl doesn't have deaf family members. I once asked why she chose deaf education for her career path. She answered, "I don't really know. I just always felt it was where I should be. I was drawn to it." Going places just because you feel you should be there...courage and passion. She is an artist (just look below at pics of her cookies and cakes). She oozes Manhattan style and charm. Approachable. Warm. I can tell her anything, and she will not think less of me. When we talk, she reminds me that most of what I feel isn't abnormal. She believes in me. She holds a piece of my heart. Forever.

The human heart. Resilient. I can give pieces away, and be better off for doing so. Not that it doesn't hurt some too. It does. I will shed tears as I leave my 3 East Coast friends. Friends who have become my sisters. It won't be easy to leave those pieces of my heart. But, I'll do it anyway. Love you girls!

And for your viewing pleasure....yes, they taste just as good as they look! And could you please zoom in on this top one, just to appreciate the plaid.


La Yen said...

I am glad you found good friends. You make people better when you find them, you know.

colleen said...

The Maryland girls wants you to know how important you are in her life!!! You will have a piece of my heart forever!!!

Aubrey said...

Those cookies look delicious. This post is very sweet :)

Rachel T. said...

Isn't it great when you find those friends that you know you were meant to find. Those people who make your life worth living. Those people who know whats in your heart without you never even having to speak. Those friends that know what you need without ever having to ask. Life is just not complete without friends like that. Those who find those types of friends are very lucky because they are a rarity and should be treasured. So are you leaving the east? Where are you going?

Sue said...

Perfect post, Natalie. I'm all about taking however many words are needed to tell people we love exactly what we value about them. And you picked the perfect day to do it, too!

As for the cakes, they are simply out of this world. I admire that kind of talent because it is so completely out of my skill set.

KC Mom said... do have friends. Pretty much all over the continent.
I ♥ those baked yummies. Holy pretty.

Angie said...

I love this.

PS I like long posts.

Valsy said...

This was very sweet. Of course I am feeling very jealous that they get to see you when they want and I am still waiting for our times back together. I think HF sent them to you since I couldn't be with you anymore, eating chinese and talking all the day.

When your book arrived the other day, I thought it was some strange thing I had sent my self because our handwriting is still the same. You know what that means!:) Doughnut moments with pink sprinkles.

mom said...

And all of you who love her! Thank you....somehow it soothes the gaping hole in my heart that misses being with her....especially on Saturdays. Hate to go to the mall...even hate shopping (yep, you heard me..still love "stuff" but hate the experience). All I seem to see are mothers/daughters with the little people, shopping...I used to turn around and come back home b/c I missed her so much it hurt. Now, I just stay home or wait until Papa Snarky can go with me. all the ladies on the East Coast, in Kansas City, in Texas, in Mississippi, or where ever life has taken you, remember ...friends of the heart are never far apart.

Short posts?? Nah, they are only for tiny brains! Snarkettes can pick up everything you put down! Besides, why on earth would you consider conforming? Totally out of character....keep thinking...keep writing...we will keep reading!

p.s You are right....those pictures are unreal...amazing talent!

Anonymous said...

(clicked over from segullah...)
Usually don't leave comments, but had to because I'm currently living in MD and wanted you to know how lucky you are to have found friends to make up for the culture shock.

It's been 4 years living here, a transplant from the west, and I haven't found any friend who've become my family. It's lonely and discouraging at times. I still appreciate all the good things that the east coast has, but I continue to feel like a fish out of water.
Just wanted to tell you how blessed you are (obviously, you know...) and good luck in your next move.

Carolyn Riffel said...

So from the Queens girl....I say "thank you" for just a few things: being my friend,listener,holder of secrets; for being my biggest fan; for loving my kids and for showing me the brilliance of courage and strength when things look so will be deeply missed.
But on another note, cookies do travel well by mail....

mom said...

Well now Carolyn have been "exposed"...nice to know those cookies travel well by mail. I am sure Snarky-B would give you our address! :)

She told me how amazing your cookies are, but I still can't believe what I see...guess you will just have to "prove up" this alleged talent!:)
Snarky Mama

Shauna said...

The best part about leaving good friends is that we know we can always return like going back to a special place and find the same warn feeling, unchanged by time or distance.

L said...

Are you moving back to Missouri??!!

Great post - as always. If blogs could hug - I would hug you!

Jan said...

Enjoyed your post. It was very timely for me, having just moved across the country 3 weeks ago! The hard part about going was all of the great friends who had such a positive, wonderful impact on my life and experience living in MS. They stood by me through moments of sorrow and moments of celebration and my life was enriched because of them. I know I was led to them because the Lord knew how much I would need them. The goodbyes were painful and tearful but I still consider it a great blessing to have been able to have loved and been loved that much!
P.S. Snarky Mama and the Book Club girls--I love and miss you all!

karen said...

I understand completely. I don't have a lot of casual friends. I have a few really good, there-for-you-whenever-for-whatever friends. And they are gold. I used to feel bad that I wasn't more of a social butterfly, but I find as I get older that these few women (along with my better than best friend husband) have sustained me through life's problems beautifully. There have been some bad patches, but I never felt alone or abandoned. These women don't live near me - we're just always able to pick up the thread of our lives every time we're able to talk or visit. I've been so lucky to have friends like that. I hope your next move is just as rewarding as your past ones. I wish you were coming to California, but (other than the weather) it's getting a little crazy here even for me. Best of luck - don't stop writing!

Mommy (You can call me OM) said...

I prized you with "Honest Scrap."

em said...

i just sent your giveaway cookies in the mail. i hope they are not stale by the time they get to you!! they wanted $20 to get them there in 3 days, $20!! i hope they get to you in good shape:-) love em