Monday, June 14, 2010

Forever Friend

This outfit, a gift from Kelly, eighteen years ago.

When I was a child, my best friends were kids from church. We lived way out in the country, a half an hour from school, and there were very few sleep overs or after school friendship opportunities with the kids I knew from the classroom. Instead, I spent most of my after school hours at home with my siblings or at church, with my ‘church friends’.

Our family was so committed to church that I found myself there a lot. Twice on Sundays, every Wednesday night and sometimes other weeknights, if we were preparing for a special presentation. And that’s not counting the week long mission trips and vacation Bible school sessions each and every summer. Even today, 25 years away from childhood, I count a handful of my church friends as some of my favorite people on the planet.

So I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that I started my week by checking in with a friend in Kentucky, who I’ve known most of my life. She and I have been acquainted since we shared sippy cups in the church nursery together. We’ve traveled in beat up church buses, across many state lines, on youth mission trips. We were lucky enough to attend the same high school, so we caught glimpses of each other on our way to and from classes, although she was a year older and much cooler than I was. I have always been honored to be her friend.

I have two sisters, so you’d think I really didn’t need or deserve a third. But if I could sign a paper to make it happen, Kelly would be my third sister by the end of this day. She is valuable to me for many reasons, one of them being something she can offer that my own sisters cannot. Kelly had her first baby, a daughter, six years before I had mine.

Six years might not seem like a lot, but in a child’s development and life stage, it can bring many changes. One of my sisters has only sons, both much younger than my oldest. My other sister had a daughter just four months after I did. We can commiserate all day long, comparing stories about how these girls are going to drive us to drink, but when it comes to what’s next, she’s as clueless as I am.

This is where Kelly is very helpful.

I clearly remember a phone conversation I had with her many years ago. As I balanced my six month old on my hip I heard Kelly talking about going to the library with her daughter, Kim, and picking out new books to share at bedtime. I was in awe. We had baby board books all over our house, but I could hardly imagine being able to read a chapter book to my child, then discussing the story line as she grew sleepy. I remember asking Kelly, “So, what’s that LIKE?” All she could answer was, “Great!”

She was in the next stage of child rearing and I was just beginning to understand the concept of being a mom.

Through the years we’ve both moved quite a bit. Some years we only exchanged Christmas cards, some years we managed to connect on the phone. Then email arrived and the doors opened up more. I continued to quiz her about what life was like six years ahead. How do you respond to big kid problems? What exactly are the problems we’ll face when our kids become big kids? She always had an encouraging, thoughtful answer.

Now my first born is graduating from high school. I feel so far past potty training and training wheels yet so unfamiliar with these new life stages. It’s hard to process some days, especially as I still have three to continue to raise, once my grown up girl goes on with her life. The next few years will be a transition for our relationship as I slowly (and maybe painfully) learn how to be a mom to a young adult.

Fortunately, this thing called Facebook came along just when I needed it. Kelly and I are friends on Facebook, which means we can be in closer contact than ever before, despite the fact we live a thousand miles apart. Kelly knows all about this angst I’m feeling. She’s done it twice now. Both of her children, Kim and her younger brother, have walked across that big stage and accepted that little rolled up paper. Both have moved on to college.

It’s been a bumpy road sometimes. I’m in awe of how honest she’s been with me, about the good and the bad of having kids in college and the struggles of finding their own way. It’s helped brace me for the changes that are on my own horizon.

She’s as valuable to me as she ever has been, this childhood friend of mine. No parenting book or advice column could offer what she held up to me so graciously through the years, understanding and encouragement, tailored to fit my exact need. With her help I’ll get through this next step in life. And then we’ll move on to whatever comes after that. She’s proven herself pretty competent in paving the way for me so far.

I guess at this point I should be crossing my fingers, hoping and praying that she gets to plan a daughter’s wedding and hold her first grandchild just a few years before I do.

1 comment:

rebecca @ altared spaces said...

I am lucky. My sister is 11 years older than me. I held her first born when I was 14. But, maybe because I was really too young to notice...I didn't actually pick up many parenting tips from her hand.

I, too, have an adopted sister. My daughter is with her now. She refers to her as her "other mother" and calls her Auntie. She's spending a week with her, driving herself around, exploring life and living, while I practice the idea of waking to a house where she does not breakfast.

I'm thrilled for her. Not yet sure how I feel for me.