Monday, January 21, 2008

To love and win is the best thing. To love and lose, the next best. ~ William Thackeray

 My friend Sommer would have turned thirty-one today. Every night as I settle onto my pillow and prepare to sleep, I see her forever-teenage-face reflected in my now-thirty-year-old one. I keep a favorite picture of her framed over my side of the bed, so her giggly smile is always one of the last things I see each day. I have never thought of her as a "guardian angel."  To me, she remains "just" Sommer, "just" my best friend, "just" an awesome soul I have been blessed enough to love, but I am cannot help be comforted by the belief that she somehow still loves me and looks out for me. 
A Rod McKuen poem I found a few months after Sommer died still speaks to me tonight just as it did in the summer of '95:

"...And now I love you
and I live you as well
because of you
I am larger than myself 

I am as big as both of us
I live because I love you"

I would have preferred, of course, to have had a lifetime of "in-person time" together, but some people never have a Sommer in their lives at all, so I try to recognize my blessings as such and to be grateful for them. The older I get, the more often I look at that picture above my bed and find myself thinking, "My gosh! I got to love this giggly and sweet person! I got to be one of her friends! How awesome is that!" It is Sommer's birthday, but as the saying goes, her presence is my present. 

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And Life Is Good

I sent a New Year's card to my parents last week. The second I read this one in the grocery store the day after Christmas, I got choked up, and reading it--knowing that it came from me, after all my struggles these past eight years--probably had the same effect on Mom and Dad. 

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A mother is the truest friend we have. ~ Washington Irving

Although I've been working at my current job less than three months, my manager kindly gave me both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, so after I finished my shift on the 23rd, Mike and his mom and dad dropped me off at the bus station and I headed home to spend the holiday at my parents' house. The holidays snuck up on me this year. I hadn't known until the 21st what my work-schedule even was for Christmas week, so it was hard to get into the spirit of things the weeks before the way I usually do. I eventually came up with gifts I was happy with for everyone on my list, and I got a few Christmas cards mailed out on time, but I just wasn't as on-the-ball as I usually am with these things. Even when Mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I could think of little besides the "givens": Stationery, stickers, vanilla perfume, fuzzy socks. . . . Over Thanksgiving while looking through magazines and catalogs she had been saving for me, I had been tickled by a toy catalog's picture of a goofy-looking stuffed blue cat named "Patches," but it was around $40 plus shipping, so I had just ooh-ed and ahh-ed over him to Mom for awhile before trying to come up with real ideas to give her. By the time the madcap weekend of the 23rd rolled around and I quickly prepared to go home, I had forgotten the few ideas I'd come up with for her and many of the actual gifts I'd gotten for everyone.

The night of the 23rd, after the parental hugs and hellos, I stepped into my former bedroom to set down my backpack and bags of Christmas presents and could make out in the dark a stuffed animal posed in front of my bed pillows. I knew instantly what it was and called out to my mom, "The cat! That's the cat!" She and my dad started laughing, and Mom came into my room to turn on the light so I could see him better. She told me she had made this "Patches lookalike" from a blue pillowcase, a white washcloth, and other scraps from her fabric bag. I laughed as I held him and looked him over, and Mom laughed with me and kept saying things like, "I know he's strange-looking, but I think I got it pretty close!" and "Your dad thought I'd go nuts--I had to keep staring at that little catalog picture with the magnifying glass to make sure I was getting it right!" 

That she had even remembered my Thanksgiving oohs and ahhs over "Patches" shouldn't have surprised me, since she is just that thoughtful, but I am still so touched and delighted every time I look at the stuffed blue cat that now sits on my bed here.