Thursday, February 01, 2007

Friends, part 4 read the whole series start here, then go here, and here.

I already posted about an important friend I lost too young. She was my first "mommy" friend, and she made a big impact in my life. But there's another friend, my "best" mommy friend. She's been there in the trenches with me, almost from the start of motherhood. We've changed each other's children's diapers. We've never argued and we've never hurt each other's feelings. Our friendship began because of our children but has continued because of our shared values and beliefs, as well as our similar background and upbringing. I've joked that if anything happened to her husband and to me, that I would want Craig to marry her (and I think that would be okay with him). She lent me the dinosaur cake pan for Alex's second birthday party. She changed churches when I did. She's supported me through dark times, and I'm truly grateful for her friendship. And the girl? Can hold her liquor. I'm just saying.

I met K.M. the same place I met most of my mommy friends. At a La Leche League meeting. She was pregnant, near her due date, and had attended the meeting at the urging of her Bradley childbirth instructors. It must have been December or January, because her baby was born in February. That baby is turning nine this week. So that's how long we've been friends - nine years.

K.M. and I hit it off straightaway, but when she and her family began attending the church where I worked, the bond was solidified. We obviously had things in common. Our babies played together in the church nursery, and soon enough, in each other's homes, too. My second child was born and I quit my job, and we started spending much more time together. (My daughter's first attempt at drowning was in K.M.'s mom's pool.)

K.M. is one of the nicest people I've ever met. And when I tell her that, she's astonished: she claims to be shy (whatever). Because she's also humble. And self-effacing. And all those other things that make charming people so darn charming. She's pretty and funny and smart and sometimes I just want to braid her hair. Because she's likable that way.

Our children don't remember a time that they weren't friends. Early on, we arranged the marriage of her son and my daughter (they've since broken it off but decided to stay friends). They were adorable babies and toddlers....three (my two, her one) blond, round, cherubic little ones who honestly resembled each other enough to prompt restaurant hostesses to ask if they were triplets. We babysat for each other without keeping score. When one of us needed help, the other was there. It was good like that. We intended to take a family vacation together, but we never got around to it.

In 2001, K.M. and her husband decided to do what they'd wanted to do since they got married: move to Montana. Which is very, very far from Memphis. On September 11, 2001, her husband got in the car and drove there, leaving K.M. and her son behind in Memphis. He was due at his new job in a few days, and their house had not sold yet. Since it was freaking September 11, I told her to come over to our house because there was absolutely no way that anyone should be alone that night. We watched the footage and our children played.

We spent a great deal of time together that winter and spring, and then her house sold. That was in March. We got a group of used-to-be La Leche League moms (our kids were mostly past that point by then) together for dinner and gave her a wonderful send-off. And a few days later, the kids and I went over to her house to help her finish packing and vacuum and clean up and load the van and take some of her plants that wouldn't fit. And she moved away to Montana.

This post could easily turn sappy and sentimental (wait, it already did? Crap.), but that's not the goal. So now, now that you know that our friendship no longer has the day-to-day immediacy of "before", let's look at a few crucial moments that define our friendship, in no order at all because chronology is sometimes hard.

::When the kids were little, sometimes Craig worked as a consultant and went out of town for a week or so at a time. So, one of those times, K.M. and I had a sleepover. That was silly and fun. Except her son woke up pre-crack-of-dawn, so they disappeared before I got up.

::White Elephant parties every December, alternating houses. The light saber that wouldn't go away. The bottle of Arrogant Bastard beer that she brought every year.

::Taking digital pictures with her camera, of my kids wearing hemp clothes and other things I tried to sell on the internet.

::I'm not going to say anything else except: what I almost saw, but didn't, on the video camera. She knows what that means. And it is just as funny now as it was then. Maybe funnier.

::Hawking her homemade batik and my baby products at the Cooper-Young festival.

::A couple of months after the move to Montana, she was back in Memphis for a few days, then would be heading to Florida. Astonishingly enough, our schedules coordinated this well: She and I ditched the kids with Craig (bless him) and went out to breakfast, went to Christie's yoga class, then got manicures and pedicures! Craig and the kids and I were heading to Orlando to meet my parents for a very traditional family vacation. She and her son were also going to be in Orlando, but they always flew standby, so their dates were uncertain. My phone rang while Craig and I were in line for a ride at Universal Studios. K.M. and son were in Orlando. Could we get together? We gave her directions to the resort and spent the next afternoon at the pool, acting like that was totally planned (it wasn't).

::Talking to her a few days before, and a few days after, the home birth of her daughter. She took her time deciding to have that second child, but little K was worth the wait.

::I'm very, very fortunate in that K.M.'s family (and her husband's family) all live in Memphis. She visits at least twice a year, and we generally get her for the better part of a day, or at least an afternoon and evening. The kids look forward to seeing their buddy, and Craig looks forward to cuddling now-preschooler little K. We catch up, we hang out, we show her what she's missing by not having every single channel that the satellites can beam into a house.

::Commiserating while we each dealt with construction. Her house in Montana had a major fire a few years ago and had to be almost entirely rebuilt. We were building out new home at the same time. Swapping tales of contractors and workers and "what the hell are they doing that takes so long?" is nice, because, honestly, nobody else really wanted to hear it.

::Hearing tales of her life before marriage and children is always eye-opening. She was a pilot. She had adventures. She had great romance and some trauma, too. But the stories are just as good "after" too: she's trained for and run marathons, she competed her M.S.W. while her first child was a baby, now she's in nursing school. She's the most driven laid-back person I've ever met.

::This is probably the best one, the story that sums what kind of person K.M. is. She had my kids (I probably had to work and Craig was out of town). They were pre-school age, maybe 2 and 4, with her son rounding it out at 3. Anyway, she called me to ask me if it was okay if she took them bowling. No problem, right? Did I mention she was a social worker, and her clients were homeless, drug-addicted veterans? No? And that they were all going bowling? Because yes. My kids' first bowling experience was with homeless drug addicts. The best part? My mom called me and asked me what my kids were doing. And I told her. And she wasn't surprised, not a bit.

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