Thursday, July 29, 2010

Happy Birthday

You invited me to share your big day with Artess and Elton John at Lake Tahoe, but I was committed to Hollywood and G'ma and the wedding instead.  In the planning and execution of traveling I became consumed with my own issues and forgot about you.  Entirely.  Never crossed my mind.  Vanished into the mushy ether that passes for my brain at times.  Then I woke up to the real world and there you were, not remonstrating, not feeling hurt, not wondering where I was.  Nope, as usual, you were just smiling, watching me go about my business, knowing that I'd come back to you in time.

So here I am.  In public, because you are just that special and the world ought to know about you.  I thought about interviewing you, because some of my favorite bloggers do just that with the people they want to share with others.  But I decided to spread the word myself.  Not that you hide your light under a basket.  Hardly.  But I thought that you might like to see how swell I think you are.  Consider it my birthday present.

When you first crossed my consciousness we were new to Marin.  Reading your newsy letters home to the parents in your PTA, I was stunned.  Stopped dead in my tracks in my new kitchen, wondering how the school had found a real author to pen these usually dreary tracts.  You were smart and funny and respectful and informative and I found myself actually looking forward to the newsletters.  

Being who I am, it never crossed my mind that we could be friends.  You traveled in rarefied circles.  You wore fascinating jewelry and your own style of fashionable, artistic, unusual clothing with which I could never compete.  You were confident and poised and talented and I was new.

Was it through mutual acquaintances or school committees or NCL that our nodding-as-we-passed-on-the-street relationship changed to a close-as-girlfriends-can-get friendship?  Perhaps it was the baby shower for my new next door neighbor to which you invited me so that I could meet the people on my new street.  The best street in town, on which you had the best house, with the perfect view and which, you know, I wanted to buy if you ever sold it.  The collapse of the housing market and the stock market put the kibosh on that plan, but I honestly think that we bonded over that building, which you created over time and with love and which reflected the very best pieces of your family.  Open, expansive, warm and inviting, the table set for the next meal, reminding everyone that you spent time together, that you were involved in each others lives, that the giant calendar on the even bigger refrigerator, color coded for kids and parents was more than a who goes where when reference...  it was your way of knowing where your hearts were.  Your kitchen made me smile for many reasons beyond the absolutely amazing shallow drawer under your cook top, the one with slots for your knives.  

You were a Daddy's Girl and now you're a Mom's Caretaker and though our stories are different in the details we share the emotional tugs.  We're trying to live our own adult lives while watching and managing and supervising and worrying and crying and sighing over the women who used to do the same for us.  Whatever our relationships with them were in the past, right now we are their first line of defense.  It helps to have someone who knows both sides of your equation.

We haven't always agreed on the best strategy to approach a problem.  When I've worked myself up into a frenzy, when I am planning my revenge, when I am ready to smash the world to make it conform to what I know is the right way, you listen and then suggest that, perhaps, there might be another plan.  I vent.  You listen.  You show me the better way.  And I never feel small.  You acknowledge my angst, you accept my outrage, but you manage to solve the problem with grace instead of a bull-dozer.  I don't feel abashed; I feel grateful for a better solution.  It's a rare gift, that ability to correct without demeaning, to improve without dismissing.  It's why I bring you my thorniest issues.

We've shared politics and schooling and we've raised children and libraries and communities.  "Need something done?  Ask a busy woman" was your mantra, and so we depended upon each other.  Between book clubs and furniture restoration and charity and children we relied upon the other always being ready to say Yes, I'll help.  And it was help in more than actions.  We were there for each other when the tears flowed, too.   

We were both connected to a young man we tried and failed to save, you by choice, I by circumstance.  The drama went on and on and on and through it all, each of us suffering our own private hell as he moved through our lives, we had each other.  There weren't a lot of other grown-ups who saw the positive pieces of this damaged soul.  Of course, there weren't a lot of other grown-ups who had him in their personal space, either.  We wanted him fixed, better, as wonderful as the potential we just knew he had within.... and when he crashed and burned and disappeared we shared the sighs of relief and of sorrow.  We weren't used to having our projects fail.  But we were glad he was gone.  One less worry... and he wasn't even ours.... but he was, because he'd touched us and hurt us and those we loved.... but he wasn't fixable and we knew it and reminded each other of the fact and you are the only one who shares that sense that if only I'd done something his life would have turned out better.  We know it's a fantasy, but we have high expectations.

And that, I think, is the basis of my love for you:  High Standards.  You expect excellence and effort of yourself and of those around you.  I want to be a person you'll admire and accept as a friend, so I push myself to listen as you shape my responses to the world around me.  Your perspective is a valuable counter-point to mine.  There's not a lot of nonsense, though there is a lot of laughter.  Lots and lots of laughter, and song, and joy to balance out the parts of our lives which bang up against us, making us cry and bleed.

I'm so glad you're in my life.  Happy Birthday, my friend.
*****
Did you notice that I wrote that entire post without naming her?  I've been trying to find the perfect pseudonym and it just won't come.  Don't you just hate it when that happens?

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