When I first moved here almost 9 years ago, the only person I knew was my husband and three-year old daughter. We had no family or friends. DW smartly bought a house soon after getting his first job, establishing credit and a future family. It was a perfect first house for us, in a cozy neighborhood. There were sidewalks begging to be chalked, neighboring yards to wander through and families to share a summer meal. Settling in during the summer was perfect. It gave me lots of opportunities to meet people since all of the moms were outside most of the day.
The first family I met lived directly behind our home. We shared a short fence-line, our children shared their sandbox. There were no pretenses with this mom. What you see is what you get – and I love that about her. My new friend was quick to let me know the scoop on the neighborhood, the schools, the community – but she was even more speedy with invitations to spend time together. She was my first Michigan friend.
Through her I met two more ladies from the neighborhood, and quickly fell into a pattern of weekend cook-outs, weekly phone calls and playdates for our kids. It felt as comfortable as if we had known each other our whole lives. What strikes me the most, is that these women do not gossip about each other or knit-pick. They do not treat work or motherhood as a competition. All of them share their strengths and lovingly encourage one another through their weaknesses. They vacation together, they counsel one another, they party together and sometimes co-parent together. And amazingly they included me in this friendship family unconditionally.
That summer was simple. Everyone was outside enjoying the sunshine. September and October lacked the warmth of sunshine, but still blanketed our families in time together apple picking, pumpkin patches and the change of seasons. Gradually less and less children were heard echoing over yards and sidewalks until November’s wind drove most of us inside for shelter. It didn’t seem so bad at first. I drank a lot of hot chocolate that fall and kept a very tidy house. And since I was pregnant, there was plenty of excitement and preparation for a spring baby. That lasted about two weeks. I was incredibly lonely and now instead of boating or lake invites, everyone just seemed to have evaporated. There was an ugly rumor that my three new BFF’s spent their time scrapbooking on the weekends up at the golf club near our neighborhood.
Impossible, I thought. These were smart women – they seemed pretty normal. It seemed unimaginable to me that they would find fun sitting around cutting paper and gluing stuff. I thought only introverted, nerdy types “crafted”. What kind of a woman gets excited about something called a tape-runner? The invitations came but I always had “something to do”. But a few weeks went by and I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to be around them. I missed them, so I headed up to JoAnn’s and grabbed everything and anything that looked “crafty” to me and headed to the golf club. There were about 20 ladies set up at tables, surrounded by various arrays of supplies “cropping”.
I will admit that I carried a tote of smugness that afternoon. I was not a “crafter”, and prided myself on being more of a creative spirit, but as I walked around that room my smugness turned to shame. These ladies had beautiful pages – they were filled with journaling and snippets of their family’s lives. Pages chronicling everything from the birth of a new baby to the loss of a loved one. This was not a room of nerdy introverts, this was an oasis of comfort and remembrance. On top of that, this was a room of support and friends enjoying time together. They gave advice, they listened, they cried and they laughed together. And for the last 8 1/2 years I have been hooked.
Our scrapbooking skills have increased over the years, and our scrapbooking buddies have slightly changed but the three incredible women I first became friends with are still my closest friends. In fact, my first Michigan friend is now a Close to My Heart consultant. Two years ago I moved about an hour north of them and see them much less now. We try our best to email and call when we can – but it is much harder to just “run on over” for a Mike’s Hard Lemonade and pizza on a friday night when you don’t live in someone’s back yard. Sometimes weeks, even months, will go by when I haven’t spoken or seen them and I start to worry that I have lost some of that intimacy.
Foolishness. When hearts entwine the way ours have it is next to impossible to untangle them, and this weekend is a good reminder. This weekend is Stamp Camp – a weekend of scrapbooking, card making and craft projects. I was a little apprehensive about how long it might take to get into our groove, but the minute we saw each other Friday evening, one hug reminded me how deep our friendship ran. It was as if we saw each other every day again. Every celebration, every loss, every joy and every disappointment we have shared over the years wrapped me in contentment.
And many of my scrapbooking pages would say the same thing.