Where Else You Can Find Me

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Seasons of Friends

I've been thinking about the different friends I've had in my life and the role each friend has played and then either moved on or stuck around for the long haul.  I'm lucky to have had the same two very best friends since I was in sixth grade and my senior year in high school.  They are soul sisters.  They have been here for the long haul. Loved me when I was my least lovable but most in need of their love. They've never wavered. I also have some new, amazing friends. Friends who fill a different, equally important role.

Early Childhood Friends 

I remember the first time I spent the night with a friend.  Her name was Tonja; we watched Jaws, stayed up way too late, giggled, pestered her older brother, giggled some more.  Tonja was my first best friend.  We moved away from Tonja when I was seven; I was devastated. Until, I met Staci.  She was my second best friend.  She lived right down the road and had a swimming pool.  We rode bikes and four wheelers with a kind of freedom that kids now wouldn't understand.  I wouldn't dream of letting my kids roam the way I did, and I had the over protective parents!  We swam all day, ate endless snacks, rode bikes back and forth and lived at each others houses for three years.  We moved again after fifth grade.  I thought, certainly, I would never have another best friend like Staci.  I was right. I never had another friend quite like Staci.

Middle and High School Years 

We moved to a small town the summer before sixth grade. Here I felt like I would surely be miserable.  I knew NO ONE. I was sad to leave the town I'd known, the school I'd known.  After about three days in the new neighborhood, there was "gang" of kids riding bikes up and down our street.  Really, it wasn't a gang.  More like a herd of kids. Brothers and sisters, friends, deeply tanned from the hours on end roaming this small stretch of road and the fields behind the houses.  On this small stretch of road, I met the most amazing friends.  We too rode bikes, lived at each others houses, roamed our little neighborhood and often ventured across the railroad tracks to town even though it was expressly stated by many moms we were not to. In this small town, I met my husband.  We went on "dates" in sixth grade with my mom and dad driving us all the way to the big city to see a movie. On this date, there would normally be four children in the back seat without a seatbelt to be found on.  There would be Lucy, Brian, Me and Erin.  I wouldn't dream of going ANYWHERE at that time with out Lucy or Erin. We would make "cozy turns" where all four of us would go scooting across the bench seat and see if we could make Brian's ears turn red.  Those girls. They were my heart. Lucy was two grades older and Erin one.  Eventually, because Lucy went to high school before me and was an athlete, our lives and friendship circles took different paths.

High School Years

Here I met new friends that basically revolved around my boyfriend (whoever it was at the moment). Looking back, I'm so lucky that my friend Erin saw me through this time.  She stuck with me. Even when I wasn't a very good friend to have.  Also during this time, I became friends with my other best friend April.  Prior to our senior year, we were friendly.  We went to the same small school so we knew each other and sometimes hung out at lunch, but our senior year, we had the same core group of friends.  I am so glad we did.  I don't know where I'd be right now without her! The girls here. Well, they'll always be "girls" to me.  They are the ones I talk to once a week, still.  They are the ones I love with a fierceness and a protectiveness that is only akin to sibling love. I don't have a sibling so I'm guessing here. They are perfect examples of kindness, generosity, forgiveness, calling bullshit when you're being stupid, letting you go ahead and be crazy when you need to, sending the best birthday cards even though I buy them the perfect card every year but never send it, and all around perfect friends.

College Years (We'll count this as mostly leap year)

Let's just say I don't remember them much; I'm assuming I had friends.  I'm also assuming I had a really good time.  Let's agree to gloss over these years, okay? Except for two very important things. First, April stuck by me at my ugliest times; we'll leave that at that and agree that she's a saint. Also that at the end, THE most very important thing happened, Brian. Brian happened.  Even at my most frustrated, I'm so very glad I pulled into that bar that had his name misspelled on the sign.

The Early Working Years

Ah, you know these ladies.  The ones you have so much fun working with.  The ones you go to dinner with, have drinks with, go dancing with. I never thought I'd loose touch with them.  But I did.  One I've reconnected via FaceBook with, and it's fun to see her boys grow in a parallel world to mine.  The rest, I look back and think of the fun times and wonder how they are.

The My Kids are in School Years 

These are the moms that brought me back to myself somewhat.  I don't know a lot of their real names. I know them as their kids' mama.  But, they gave me something super important. They gave me a connection to this new small town Brian and I moved to. Someone to talk to, to fill the void of having no friends outside of phone calls to Erin and April.  They gave me a reason to brush my hair and put on pants that weren't stretchy. We never socialized beyond the playground, but they too have an important role.  I realized I need friends. One of the most important people I've ever met and grown to admire and love is my son's LSSP.  She's more than that.  She's his friend, she's my friend, she's the mama of my boys' friends.

The After Diagnosis Friends

Here is where I've met the people who get me through some day to day stuff. As I've mentioned before, BigBrudder was born with a cleft lip and palate.  From the moment we found out at the twenty week ultra sound, we found a support group.  These women. They saved me.  They found ways to make us laugh, shared successes, fears, and understand the heartache of handing a child over for surgery.  It's true that people don't get it unless they get it. You know?  Then, there's this amazing group of women I've collected via the interwebs. They get the autism. They get the cleft lip and palate stuff. They get the solitude of being a mama. They get it. We rant, we rave, most of us will never meet in person, but we threaten to go to IEP meetings, we talk about gross things, we support one another.  It's ah-may-zing! I have a few friends, autism mama's if you will, that I know in real life. They too are a life line. A reminder that I am more than a mom. You would think that all we talk about is Autism or disabilities or our children, right? Nuh-Unh.  One friend, who has become one of the fastest friends I've ever made, we talk about our tiny bladders, we laugh till we nearly pee our pants, we shop, we go out and see music.  Do we talk about Autism? Yes! A lot. But not as much as we just love and support one another.

So, through each of these seasons of friendship, some come, some go, some stay the course. I used to be the kind of girl that thought I didn't need friends or didn't have a lot of friends. The more I think about it, I DO have a lot of friends, they each have their own, very important, undeniable place in my heart.  Each of these friends has me looking toward the friends I will have during winter. I hope that I get to meet some of the friends I have via the interwebs, I pray that my beloved friends will still be there. I wonder if during winter we'll have girlfriend retreats?  I really hope so. I really hope that my two best friends can meet and love and support some of these other amazing women the way they have me, but only if they remain my best friends. I imagine a winter fire in a posh(ish) cabin , loads of fun with barrels of wine and beer and good music, food and laughter.  Lots and lots of laughter.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Birthdays in Our House

These beautiful babies are about to turn ten and eight.  This brings me to a time of serious reflection.  I've been watching the endless slideshow of photos on our computer, sobbing, remembering, loving, feeling grateful, all those emotions and more at once.

It makes me remember our constitutional towards an autism diagnosis for BigBrudder.  You may or may not know BigBrudder was born with a cleft lip and palate. We thought this would be our primary area of concern for him.  For a long time it was.  It still certainly occupies quite a bit of our parental thoughts and concerns, but little did we know that autism would become our main focus.

BigBrudder from very early on only liked to be held in a certain way.  I would describe it as snug. He loved being swaddled and held firmly. He was always alert. Looking around and sometimes through you it seemed. He progressed normally and hit his milestones on time, mostly.  Except language. Here he was hyper verbal. He didn't really babble much, perhaps because of the speech therapy he received for his cleft lip and palate. Or, it could be that we didn't baby talk. He spoke in complete sentences and loved showing what he "knew," which was a lot.

Beginning at his two year well check, I asked every year about autism. He was a toe walker, he had a compulsion about lining up his toys a certain way, he would get lost in his own little world for hours at a time and not hear us, his food aversions were severe, and the meltdowns...they could last for days.  I was told every year "He's too social." They didn't see him at home. Yes, he interacted with us, but it wasn't reciprocal.  Until we had the WeeOne.

The other day, the WeeOne was in the midst of a rough patch (thanks full, super, harvest moon). We talked through it, and then I told him this: "You know how BigBrudder sometimes (okay a lot of times) seems lost in his own thoughts.  Well, when he was almost two and you weren't quite born yet, it was much more severe.  We could call his name, we could talk to him and it was as if he couldn't hear us.  All of that changed when you came in to the world.  Suddenly, BigBrudder was connected to someone in a way we hadn't seen yet. He loved you more than he loved anyone before.  I tell you this not to give you a burden but a gift.  That is how much you are loved."  The WeeOne had tears rolling down his cherubic cheeks.  I said, "Baby, what's wrong?"  The WeeOne Replied, "They are tears of joy.  I want to tell this story to BigBrudder."  To him I said, "Baby, this story is for you to hold in your heart. Hold it close now and always. Remember it when BigBrudder doesn't seem to be listening.  You are his best friend, forever."

Happy Almost Birthday, my loves.