Thursday, January 24, 2008

it's good to be known

Maybe I should save this for my quiet, familiar place across the blogosphere, but I am falling out of the habit, already, of coming here. And I need to practice. I need to write because in moving words from my head to a page where I can read them and see them and let them stay put, I free up space in my head that's so littered with anxious thoughts and things that obscure the edge of the sidewalk like fallen, slimy leaves. Clearing the leaves is much too big of a job for me to do completely right now, but if I clear away just a little of something, maybe I'll see the edge of the sidewalk before I fall off.

So I have this dear friend. She reads this blog sometimes, so I don't want to shout her name and call too much undue attention. But she knows who she is. It's her birthday in a couple of days. And I made her something.

I am not a creative person. I aspire to be creative and I attempt creative endeavors but it does not come easily. Which sparks the question, does it have to be easy to be true? Probably not. But it's not an identifying factor of mine. I know Artists and Writers and I assure you I am a humbled lowercase on both counts, if we're being generous. And that's okay. I write this not as some trickery back door self-deprecation in which I say "No, I'm not" to weasel out a string of "Oh Yes, you are"s from patient readers. With practice I think Being Creative has the potential to not require such great effort, my point being only that right now, at this place in my head, in my life, it sure does.

When you're not instinctively creative, when you're not the sort who not only sees fantastic finished art projects in the most mundane of materials, but can facilitate the making thereof, what do you do? Just your best. And hope that it translates into something the receiver understands as love and thankfulness and appreciation. I can't make something so beautiful and flawless but I can't offer that in myself as a friend, either. I am ugly and flawed, inconsistent and difficult. And yet, yet despite all that, I have people in my life who don't seem to notice the things I despise and pick apart about myself. Or if they notice, they keep quiet about it, and their presence brings out the better parts of me.

This friend of mine, she is one of Those People.

Our friendship has been many shapes. I wasn't even a mother yet when we met. I was a few months in to a hasty marriage, the very dawn of being a grown-up and just barely becoming myself. I am so grateful now that our friendship formed and grew strong before my daughter was born. Knowing my penchant for self-prescribed isolation as a cure-all for any headspace woes, I do not exaggerate when I say I do not think I would be as confident and seemingly successful (I'll get back to you on respective eighteenth birthdays) as a mother (or a person at all) now if I had lacked this one true friendship in those formative years. Young Mothers need close friends. For the first time in history, relatively speaking, we do this exhausting, dirty work without the respite of extra hands. We don't meet at the well each morning for water, our children don't play at our feet while we process vegetables or sew quilts. I mean, surely, yes, some mothers do those things somewhere and even here, now. But, generally speaking, it's a lonely thing to be the primary caregiver of small children. To have a person you can call up at any time for feedback on some detail, important or tiny, makes the work so much more bearable. I honestly cannot imagine repeating the first several years of my daughter's life minus the association of my dear friend. We talked daily, got together often. We lived across town and made frequent dates for play and tea.

And then they moved to a town several hours away. So when we moved to a state several days away, our friendship had already shifted from the daily and familiar to the long-distant and special.

We're closer again, we need but weekends and a hunk of driving time to arrange a get together, not airfare and whole vacations.

A special friendship is not to be discounted. My daughter considers my friend's children as other kids might consider cousins. She's known them well since the day she was born. She has grown up without a close-knit extended family, but having these friends a few hours away replicates for my girl the thrill that comes from overnights and rallying together to make a play to show the parents and the general excitement long anticipated visits from people dear to you. Certainly they are closer than most family, in our case.

But I miss the everydayness of our friendship. We had the benefit of becoming good friends when life was simpler for each of us. I couldn't do that again now, if I tried. I can't even begin to try again now. After starting over from scratch in a new place three and a half years ago, carving out Familiar from a monotonous litany of New and Strange and Different, I said I wouldn't put myself in that position, I would never do that again. And here I am again. I can see Familiar if I squint real hard, but the bulk of our life and our routines is all new, it's all on me to take nothing and make it something that feels like we live here. I am very lucky to have met some very interesting and cool folks in my new little town (hi, interesting and cool folks!) but to build friendships and juggle life with two kids (and their accompanying, disparate needs) is no small thing. Which is to say, that I know I will continue to make friends in my life. That I will never stop looking to enrich my world by knowing new people, but cultivating friendships is so much more complicated now.

How do I take all that, how do I say I'm celebrating you today because you are wonderful and my life is better, my children's lives are better, because you are my friend and roll it up in paper and tie it with string? I did it with recycled fabric and crooked seams and three broken needles and only a little head smacking. I could have, probably should have, followed a pattern. I wasn't trying to be symbolic by creating on the fly, wasn't stabbing at some fleeting metaphor of the organic nature of friendship. It's just the way that I am to start something without thinking all the way through and hope I can make it work. We've been good friends for eleven years now, and it's still working. I can't vouch for the expected longevity of the item I created for her, but I can say that it was made with love and if it doesn't do anything but reside in a drawer, when she sees it she'll know I care.

(maybe I'll share a picture later but since I haven't even mailed it yet, she shouldn't have to see her birthday present here for the first time. I feel a little like i'm talking about someone who is sitting in the same room. hi jess!)


kort said...

i was remembering when you all stopped in my tiny basement apartment...i had heard about this new girl from sign class, just married, looking to be pregnant, so much the right person at the right time. and there i was without husband or child, living in a basement for goodness sake! and you two seemed well on your way to being grown up.

i know what you mean though. without seeing J birth her children at home would i have tried it? how about school at home? i too am thankful to know her.

happy birthday, friend!

jess said...

but you see, i could say all the same about you. i am so thankful for such an understanding as what we have. thank you my friend.

Lisa said...

How lucky to have such a friend. I myself haven't ever made a close friend like that.

I read an article once, Mothering maybe, that talked about our tribes and how we have lost that and a way to create new tribes of our women people in the modern world. I think we have lost a lot by being so isolated in our little homes doing things by ourselves.

Angelina said...

That is a lucky a wonderful friendship and I left one behind like it too. Which I miss. I wish my friend would move closer so all it would take is a week end and some driving to get together.