I didn’t know when I met them that I’d still know them now, nearly half my life later, having lived in three states since then and now married the better part of a decade to someone different than we’d originally thought. I didn’t know we would slog through marriage, careers, callings and motherhood together, didn’t know I’d still know them when three of us drove minivans and one drove a station wagon. I didn't know we would live scattered in four different states, but would meet up as often as possible, for birthdays and babies and weddings, in Baltimore, Charleston, Richmond, Savannah, Tallahassee, Annapolis and Bloomington. But I did know, after that first year, that those three felt like home. Even then I had a sense that’s grown ever since that this is the kind of thing that only comes around maybe once in a lifetime. And, I know now, for many people, not at all.
In the living room, around a variety of tables, in the white sand, in the backseat, in bunk beds—wherever we found ourselves over the next four days—we filled in the details of our daily lives. We lamented that the people who live life beside us, in our respective current hometowns, don’t know our stories like these girls do. Our newer friends require backstory there just isn’t always time to get to. They require explanations of ourselves and our hearts because it’s just not all as reflexive as it is with people who knew you when. We wished, we said, that we knew each other’s children better. I complained that I can’t even envision these friends I’ve known so long sitting at their kitchen tables or going about their lives, as our reunions usually happen when we meet up like this, apart from our husbands and families and homes, though I’m pretty sure that fact also accounts for some of the preciousness of the time.
They have let me grow these last sixteen years. They have encouraged it, they have cheered it, they have welcomed it, but they have never forced it. They would have loved me even if I hadn’t grown.
The reason I can rest in the knowledge that I will always know these precious girls— no matter the miles that separate us or the time between calls— is that I believe when they look at me they still see that brash, self-righteous, leggy, sun-streaked blonde that I was when we met. The one who was so sure of so much, whose convictions were as yet untested, the one so few people in my current life ever knew. And they have loved all the versions of me I’ve been since then. The reason I can rest in their love and acceptance is because they have made it so clear that both live somewhere above the drone of daily life. And though I’ll always wish I could walk down the street and settle in at their kitchen tables for coffee, though I’ll always miss them with a sometimes physical ache, their transcendent love is one of the best things I’ve experienced in this life.
Sometimes it feels far away, always there is too much time between visits, but I could not be more grateful for these women who have let me into the messiness of their lives and who don’t balk at mine. They have taught me more about God and grace and love than I could ever list or repay.
"Bring me to your house, tell me, 'Sorry for the mess,'
Hey, I don't mind. You're talking in your sleep, all the time.
Well, you still make sense to me, your mess is mine..."