Thursday, May 21, 2020

The power of friendships. The gift of time.

Birthdays were a big deal in our house growing up. My Mom would go all out to make us feel special. So on my 10th birthday, when she told me we needed more ice and asked me to ride my bike to my Mama Clara's house to pick some up. I just hopped on my bike and went. Maybe I pondered the strangeness of the request on my ride but I am fairly certain I just did as I was told understanding that special days required unique requests.

I returned home to a backyard full of my closest friends shouting "Surprise!!" I don't even have to work hard to remember the absolute joy I felt that day (and it was a long long time ago.).

My 10th birthday. You are welcome.

Birthdays are a big deal.

Celebrating the triplets' and Little Red's birthdays has been my absolute favorite thing to do since...oh 1998! :) The triplets' first birthday was a celebration of successfully making it through sleepless nights, endless diapers, infinite feedings. We invited everyone in Chicago who had had a hand in getting them to their first birthday -- NICU nurses, doctors, physical and occupational therapists. We celebrated! And with that first party, I knew what my Mom so obviously knew, there is nothing better than honoring the life of those we love. Nothing better.

When I turned 49, Claire invited some of my circle of friends over for cake and ice cream. "Mom," she said, "I have learned in college that birthdays should have your people with you!"

For my 50th my family threw me a party and I got to hug and be hugged by friends I have known for years and years (and some I had only known since returning to MS).

Last year my birthday was about college graduates, moving to Delaware, packing boxes. My sweet family celebrated me well even in the midst of all that chaos but it was a season of good-byes with friends, not celebrations.

And this year, well, this year is like none other, right? And yet, my entire crew is home and we had a favorite meal gathered together and that was so beautiful and enough, really. It was wonderful.

But my friend Tracy had sent me a text earlier in the week that my Tupelo girls wanted to at least say a quick happy birthday that night. We have been trying in this season of staying home, to be intentional in a monthly Zoom call amongst the four of us. It has been a lifeline and so it made me smile that Tracy would organize a quick extra call this month for my birthday.

I went to my little room where I go when I Zoom with Teri, Tracy, and Neece, and opened my computer. As I hit the log in button the screen flickered strangely and then all these faces were there. And I mean all these faces -- way more than four! 25 faces from my life in Minnesota, Arizona, and Mississippi were on the screen in front of me! Faces that are scattered from coast to coast. Some faces that I haven't been able to see in years! And yet here they were, all there together.

And I knew immediately my girl who is so like me, and who loves to see her friends, had organized this gift that felt bigger than I can put into words.

If you are on a Zoom with 25 faces and your eyes are filled with tears, you won't be able to make out the little faces to even know who everyone is at first. Consider that a warning.

I legitimately couldn't take it all in. It was perhaps the most beautiful gift I could possibly receive that these took time away from their own families, away from their own schedules, to sit and smile, and laugh and reminisce. My girlfriends one by one shared how they knew me, how we met, how our paths crossed.

And suddenly, all the moving, all the figuring out how to plant roots in various places, all the hard good-byes and all the equally hard hellos, didn't feel so hard. And in a season where I am new -- again -- and am at home unable to plant social roots, this was exactly what I needed to remember.

Thank you, Claire -- oh it is fun to have an adult daughter! And oh my goodness, thank you Deb, Karen, Lisa, Robin. Thank you Stefanie, Orly, Avery, Ginny and Susie. Thank you Mary Alice, Heather, Brooke, Markietha, and Shelly. Thank you Carolyn, Teri, Rosemary, Neece (she is in the 10 year old's party pic too!), and Cindy. Thank you Debra, Tracy, LuEllen, Shannon, and Paula (I have tried to go in order of my screen pic!). Your friendships mean more to me than I can express. I love you all.

I know blessed is often reduced to a hashtag meme. But it is still a word I adore. It is still a word that evokes my gratitude. And it is definitely still a word that describes exactly how I feel after this absolutely beautiful virtual party!

Carol - The Blessings Counter