I was 19 years old, expecting my first baby and adjusting to married life, which for me equated to boredom. No more long nights working, or long days going to school. I met Jamie and in 50 days I shared his last name and a tiny apartment in Navy Housing. When I think back to that time in my life, I'm kinda pissed off at all the knitting time I waste just lulling about, without any real interest to ground me. It was a lonely time.
We lived in a quad, which was four apartments hodge-podged together, with doors rather close in promixity. I had a beside me neighbor and two down-stairs neighbors. The two girls downstairs had some sort of falling out over one buying the same washing machine as the other, and my next-door compadre sort of gravitated towards the offended downstairs girl, probably because of their mutual affection for herbal relief. I took pity on the outed girl and befriended her, which of course, made me enemy number 1 to the other two girls. (I still don't understand Girl World...this is one example when it left me particularly confused) Power School being what it was, it was a pretty common occurence for people you've met to pack up soon after because the school was hard and there were many guys that couldn't hack it. So when downstairs dryer girl went on her merry way, the two former enemies teamed up and became best friends. I was still eyed with much suspicion. My crime was too heavy for them to comprehend; I was nice to all of them all the time. That doesn't work too well in Girl World (I found this out in 8th grade, actually, but that lesson never really asborbed into my brain and I've spent the entirey of my life ignoring all social cues that tell me that to be a part of Girl World I must hate someone. Won't do it) I resigned myself to my friendless state because even then, at the tender age of 19, I avoided drama like the plague and all the girls around me were handing it out like Halloween candy. No thank you.
Time marched on and I grew outwardly, showing all the world that I was a mother-to-be, so when Jamie asked me to accompany him to a BBQ at the school, I was extremely hesitant. I wasn't used to my physique and was somewhat embarrased by my shape. That being said, staring at four walls day in and day out, I was ripe for a little social interaction.
And that's when I met Her. Shawndra. She was a sight to behold. Bigger than I was (she was 6 weeks more pregnant than I) with this crazy perfect hair and an expression that said "Okay I'm here, now what?" Moth to a flame, I'll tell you what. We talked and talked and talked. We compared notes on our crappy doctors, she talked me into getting an HIV test because "you never know..." and instantly, we clicked. Immediate.
We shopped. I ogled her apartment. The first place we went together was Walmart for spray paint. She called me up all random and said "Hey I am refinishing this dresser and need paint. Wanna come with?" I had never met anyone so driven to get done what she wanted to get done NOW. There was no waiting on anything where she was concerned. It amused me. Her apartment was the exact same as mine (they all were) but somehow hers looked like home. This delighted me. She helped me work on mine. This would be a life-long service she would offer, little did I know then.
She had her baby. I was jealous. Really jealous. She had gone through that thing I was terrified of and had this sweet little pink bundle to call her own while I was still waddling through life waiting for a call back to play the whale in Moby Dick. She was the first person to come see Kyle at my home, and helped me though many tough things during that time. My mother had recently drifted back into my life after a major falling out and I was an emotional mess. Shawndra was point blank "Give it a chance. If it sucks, you don't ever have to talk to her again. We're leaving anyways.."
And she did leave. It was devastating. She was in South Carolina and I was stuck in Orlando, with Jamie on "baby hold..." It seemed like forever, waiting to get our billet, but finally we were on our way to that sweet little town of Goose Creek. Our husbands worked rotating shifts, so we were each other's constant company. Dinner together. Shopping together (oh the shopping....the lady in Sears knew us by name!!), decorating our very temporary apartments and whispering about her backyard neighbors who seemed to have a unique relationship we couldn't quite figure out. She carefully explained to me about babies needing "tummy time" and bought me every kind of pacifer imaginable to help me get a break from being a living one. Everywhere we went, people would ask us if our children were twins and we'd always answer politely that no, they weren't as we were TWO people with TWO babies and then make fun of the person the rest of the day. Whenever people would comment on Kyle's rotund appearance, Shawndra would very proudly state "He's breastfed." She didn't do it, but was proud I did and I'd want to die from embarrasment right there, but she never noticed. She was the person who hoisted a double stroller up three flights of stairs, because the therapist I needed to see didn't have an elevator and when I was so paralyzed emotionally that I couldn't drive, she was my ride. She was the germaphobe with crazy cluttered closets. I was the disaster in the kitchen with the perfectly organized spices. It worked. We worked.
And then we were separated. Her husband was placed on an aircraft carrier out of Norfolk; mine was tucked away in a submarine out of Kings Bay. 10 hour distance. Might as well have been 10 days. We talked a lot (and this was back before cell phones, and we had to carefully manage our long distance bills) She was braver than I and made the 10 hour trek when her husband was deployed and then a twist of fate had Jamie's boat docked and him off for three days in her town. So then I decided to try a little bravery of my own and made the trip with my 2 year old and newborn to see him. That deployment was blissfully un-lonely because we spent the rest of it together. We spent a couple weeks in Virginia Beach, seeing all the fun stuff there and then we headed back to my place to spend the next couple months hanging out, watching Elmo, traveling and painting. Our children played,and fought, and fought and played, and it was nice having an extra pair of hands to help with a newborn. (Yeah, I think she liked my role of checking on the toddlers while she held the baby...) She was with me when I found out that something was seriously messed up in my body after spending many weeks feeling 81 rather than 21 and was really cool with me when they came up with Lupus. I believe her words were "At least you know...."
Then we had a two year pause. Over something stupid, that seemed huge at the time. We were also unaware of how sneaky a third party was in instigating this separation and were both too proud to actually talk it out. Once we did, we were hyper-pissed because what went down in our minds wasn't rooted in reality at all, and this snotty little witch knew how to play us both like a fiddle. We still talk about this uppity snoot. And thank God we aren't that stupid anymore.
When our time in the Navy was up, we landed in Missouri (and then New Mexico and I'll never forget her asking me, totally serious, if she was going to need a passport to visit me. I don't think I've ever stopped laughing about that little diddy) She landed in Ohio, close to her hometown. She bought a house, we rented one. She was done having children, I was on my fifth. She used her mothering instincts to settle on a gorgeous black cocker spaniel to baby, but by the time it was born and was ready to be picked up, she had a little extra something to mother. She was pregnant. Her husband (now ex) to this say swears she planned it. Sad day when you know a person better than her own husband. I can state emphatically that this baby shocked her more than anyone else, and she wasn't thrilled. She was over the baby part of her life and while she welcomed the idea over time, her husband didn't and this was the beginning of the end for them. I will never forget the day she called me up, completely calm, several months pregnant and said "Welp, I am getting divorced." What?!?!?! She continued "I told you that when I was finally done, I would be done.....I'm done." I was shocked. I was reeling. I just couldn't believe it, but she had had enough. Her ex-husband had one too many extracurricular people in his life and she wasn't going to look the other way anymore.
Her baby was exactly 30 days old (as required by law) when she became a divorced mother of three, and just a few precious days later, we adopted my best friend and her three kiddos into our family in New Mexico. She arrived shell shocked and beat down. She was broken and it hurt to see. She was utterly alone and came to me in pieces. She stayed with us for about 4 months and then moved on to live near another friend in Oklamhoma. No big fallout here at all, she was just ready to stand on her own two feet and knew being near us at this time would have her wobbly and dependent. It was a very good move for her. After a year there, I alerted her to a program for homeschooling single moms, that gave money to those struggling. She recieved a rather large check and was then home bound to Ohio. She needed to be home. She was ready to face all that she had left behind. Intense time. Watching her walk through all this, from miles and miles away, was hard. But I knew from experience she always lands on both feet and this time was no different. Navigating an ex-husband with the added mistress (that moved into her home the very day she left with her children) was hard. Letting this extraneous person into the lives of her children was excruiating and there were times I'd fantasize about a flight out of New Mexico, to Ohio, for a five minute ass-kicking and a return flight home.
The last few years have seen untold changes in both of our lives. We've been crazy and grounded, loose and rigid, scared and brave in all sorts of combinations. We've traveled to Las Vegas together, and hung out here on the "farm." We've talked almost everyday, and then gone days without talking. She's changed in so many ways, where I've stayed the same and I've worried that one day we'll wake up with nothing in common in which to hold our friendship together. I'm married, she's divorced. I'm homeschooling still, she's not. She has tattoos, I do not. She has good hair, mine sucks. She's in college, in bowling, does karaoke and paints. I clean the house. For all appearances we have absolutely nothing in common. Yet, we do.
And I can't even put my finger on what it is. Her laugh. Her completely crazy sense of humor that says the most inappropriate things (and gets away with it) Her tone and passion when you ask her about how to do your hair (serious business people) or explaining to me who these people are on TV, as though she personally knows them. (I can still read People magazine because of her. Without her knowledge of who the People are in People magazine, it's just a bunch of random humanoids on paper) I know not to drink on the phone with her when she's had a particularly hard day because odds are, at some point during the conversation, I'll choke on it. Anything from the massive breeding of flies and children in Ethipoia to the conviction that her ex's mistress needs to "phone home"....She's all over the place. She always has been and always will be, but one place she never leaves is my side.
Thick and thin. We've been through it all.
Everyone needs a friend like that.