Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Gift

  The week before Sam started 4 year old pre-school, all the kids and parents were invited in for a get-to-know-each-other play date. I had just moved to New York and was still feeling a bit like a fish out of water, desperately wanting to make friends, but not knowing where to start. One of the moms--Sarah-- was really cool. She barreled into the room, all wild blond hair and flowing scarves, with her big infectious laugh,  her irreverent attitude, and sunny screw-you-if-you-don't-like-me personality, and I fell in love a little bit. I mean, this girl was cool. I wanted to be her friend. Bad.
     But the truth is, people like me are not friends with people like her. She was my inner Id come to life. Everything I wanted to be, but just wasn't. I'd love to walk into a room and own it, and it would be awesome to have this blinding shiny aura that draws everyone to me, and I would love to be all badass and not give a damn what anyone thinks of me. But it goes completely against my naturally gentle, sensitive, introverted nature.
     We were not going to be friends. And yet, I longed to be her friend with every fiber of my being.
      So we're sitting in the little classroom, all watching our children play happily with each other.  And then, because the universe hates me, my child, the child of the Southerner, the Outsider, the Newcomer, the One-Nobody-Knows, suddenly turned to another classmate and screamed "SHUT UP!" passionately, at the top of his lungs.
     The mom that I so wanted to befriend, snickered from behind me. "Glad that's not my kid."
     I turned, cringing, and waved my hand in the air. "He's mine."
     She laughed. I died of mortification. And so began our friendship.
      I still have no idea why she wants to hang out with me, because, if we were say, amusement park rides, she would be the height-defying wooden roller coaster and I would be the stationary boat ride in the kiddie section. I'm not the shuttle from the parking lot but any means, but I'm not what you'd call a thrill ride. I'm stable, and supportive, and won't give you whiplash, and those are great friends to have in your life. But you're not going to spend an afternoon hanging out with me, and end up wobbly, exhilarated, and screaming "Whoohoo! What a ride!" But that is Sarah to a T.
     I've never been so challenged by a friendship. Every day I alternate between that whole Sally Fields she likes me! She really likes me! internal squee, to jealousy at her literal zillions of other friends, and her ability to be what I'm not wired to be, to exhilarated, exhausted, inspired, frustrated, awe-struck, grateful, and wallowing in despair. We are so dissimilar that next to her, all my short-comings become glaringly obvious. I'm not normally so insecure, but she is so much more than I am in every way. I have tried to be more than I am, and that failed miserably. No matter how much more I became, I never was as much more as her.
     The stationary boat ride doesn't change course easily and sometimes I know I haven't been the friend she needed, or risen to the occasion as it were. It's not that I didn't want to. I just didn't know how to. I hate conflict. I just don't have an ability to deal with it. So, metaphorically, when my ride doesn't live up to expectations, I just shut it down. Sarah takes my closed sign,  tears it into confetti, throws it on the ground, and then spits on it. I hate her for it. I love her for it.
     To her mind, my reticence and ability to remove myself permanently from a challenging emotional climate are not endearing personality traits. She has challenged me and my avoident tendencies, and I'm sure I'm a better person for it. I can't say too many people have altered me to the degree that she has.  
     So today is her 40th birthday. I realize that I should have ample words at my disposal with which to sing her praises, but with her, they fail me. We exist on two different planes, and just like the ancient Egyptians had 50 words for sand, but only one for snow, my sad little terrestrial world does not have enough words to describe the celestial brilliance that is Sarah.
     Somehow, a big "thank you" and a "You're the awesomest friend ever!" just don't quite seem to cut it. So instead of words, I embroidered for her. To my mind, making something for someone is akin to giving pieces of yourself away. I know that as the needle pricks my fingers, tiny droplets of my blood imbed in the thread. My hair and cells gets woven into the fabric beneath the threads. The placement of each needle rise and fall is a representation of my breathing, my vision, my inner thoughts, and my attention at that moment and the next moment and the next. I literally spent hours and days focused on Sarah as I sewed for her. All this is a bit metaphysical and woowoo--and I'm not really trying to sound as wacko as Vincent Van Gogh and his gift of his severed ear, but you get the point.
     Sarah and I both love kitschy, vintagey, whimsical stuff, and since we both earned the Thirty-One leadership trip to Mexico and her birthday party is a Fabulous 40 Fiesta, when I saw the pattern for Aunt Martha's Hot Iron Transfer called "Down Mexico Way" I knew I needed to make something for her.
         I'd never tried hot iron transfers before, and that was a bit of a learning experience, but I eventually worked it out. I also experimented with different embroidery stitches until I figured out the combination that would look best on this type of design. Then I blinged them out with pompom trim because, seriously, the world just needs more pompom trim--on everything. They turned out really cute.

I alluded to sewing them in the blog I wrote after I came home from my spring break trip to Asheville. I don't think Sarah regularly reads my blog (she works two jobs, has two kids, and is the living embodiment of "If you need something done, ask a busy person") but I wanted to keep it a surprise. It was nice to focus on something different for a while, and it gave me a chance to reflect on her, how awesome she is, and how grateful I am that she's in my life. I'm putting this all out there on the internet as a permanent testament to her awesomeness.
     It may be her birthday, but she is the gift.


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