Thursday, May 21, 2009

This Is The Story

Today's post is brought to you by my friend, Lisa, normally found over at Mappa Mundi. The rules say we have to blog every day...but they don't say where!

This is the story of how Debi and I got to be friends. We met for the first time when I came down to Savannah for her wedding, which I realize is kind of an odd order to proceed in – usually you're friends with someone first and THEN eventually you go to her wedding.

We knew each other online in a casual way for a couple of years through Readerville. We had corresponded, but I don't think either of us could have picked the other out of a lineup. Still, when she put out the informal invitation, something called to me. That year I was single after a long spell of being attached and I was rolling in the freedom, the feeling that I could go wherever I wanted and do whatever struck my fancy, and that after a long stretch of child rearing the child in question was not only old enough to fend for himself for a long weekend but take care of the dog as well. I was ripe for an adventure.

And since I had no money, that expanded the definition of adventure because it meant… ROAD TRIP! I don’t even remember how the details got worked out. The whole thing snowballed, and suddenly I had plans to meet up with friends in Philly and drive down to Savannah from there, and hook up with a fourth friend who was flying down from Massachusetts and who had enough Marriott points for a free luxury suite. I could wear stockings with seams and maybe have a fling. It just sounded like fun: that was enough. I made her a marzipan wedding cake topper. I made a road trip cd. I was set to connect.

When I cut out of work that Thursday evening a blizzard was brewing, and took a bit too much time at the post office mailing off a package of books to a guy I liked. By the time I hit the road it was snowing like crazy, and I can honestly say that ride down the New Jersey Turnpike was the scariest drive of my life. I played the road trip cd nonstop for the entire 2½ hours it took me to get to Philadelphia, singing along the whole time, much of it in a tiny, quavery, scared voice.

But I made it, and we hit the road early the next morning and sailed down the eastern seaboard. I had driving amnesty for most of the day because of my horrible trip the night before, and I sat in the back seat, joyously eating Cadbury Crème Eggs and feeling really pleased with the world.

We hit Savannah sometime after dark and met up with Debi’s party, and there was no drama, no heavenly chorus. We’d all had internet friends before and eventually gotten together with them face-to-face, and we were all, as I remember, pretty blasé about it. The first time I ever met an online friend in the flesh we had to make the requisite jokes about axe murderers and crazy stalkers and all that, even though we knew we were both normal as could be. But by 2005, sitting in a smoky bar in Savannah, where I’d never been before, talking to a bunch of people I considered friends but had never seen before, it felt normal.

And I think that normalcy is what cemented things for us. We didn’t have to waste time fussing around with axe-murderer jokes. There was nothing strange about meeting Debi’s family – her mama, her wonderful Nana, and Britt. Looking beautiful in her robin’s-egg blue dress, with her tattoo and her irrepressible smile – in retrospect, I’m just thunderstruck with thanks that I got to a chance to talk and laugh with Britt on such a bright, happy day. In retrospect, what was great about all of it – and why I think Debi and I are friends now – is because it was all rolled up into a solid ball of slightly sweeter-than-usual averageness. A special day, but at the same time it’s just what we DID, out of a freeform desire to have adventures and make friends and have some stories to tell.

So when things did get very bad, we had that bridge – a combination of unexceptional motivations and at the same time, that desire to connect.

And here we are. These are funny times. We have the tools to relate deeply and at the same time to hold each other at arms’ length, our choice. Me, I’ve done a lot of connecting. I didn’t have a fling at Debi’s wedding but now I’m living with the guy I mailed those books to, and it’s probably a good thing that none of us know the future. It’s definitely a good thing when we take the chances we’re offered. That’s all it is, really – taking chances. That leap of faith. Going on a crazy road trip to somebody’s wedding, laughing with her daughter, driving home again. And here we are.

(I don't have a picture of us either! We need to get together and fix that.)


Jim McDowell said...

Such a beautifully written and touching story of friendship. It was my good fortune to stumble upon it tonight. Thank you.

stephany0423 said...

Just happened upon this... I used to live in Savannah - a random search led me to the post. Friendships are beautiful.

Sue Dickman said...

I love these guest posts, both of them. And I especially love the story of a happy friendship from both points of view. A very sweet way to end guest post/blog day. (I am posting this both places, so as to be thorough.)

Mary Catherine said...

You're SO good with the story, Lisa.

Lisa said...

It is a sweet story, isn't it? I love thinking about the organic ways friendships grow and thrive, and it's neat to have someone who'll examine her side of it along with me.