This past summer we went to visit a friend who had relocated to the west coast, and who I have been missing since the previous summer. The summer before, she and her family had sold their house, packed up the RV, and headed ‘back home’ where she and her husband had grown up. She graciously posted regularly on Facebook so I continued to feel connected to her, their journey, and the setting of new family roots.
I have to say that Sarah is one of the kindest, gentlest, most caring, and giving people that I have ever met. I liken her to Mother Teresa but a bit more witty and sassy! When she announced that she was going to be moving I felt heartbroken for her little Vermont town, because she volunteered so much, and, selfishly, was sad for my own self. Even though I didn’t get to spend much ‘in real life’ time with her during the school year we always made a plan to reconnect at our local lake during the summer. Our friendship was mostly through Facebook, so I knew that wouldn’t change, but previously I knew I had solace in knowing that I could make the short 20 minute drive to hang out at any time.
Like many of the friends that I had made when our children were toddlers or preschoolers our adult relationships began to change once our children were enrolled full time in school. I had savored the years that I was a stay-at-home or work part-time mom because I knew that I wanted to be fully present when my own children were young. I found camaraderie with other moms who were making a similar decision and we scheduled play dates or meet ups, and I think we did so as much for us “moms” to connect as we did for the kids to have time together. However, life began to get busy when our children become enrolled in school for a full day and we ourselves attempted to get our own careers back on track. Somehow these little people also now began to have their own social calendar and many of my “mom friends” and I drifted apart as our new duty of “chauffeur” became to eat up much of our free time.
For Sarah and I our children never ended up on the same soccer team or Little League, and so seeing each other in person was rare during the school year. The one overlap was a extended once-a-week children’s music series during early 2015. The focus was on Abenaki music and I was hopeful they would let us moms that wanted to stay on site sit in a little room off of the main room. The drumming, singing, and community during that course felt wonderful and I remember talking to Sarah each week about the progression of my mom’s cancer. She knew that I had just lost my father less than a year ago and she was so kind and sensitive in talking to me about this added grief of watching my mom slip away. Though she didn’t know it, seeing her each week and talking while our children explored Native songs was such a support to me. I realize now that sometimes it’s those little life lines that just keep you afloat when life seems overwhelming, and I knew then if I ever needed to reach out to her I could.
The following year my sweet friend lost her father to cancer, and we now shared that pain of the loss of our fathers. As her father’s disease progressed I reached out to find ways to help and never felt sure how to be there. I wished that our kids shared some sort of after school activity so we could see each other on a weekly basis but they didn’t. She worked from home so I couldn’t just happen to stop by at her job, so I was not sure how to connect with her without invading her privacy. In hindsight, I wish I had convinced her to have a standing weekly mom hang-out (or even monthly), but somehow it never seemed right to prioritize “mom time” over kid chauffeuring, work, or domestic chores.
Thankfully, last summer we did get to reconnect in real life. We went to visit Sarah and family in their new home on the West Coast. It felt so warm and welcoming to be there with them, and our families got to spend more time together than we probably had collectively in the whole time we’ve known them. Sarah and I had time to have some so great conversations, we all got to explore nature together, we feasted on crab we caught, and we all had a wonderful time together. Sarah shared that one of the ways she and her children know that her dad is shining down of them is when they find random feathers in nature, which is something that I felt about my own dad since his passing. So on the morning of our departure, after we said our goodbyes inside the house, my own family and I were in our car about to back out of their driveway. We took a moment to pause and immediately noticed a feather randomly floating from the sky. We all watched it float down and gently land on branch of a tree next to the driveway. I wanted to run inside to tell Sarah what happened, but then thought I should wait and instead write about it. I should use that little story to tell her how much her kindness means to me, and though we don’t get to sit in cafes and sip coffee together, I am always only a click or phone call away. Somehow it feels weird in a digital age to find ‘in real life’ friends, and somehow taking the time to tell others how we feel becomes risky, and it shouldn’t. So I have no empirical proof but I bet that feather was tossed down from BOTH of our dads, encouraging us BOTH to continue on being our true, kind-hearted, altruistic, and giving selves despite what the state of the world might be. That feather floating down from the sky was such a tender moment and one that reminds me of the power of friendship and faith.