Friends of a Lifetime

This is a story about three girls who still think they’re twenty years old.  But in fact, these girls are all turning forty, and these girls are headed to Mexico late next week to celebrate the milestone.

These girls are me and my two oldest friends, Sarah and Shannon, both of whom I’ve written about many times, sans permission.  This is another one of those ask-for-forgiveness-not-permission posts, so I’m going to take some creative liberties to share our history with you, and they’ll likely read this post on their Tuesday morning commutes and shake their heads at my antics.  That’s our usual pattern.  (I’ll load my words up with hyperlinks, so that you can read more about the backstories, if you’re so inclined.)

I’ve known Sarah the longest, since we were twelve years old and became attached at the hip in grade seven.  We met Shannon in our first year at the University of Calgary, and we quickly became an inseparable trio.  Using our first initials in a brash acronym, we established the ASS Tour, and made sure the three of us went on a short annual getaway.  Back then, our getaways meant road trips and small towns and hostel rooms and Missy Elliot mix tapes.  We would take a weekend in Red Deer here or an overnight in Edmonton there, and once drove West for a week in Kelowna and Vancouver, through forest fire smoke and rock slides on the Coquihalla highway.

In 2002, I moved to Toronto, and in early 2003, Sarah moved to Washington, DC.  Shannon stayed in Calgary, and I’m not sure if we ever spoke about it in depth, but in the back of my mind I always thought we’d all move back.  However, life happens, careers grow, marriages take place, babies are had, and somehow we all found ourselves living wonderful lives 3500km apart.  We still make the effort to see each other regularly, usually every second Christmas in Alberta, and the odd time we’ll uncover bonus visits like work trips or concert weekends.  We managed a few days in NYC in 2011, the week after my miscarriage, at a time when I desperately needed them to help me heal, and our last big trip was in 2014, when we went to Vegas to see Britney Spears and relive our Uni days.

My memories of those adventures, and my memories of the three of us in general, are overwhelmed with laughter.  The kind of laughter that makes you gasp for breath and squeeze your sides and wipe your tears.  The kind of laughter that annoys your husbands and wakes your children and makes everyone else roll their eyes.  We’re gone for four days, and with some creative scheduling at Burlington Sports & Spine, that’s only meant one shift off for me during our busy Winter season.  It’s a short trip due to the realities of busy lives, but those four days will give us time to reflect and reminisce, and most importantly, to laugh; and the Mexican sunshine, the sandy beach, the tacos and tequila, well, those won’t hurt either.

This year’s ASS Tour is going to mark our milestone birthdays (although, ahem, I’m the youngest and my birthday is still nine months away), but more importantly, it’s going to mark decades of friendship, support, love, and connection.

They are the friends of a lifetime.

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Sundays, puppies, baseball, and books.

I had a moment on Sunday.  Life is moments strung together, isn’t it?  And this one was a moment for the top of the string.

Sunday was a beautiful Fall day, one of those crisp air days, with blue sky and sunshine and the crunch of Ontario maples beneath my feet.  It was the second day of an atypical under-scheduled weekend, two full days in which my family of four spent no more than a couple of waking hours apart.  Just how I like it.  After an early Sunday dinner, we decided to wander over towards the library to return some books and play some baseball.  We grabbed the bat and the ball, the books and the bag, the pup and the dog treats, and away we went.

It’s a short ten-minute walk from my house to Burlington’s Central library, located on a huge urban greenspace with ball diamonds, soccer fields, and a playground just outside the library doors.  As we wandered along, the sky began to shift towards an early sunset, another reminder that Winter is on its way.  We entered the park, and my daughter and I headed towards the book drop bin, while my husband, son, and puppy headed for the baseball diamond.  We called the dog back and forth, a few hundred metres separating ourselves, practicing her recall command, marvelling at her temperament, and showering her with praise and treats.  At the book drop bin, I passed pile after pile of Berenstain Bears books, as my daughter happily loaded them into the drawer, waiting for the thump of a book deposit success.  Job done, we headed back across the expanse of grass, towards the baseball diamond and our family game.

And that’s when the moment happened.

“Mom,” she said, her six-year-old hand in mine.  “I……. I……. I,” she stammered, searching for her words.  I could hear the emotion in her voice and see the depth of her feelings splayed across her face.  “I love you Mom,” she said as she turned towards me and reached her arms up, her unspoken signal to be picked up.  At fifty pounds and four feet tall, she’s not a toddler anymore, but she’s still my baby, and I’ll happily take a wrap-around hug anytime she’s giving them out.

I picked her up, breathed her in, squeezed her tight.  And as her little cheek pressed up against mine, I felt the moment overwhelm me too.

Bliss.  Gratitude.  Joy.  Presence.  Whatever you want to call it, we felt it.

Green grass under our feet, pink sky above our heads, a puppy at our side, a baseball in our hands.  It all came together on Sunday night.

A moment, that’s all.

But a big moment for us.

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She was there.

I feel so happy.

I’ve just had a three-day visit with Shannon, one of my very best friends.  She flew from Calgary, just for the weekend; a quick little getaway to use up some airline points and get in some girl time.  She left her husband and two young boys at home, and when she left my place yesterday afternoon, she said to my kids,

“Thank you for sharing your mom with me.”

Such an interesting comment, and so applicable to this stage in our lives.  You see, the last time she visited Burlington was in the Spring of 2009, when I was a brand new, first-time mother.  On that visit, she had her husband and 18-month-old son with her, and they came specifically to meet my newborn.  I was still trying to figure out the new version of me, and the balancing act that comes with parenthood.  My memories of that visit are scarce, muddled amongst sleepless nights, non-stop nursing, and piles of laundry.  But she was there.

Her visit before that, in Spring 2006, is also foggy for me, but for a different reason: my bachelorette party.  Shannon and my friend Sarah flew in to surprise me in Toronto, only a few months before my wedding.  And as a control freak and a planner, let me tell you that I cannot be easily surprised.  But they pulled it off, and whisked me through the TO club scene with a crown on my head and a bachelorette sash around my neck.  She was there again.

Shannon and I have been friends for nearly 20 years now.  We met in l997, at the University of Calgary, when we lived on the same floor in student residence.  We were both raised in small-town, rural Alberta, and had a shared love of sports and boys, with some Type A stubbornness and ambition thrown into the mix.  When we went back to our respective hometowns for our first mid-University Summer, we cried like we were going off to war, and when we returned back to school in the Fall, we celebrated like the Uni students we were.  We’ve been through breakups and heartaches, cross-country moves and graduate school, weddings and babies, mistakes and accomplishments.  We’ve travelled to Milk River and Sundre, Red Deer and Edmonton, New York City and Toronto, Vancouver and Vegas.

“Thank you for sharing your mom with me,” she said, and my heart was full.  Because she gets it.  She gets that my primary role around here, and to those little people, is mom.  She also gets that my other roles are wife and chiropractor and friend.  She knows the back-story that wrote my story and the blocks that built my life.  She’s a part of my foundation, my memories, my past, my future.  When the big stuff happens, she’s there.  And when the little stuff happens, the stuff she doesn’t see because we live so far apart, she books a trip East to see for herself.  “What do you want to do while you’re here?” I asked her when she booked her flight.  “I want to see your life,” she said.  So I showed her: she saw bedtimes and school drop-offs and CrossFit and downtown walks and hot tubs.

She was there.  Just like she’s always been.

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