Wednesday, October 23, 2013

She-devil sisters

I'd like you to know my best friend, Kathie. Today is HER day as she defends her dissertation. We've lived through thick and thin together, mostly thick. And I haven't liked watching this so-called process make one of the most brilliant people I know feel less than. She teasingly calls it hazing; I call it ridiculous.

She'll sail through, perhaps a bit bruised, but she'll find and learn the lesson in it all, just as she always does.

So often she has to remind me of her humble Eastern Kentucky origin. She calls herself a boarder-crosser of her foray into higher education. One of her longtime mentors wonders what statistics there are for first-generation Ph.D candidates. I'm sure she defies them.

We met almost 15 years ago and bonded when we were both pregnant: me with my second and her, with her only. The summer after our babies were born, we were out and about all season toting infants and props to all manner of festivals. Her son is my "other child" and my daughters call her their "other mother." I was there through her separation and divorce. She picked me up off the floor when medication withdrawal made me suicidal. She always cooks with my food allergies in mind; I've been privileged enough to read and share some of the dissertation process with her.

At face value, we look very different: single mom, 11 years younger about to get Ph.D and, hopefully, faculty position. Longtime married mom of teens pursuing ministry, writing and art with the only schooling beyond a bachelor's, and the only that appealed to me, from something called "School of the Spirit."

And yet we always seem to be on some spectrum of the same path. She's completing a long educational process and looking at next steps. I am discerning my call to ministry, the balance of life, fibromyalgia and career.

We're both pleasers and helpers. We love to cook and entertain. She's an extravert and I'm an introvert, yet we cross over into the other's zone. She impresses my teens with her musical tastes; I'm musically illiterate. Yet we both LOVE horror movies, which we discovered many years into the friendship quite by accident. One October, we went to the local theater's showing of low-grade horror flicks and giggled our way through titles like Last Woman on Earth and She-Devils. Not long after, I came across perfect she-devil costumes: slitted pseudo-seude skirts, bone collars, fake-fur arm bands, and skull headpieces. She busted up when I came in with them and coerced her into trying one on. I don't think I've ever laughed that hard.

We annually take a Grailville retreat together, sneaking in movies like Mama Mia and Sametime Next Year to balance the solemnity. Our immediate families trek to Pike Lake State Park together, always share Christmas breakfast of bagels, lox, capers and mimosas and split trick-or-treating. Her street gets hundreds of kids, mine only a handful, so I lock up after an hour, take my leftovers and head to her busy corner of the world. Always there's a cold beer and soup waiting.

Can't tell you how many late-night trips down the alley I've taken, much like last Saturday, when she had a choice of hot soups and red wine after a full-day retreat for me. The moon was so full and bright as I walked back, stuffed with food and companionship, grateful for this wonderful sister. She accepts me for who I am, however I am, wherever I am. We call ourselves "The family we choose." Last year for Christmas, I had soft, red robes embroidered with that phrase for all of our little family. Through the years, we've talked about communal living with a handful of people of all ages and, of course, us and our families.

I just can't fathom her being more than down the alley or around the corner.

Congratulations, Kathie, on earning your doctorate AND being such a wonderful friend. Thank you. Always.

• Who has my back?
• When does a friendship graduate to family?
• How has Spirit steered particular people into my path?
• What has friendship taught me?
• When have I felt l unconditionally loved or accepted?

as new mothers,
we bumbled together

and through her
and mine

always mirroring
the way for
one another

no matter
the separation
or difference

cheers to
the sisterly
of the world

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