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“All of us felt it. We must have. For in front of their gate, before we drove away still wearing their burnooses, we fell into a four-ply, laughing hug, we were so glad to know one another and so glad that all the trillion chances in the universe had brought us to the same town and the same university at the same time.” —Wallace Stegner in Crossing to Safety

Have you felt it? To just be barely acquainted with someone and feel so giddy at the friendship that you start measuring things not by millions or billions, but trillions? 

I’m not much for people longing for the good old days—but there are two things especially I wish progress hadn’t thrust upon us. First, I wish fathers still came home from work at 5:30. And second, I wish we didn’t move so much. I like the old model of marrying within your town, dividing your father’s farm, taking turns hosting Mom and Dad for Sunday dinner. While your children play in the dirt with their cousins…

Perhaps it never was so, but we’re farther away from it now than we were then, and the real point is that I wish we lived closer to both Levi’s and my families.

But there are degrees to be earned and jobs to be had, and the seductive Big City convinces us that unless we begin with her, we’ll end up nowhere.

I fell for her ploy and moved to New York less than one month after I’d graduated from college. Thousands of miles away from my family, I moved in with a girl named Kaedi, who in a matter of minutes began to play the part of sister to me. (So convincingly that I found myself being rude to her when I was in a bad mood and wearing her clothes without permission.)

At some point, we agreed to host a spelling bee (I know) at our apartment. It was fate that hinted the true spelling of the word ‘geusioleptic’ to Marc, an up-and-coming who had just moved to Manhattan. Marc won the Bee, attracted Kaedi’s notice, and in a couple month’s time, had her heart as well.

Around the same time, Levi Smylie asked me to dinner for the first time and though I had no intention of ever enjoying his company, I said yes. So Levi and I started dating just as Marc and Kaedi started dating, and every night, after Marc went home, Levi and I sat on the couch and helped Kaedi analyze Marc’s every move.  Then Levi would go home, and Kaedi and I would sit on her bed and dissect Levi. “No definitely, he’s moving too fast.”

Soon, the four of us were spending a lot of time together. If it’s hard to find a good friend, it’s that much harder to find a good couple friend. Marc and Kaedi were they.

We all got engaged around the same time. We were married within a week of each other. We went on to have little girls that we named after Australian cities.* Marc and Levi took the GMAT on the same day. We spent Christmas and Easter with them. We went on roadtrips with them. 

After Sunday dinners together, Kaedi and I would start the dishes while Marc the tenor and Levi the bass (or was it Levi the tenor and Marc the bass?) would stand at the piano and sing. When I had a miscarriage, it was Kaedi who showed up that afternoon with dinner and then scrubbed our apartment. When Kaedi was admitted to the hospital because her unborn baby wasn’t moving, they called Levi to help give a blessing. That sort of thing.  Because we had moved away from ours, Marc and Kaedi graciously assumed the role of family in our lives.

But progress, she keeps at you. Last month we trekked up to Inwood to watch the last of Marc and Kaedi’s apartment find its way into a moving van. While my day to day hasn’t changed much, today as I packed fruit to take to Philharmonic in the Park I did another one of those sighs, knowing that Marc and Kaedi wouldn’t join us.

We’ve made other friends since we’ve lived here. The Lord has been kind to us in that way. Not a day goes by when we are not blessed in some way by the association of friends that we have made here in New York.

But there is something about the friends you make first. Ever since Marc and Kaedi left, my mind keeps coming back to Crossing to Safety and that moment in the very beginning when two young couples on the verge of life fall down on each other with an eagerness that seems more befitting of a redemption scene.

I suppose there was a sort of redemption about the whole thing, because when you feel that spark there is definite sense that you’ve been saved. I can still see us then, each grappling about, wanting to clutch at something steady while trying to navigate these few years when we chose spouses and careers and start families—years that we sense will determine everything for us. Of course we’re still grappling, but the passage of time adds light and so we’re past that point of desperation that found us so grateful to find friends as needy as we. What with their hands shaking just as hard as ours, we all had to hold on extra tight.

 

*The name thing (Sydney and Adelaide) was a coincidence. We did not plan this. I’m sure coordinating baby names with friends is a big no on Lisa’s list. I am not about to violate that list.

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