Thursday, June 30, 2011

All for One, One For All

Ahhh.  The weekend.  Finally.  It was, as expected, a busy week at work, but there's definitely signs that the summer slowdown is starting.  Time to look at planning for the next year, working on a bunch of downtime projects I have put aside, and some spring cleaning.  Oh, and bidding!  Next month...

Until then, I am keeping myself (and especially my mind) occupied with organizing my apartment and doing some spring cleaning of my own belongings.  It's beyond time.  Luckily this week I have a holiday right in the middle (Monday, or our virtual Wednesday), so I have some extra down time.  Of course, those in the U.S. are gearing up for a three-day weekend, but, having just come back from vacation, I am actually looking forward to my two two-day weeks :-).

Nomads by Nature is hosting this week's Round Up on the very timely theme of Independence Day, which is, of course, the holiday in the middle of next week!  And while many of my friends at Embassies and Consulates around the world are frantically preparing for their official celebrations in honor of America's National Day, I am preparing for a relaxing week.  Because we celebrated our National Day in March, to avoid the heat and summer slowdown.  And right now, I am very thankful for that.  All I need to do is show up to our Consulate's unofficial celebration and enjoy myself.  No suits or heels or makeup or endless small talk required!

Independence Day, for me, has always been linked with my birthday (two days later).  Growing up, it was always an almost painful day to get through - so much celebrating but still so long to go before presents and cake.  And, on occasion, the cake had a 4th of July theme (you all know the strawberry/blueberry/cool whip cake I'm talking about!).  As I watched fireworks in the evening, all I would be thinking was that it was only 36 more hours until MY day.  As I get older, I don't have the same kind of anticipation for my birthday, especially as I have started wishing the numbers stayed the same or reversed.  (And I know I'm not old, but I'm coming up on some scary birthdays.)

So since I don't have a terribly exciting Independence Day story to tell, I am going to write about this year and the best early birthday present I could have possibly received. 

I have struggled with how to present this story for the last few weeks, and I will probably botch it now, but here goes.

I have a number of very close friends, some dating back to childhood and others met as I progressed through school and life.  However, my most enduring friendship from an early age has been with two (now) women from my hometown.  E and I were the same age; L is a year younger and grew up on the same street as E.  We look back and laugh now, but the truth is that when we were very young (5-8 or so), L and I were occasionally jealous of each other's relationship with E.  As we grew older, though, and entered middle school we became inseparable.  We formed our own little Three Musketeers group.  Rare was a weekend when we didn't sleep over at someone's house.  Right before high school, E moved with her mom to a town about an hour away, meaning a new school.  Even with the distance, though, and our now three different schools, we maintained the relationship.  Most of my memories from childhood and high school involve E&L.  We did everything together, talked about everything, and grew into three very different young women together.  We experienced together amazing highs and heartbreaking lows and everything in between.  We were also, as you'd imagine, very close to one another's families, all whom I still love to this day. 

For many reasons, which I won't go into here, our paths diverged with E more than we would have liked as college progressed.  L and I were able to maintain a close friendship over the years and distance.  We probably grew even closer than ever.  But there was always a part of 'us' missing. 

But, thanks to the wonder of Facebook and perseverance by all of us, we managed to reconnect with E in the past few months.  We've exchanged lots of emails and  planned to get together whenever two or more of us was in the same place.  E lives in New Hampshire, L in London, and me in KSA.  We had tried to all be in the same place at the same time, but, sadly, L couldn't make it home in June.  E's mom and I set the date for me to go to the family home for dinner. 

As I drove the familiar but new-all-over-again roads to their home, I was both excited and a little nervous.  After all those years and all that had happened to all of us, how would it go.

Every tiny fear was put to rest as soon as I put the car in park in the driveway.  E came bounding out of the house, looking exactly as I remembered and apparently not aging a day.  We embraced, and all was right again.  I went inside and gave big hugs to her brother, mother, and step-father, all of whom had big parts of my childhood and adolescence.  It was as comfortable and as perfect as one could hope.  E's husband had to work, unfortunately, but I can't wait to meet him.

We had a wonderful afternoon and dinner talking and catching up and telling stories and reminiscing and laughing.  And as night fell and it got later, we just kept talking.  E and I were finally the only ones still up, and we just couldn't stop talking.  We talked about college and jobs and her marriage and my travels and everything we'd missed in each other's lives in the last years.  We fell right back into our old rhythm of talking into the wee hours of the morning about everything and nothing.  We talked and laughed and talked and cried and talked until three in the morning.  Until we both started losing our voices.  Until I absolutely had to leave and drive home.  I really should have thought ahead and packed an overnight bag.  We were missing L, without question, but thankfully she'll be in NH in August for her own much-overdue reunion with E.  And I cannot wait until the next time all three of us are in NH together.  Because that will just make everything complete and perfect. 

I didn't regain my voice for about three days after that, but it was worth it.  More than anything, I needed to spend a wonderful twelve hours talking to one of my best friends.  And I needed to reconnect and get that important piece of my life back.  And every day since I've been thankful for reconnecting.  And whenever I look at the picture of the three of us that I have hanging in my bedroom, I can smile and no longer look at it wistfully.

Almost twenty-five years on, we've grown into three remarkable women (if I do say so), living on three continents and working in three very different fields.  But there's an unbreakable bond of friendship, and I am so thankful for these women and their families and what they mean to me.  Reinforcing that bond was the absolute best early birthday present I could have asked for.

And now that I've gone completely sappy and made myself cry, I'll end this entirely too long post.  Here's wishing everyone a wonderful Independence Day, surrounded by family and friends.  Happy Birthday America!