It’s Not “The End.”

I remember it almost as though it were yesterday. It was six years ago, during a hot July. I was recovering from delivering Vincent and messing around online. I logged onto the Catholic school website to see if the kids’ classes had been loaded and realized they had. I clicked on each one, starting with Sarah’s. I selected 5th grade and started scrolling through the familiar names…until I found a female name that was unfamiliar. What?!? a new girl? Then I clicked on 2nd grade and started scrolling through those mostly familiar names (she had TONS of girls in her class), and what is this?? another unfamiliar female name with the same last name. Interesting.

I ended up clicking on all of them trying to see if this was another family that had just the two girls, or if there were more kids. Ultimately I noticed they had a son two grades ahead of Sarah/their daughter and it looked like a preschooler, though I couldn’t tell the age.

At the time, I coached Sarah’s grade in volleyball, so I went about trying to find out a way to reach the new family to introduce myself and let them know about volleyball and that we’d love to have their 5th grader join the team. I composed an e-mail as carefully as possible and sent it off. I was rather excited to welcome a new family to the school and to see if there were any way we had more in common than two girls who would be in the same classes that coming school year.

Little did I know then, that this family would become cherished friends to ours. It turns out that they are kind of like what I’ve termed our “twin family.” You see, outside of their oldest child, a son who is two years older than Sarah and their daughter, our children match up to each other quite well. After their oldest, they have three daughters in succession and then two sons in succession and each of their children’s birthdays are within months of each of our children’s birthdays.

From the outside looking in, the thing that Jackie and I seem to have the most in common is our family planning. While that is the most apparent, I felt drawn to build a close friendship with Jackie because at the time, I was ecstatic to welcome a large family to our Catholic school. Most of the larger families at our parish had children that were older than ours and we kind of missed the boat on getting included in social events due to the weird phenomena that seems to occur with school relationships: you make the most friends with the families in your oldest child’s grade. Maybe I’m weird, but it does seem to work that way for some other families I have known. Having another mom to work through the challenges of raising a large family in this area seemed like a dream come true. The fact that we’d be working through the same sorts of issues in the same parish environment was even better. I was eager to learn how Jackie felt about our parish, how we did things, how her family did things — all of it.

Over the years, we have shared with each other opinions and support on so many things: middle school girl drama, grade school mean-kid drama, childcare challenges, daycare provider, challenges, education, Church teaching, aging parents, miscarried babies, cheerleading for our girls, public high school and so much more. I have prayed many prayers of thanksgiving over the past six years that I have her in my life and that our children have each other in their lives.

Our friendship became one that I had always desired — one where I never worried about the state of my house when she stopped by. We grew to have the kind of friendship where she called on her way past the house to ask if I had some clothes for one of her kids to borrow as the clothes being worn were wet and they wouldn’t make it home for a bit. We grew to have the kind of friendship where we were never embarrassed that we’d said we would get together for Margaritas, but it took 3 years to make it happen. We grew to have the kind of friendship where we could rely on each other for all sorts of things, but even if we had to say no (this time! but please ask again!) there was complete understanding that life with lots of kids our kids’ ages was busy and chaotic. We shared so much of that and I am forever grateful that God placed them in our lives. It was absolutely the most obvious sign of Divine Intervention that we met six years ago, in my opinion: God knew Jackie and I would need each other. At least I like to think she needed me like I needed her. 🙂 And boy did I need her — right at that time and all through these years.

And even though I’ve needed her, that was never what it was all about, of course. I love talking with her and sharing our families together. I like to think that she thinks our parallel paths is pretty cool, too.

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They are moving away due to a great opportunity for her husband. It’s not far — just three hours (I checked on our way to Texas this summer 🙂 ) — but of course, far enough that daily life involvement will no longer be possible. When my oldest was told the news by her oldest daughter, she came to tell me. I was strong for her, I hugged her and I told her, “These days, that doesn’t mean ‘the end’ like it did when I was a kid. You all have your phones and many other ways to keep in touch easily. You have one of those friendships that last, even if she isn’t here every single day.” After I sent Sarah on to bed, I walked downstairs and asked Craig if Sarah had told him the news and he nodded yes.

And then…the tears came. I cried while he hugged me and told me that it would be all right. I told him, “I’ve never had a best friend to move away from me before. I’m so sad!”

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The next day, Jackie called me and we talked. She didn’t have to, of course, but she apologized for the fact that I heard it through the kids. We’ve spent the past few months trying to appease our kids’ requests for “one more thing” to do with each other. The younger three came to our house three nights in a row one week while the older family members help get the house ready for sale, and just played their hearts out with my kids. We had a nice thrown-together joint Graduation and First Communion party when Dominic and their son received First Holy Communion in May. Our oldest daughters have gone to movies and breakfast and all sorts of things to hang out. And the middle daughters have taken trips to WOF or just hang out at one or the other’s houses.

Tonight is my turn. Margaritas with Jackie and with another friend of ours, whose daughter is the third in their “three amigos” friendship.

I am going to miss Jackie and her family so much. But I know with all my heart this is not “the end.” It’s just the beginning of a new phase for us all.

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