I met Katie five years ago. I knew as soon as I met her that she would be a friend. She was sunlight and smiles, radiance and light. She was to be a babysitter so I didn't think I would be around her too much but I knew my children would be delighted any time they saw Katie. (Turns out that we always found a way to talk and talk when I got home -- what a shocker!) She took care of Caroline for me as she finished her last year at UC Davis. At the time, we were remodeling our house and I often would give her Mission Impossible babysitting jobs and she would rise to the challenge. I would find her dancing to music upstairs, sweating and laughing while Caroline jumped on an old mattress on the ground. Caroline went on stroller rides and long walks all over town. Together they picnicked, played, pranced and power-housed their way through a year. Patrick was always a welcome partner in crime and one of my favorite Katie memories was pulling up and finding not just Patrick, Katie and Caroline doing cartwheels on the front lawn but a reticent newly minted teen-ager, Mary Kate, as well. Seeing the crowd cartwheel across the lawn made me want to cartwheel too. I found myself in sweet smelling grass laughing and realizing the power of living carefree. Katie knows how to have fun and her infectious zest for life makes you want to have fun too.
|Two sunflower beauties!|
The quick answer: "Oh yes!"
During the wedding, Patrick made a friend or I should say: met an agent. Steve, the DJ at the wedding and a great friend to both the bride and groom, facilitated a moment at the wedding where Patrick could sing to the newly married couple. It became one of those classic wedding moments with the couple dancing in a circle of onlookers with little children dancing at their feet. I ended up beginning a conversation with Steve that turned into a job offer. And just like that, Steve became Patrick's aide at school and a cherished part of our daily life. Amazing! Best of all, Katie and Bryan were moving back to Davis and we could see them on a regular basis.
This entire year, I relished the good fortune of having such amazing people in my neighborhood. Katie and I took up knitting together on Monday nights in the fall. We laughed at the foibles of learning something new. We traded dog stories since we each had mischievous puppies. We read each other's blogs and made comments (yay!). We went on walks with our dogs, met for lunch and had the joy that comes with a friend moving back home. It was a comfy, cozy friendship...it needed no hard work or extra energy. We were happy just to see each other and hear the latest details of our lives. Katie made cupcakes with Caroline after preschool; she played with Patrick; she encouraged us as we entered the fray of college applications and rejoiced with Jack at his graduation party. Just a few weeks ago, she played flashlight tag on a hot July night with my kids and some friends...laughing and giggling the whole time.
And just like that, this year is over. Katie got a job as a high school English teacher in her hometown a few hours away and she leaves August 1st. Our daily/weekly friendly dose of Katie (and dear Bryan) will turn into a monthly or quarterly dose. And, those of us with any life experience know that the dose will move to a yearly or whenever we can do it dose soon after that. That radiance will be rarer and rarer for me but a joy and a light for her family and her new students. Life makes its twists and turns and we must move on.
So, when Katie came over for lunch this past week it was bittersweet. She brought a basket full of goodies to help me say good-bye to Jack (and the underlying acceptance of saying good-bye to her as well). We were talking and visiting and Jack came in and made the most delicious looking salad out of thin air. Katie and I were entranced with the colors and the beauty and the simplicity so we copied Jack: picked tomatoes out of the garden, used up the tiny mozzarella balls that were randomly in our fridge, found the oversized radish that Caroline chose at the grocery store because it was a great color, cut up the carrots with the green tops for our bunny and laid it on a bed of arugula.
It was accidental this salad and yet stunning, delicious and beautiful. It had no menu or recipe or any planning. It just came together in a natural, easy way. Just like my friendship with Katie. I'm 20 years older than Katie. I wasn't looking for a friend when we found each other. It just happened in the easiest, nicest way. This unlikely friendship became a gift to myself and I cherished it.
Now, I must say good-bye.
So...dear friend, thank you. Thank you for the beauty of yourself: honest, radiant, curious, carefree and living life with a big open heart. My accidental salad will be forever with me. My time with you loving my kids is logged into my heart's memory. Laughing in the doorway, solving the world's problems at the kitchen table or watching Maggie and Buddy romp in the backyard will be the moments I miss.
I will miss you -- it's a simple as that.
I'm ending with a quote from Wicked, just for you, Katie:
"...You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end,
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...
Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good."