It was almost love at first introduction. Technically, we’d been introduced one other time, so, love at second introduction to be absolutely accurate. Karen and I met for the second time in January of 1994. We were both attending a church retreat at a campground in North Florida. Most of our church’s congregation attended, but Karen and I were both staying with six or seven other youngish women in a ‘chalet’, which was actually a single wide trailer, nicely appointed on the interior, and cedar siding on the exterior. More importantly, we, the inhabitants were a merry, chatty bunch. The seeds of new friendships were sown, and to my recollection a lovely time was had by all.
The real bonding for us, however, occurred on the way back to Orlando and our respective apartments. By some happy accident, Karen ended up offering me a ride home and I gladly accepted. Ordinarily, the drive from Camp Kulaqua to Orlando is roughly two and half hours. It took us close to four. That’s what happens when two kindred spirits become so engrossed in getting to know each other, talk non-stop and inadvertently miss their exit, and end up driving an extra hundred or so miles on the Florida Turnpike.
From then on, Karen and I were pretty much inseparable. We went to the gym together, church together, dinner together, double dates, movies… you name it. By the following August when our individual leases were up on our apartments, it only made sense that we move in together. If we lived together we wouldn’t have to drive the 3 miles to one another’s dwellings or meet somewhere in the middle. Never was there a better roommate situation. I did the cooking, she locked the doors and cleaned out the lint trap of our clothes dryer. She kept me safe and I kept her fed. Perhaps best of all though, was our enormous combined wardrobe, since we had similarly sized frames and feet we were never at a loss for something to wear, and what twenty-one year old doesn’t love that?
Fast forward significantly! Throw in a wedding for both she and I, three kids for me, multiple moves for each, a relocation to Big Sky Country for both, stir in numerous memories, whiz up countless holidays, mix with meaningful moments of laughter and tears and you’ve got the general- albeit condensed picture of two lives shared, enjoyed and intertwined.
A few years ago Karen and I sat down and tried to count how many Christmases we’d spent together in twenty years of knowing one another. We’ve shared well over half of our holidays with each other, because we’ve actually been more like sisters than friends, and have shared many of life’s most treasured moments.
Last Thanksgiving, was not quite the typical festive feast that is normally had when we spend a holiday meal together. The food was the same, the love as strong as ever, but our hearts were a bit heavier than normal. September of 2015, Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when she told me she’d found a lump. I cried then, and have shed more than a few tears over that bit of news, since. So, after dinner last year, while my children chattered, and our husbands, talked football or politics, one of the two, Karen and I went shopping. It’s not what you think. We didn’t get in our car and rush to whatever store was willing to open for Black Friday frenzy on Thursday night. We went to the web. We shopped for wigs, got out the tape measure, and wrote down the dimensions of her cranium. After that we talked about chemo, surgery, cried a few tears, laughed a little over some of style options that faux follicles could provide, and marveled at the cost of synthetic hair.
This year, after two surgeries, toxic treatment, countless driven miles for weekly infusions, various hats, plenty of puffy eyes, damp tissues and multiple ‘new dos’ we’re celebrating yet another Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving the thing I’m most grateful for… I get to spend my favorite holiday with one of the very best friends a girl could ever hope for.
The gift of friendship, the bounty of food, the blessing of good health, loved ones near and far… these are the things with which I am indeed blessed.
Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!