Sunday, September 10, 2006

Old Friends

September always brings so many routines, in the weather. This year it's bringing one more huge change, unique to this year. One of my oldest and dearest friends is moving next week to Australia.

I met Shoshana just a couple of weeks or so after we moved here nine years ago. For four plus years, I worked for her as the administrative assistant at the synagogue where she was rabbi. After I left that job, we remained very good friends.

When I met her, she was engaged to be married. I remember hearing the stories of their cyberspace meeting, their subsequent long-distance romance, and finally of her wedding. I remember meeting Bobby, kind and gentle and a great science fiction writer. I remember her morning sickenss when she was pregnant with her first son, and how (before she she had made knowledge of the pregnancy public) she would wear sea bands in the office and then whip them off surreptiously whenever a member of the congregation came in. I remember when she fainted on the bimah because of low blood pressure, and how she worried about being able to make it up and down during high holy day prayers when she was pregnant. I remember making something like eighty phone calls to help announce Yonatan's birth. I remember his bris; what a beautiful baby he was. And I remember too all the times I carried him around with me at the synagogue, showing him the stained glass windows and singing songs to him, or playing with him on the floor of the office while his Ima worked at the computer. We used to joke that he'd become part of my job description. I didn't mind -- holding that little one during the first few months of his life was very healing for me in ways that are difficult to explain. It was in holding Y. that I realized, finally, that I really did feel ready for motherhood myself, after a long unsure journey toward that destination.

I still remember all the boxes and boxes from their move -- from a town several miles away to a little house here in our town, just a few blocks from us. We were amazed that B. had coded every box with a letter and number so that they knew exactly what was in every box and where it would end up going. We stayed late at their old apartment the night before the movers arrived, helping to pack the last things.

I remember all the luna bars S. ate during her second pregnancy. She used to joke that the next baby would be partially made of luna bars. And maybe he is! Nadav's always had a sweet face and sweet personality, so perhaps it had something to do with those sweet nutrition bars! And how many trips to DeWalt's health store did I make to buy S. her favorite lunch -- Amy's broccoli and cheddar potpies! Sometimes I'd get one too, and we'd chat in the big, silvery synagogue kitchen while they cooked in the microwave.

I've always loved Shoshana's parents. Devoted grandparents that they are, they've made countless trips here, for birthdays but also just to spend ordinary day to day time with their daughter and her family. I was able to recommend the wonderful bed and breakfast place (owned by my former seminary professor and his wife) that they stayed in every time they came. I will miss their visits, their zestful energy and enthusiasm.

And so many other memories -- sharing in the boys' early birthday parties (they were both born in January, but two years apart, so they celebrate jointly) and in this last one, when my own sweet girl went bowling for the first time. Hearing about B's latest project -- his varied interests and creative ideas seemed to know no bounds! Meals shared, books borrowed, phone calls and emails and countless "drop-in" visits to their small home and garden. Caring for that garden last summer when they went on their annual Montana vacation. Getting to know their wonderful tuxedo cat, Shavit, whom they rescued from the streets -- and whom they heartbreakingly gave to a new home just this past week. S' 40th birthday last year, which they combined with fourth of July festivities.

My sweet girl's second birthday when the boys came to share cake and ice cream, to play with her toy kitchen, and to give her the lovely ballerina bear peek-a-boo pillow she still plays with. Last year's Halloween party when Sarah was the only girl among seven kids -- Shoshana's boys, Sheila's boys, and Deb's boys, the six of them looking goofy and fabulous in their various superhero and other boyish costumes, ranged on the stairs, and Sarah, giggling in the front, wearing her ladybug outfit. (Sheila and family moved in March...)

These memories are just the tip of the iceberg. Suffice it to say, we will miss them and their whole family very much. The movers came on Friday so the family was exhausted and we took them lots of vegetarian Chinese food for dinner. We all sat on their front lawn on their old fouton (which hadn't fit on the truck after all) covered by a plastic tarp, and we ate and drank and enjoyed a picnic together. I looked around at the boys -- who will soon be 6 and 8 -- and at my own precious girl, now 4 -- and I realized what an awful lot of living we have all been through together, as neighbors and as friends.

And on Wednesday, they will leave for the land of kangaroos and koalas half a world away. The leaves will begin turning here on Maplewood; some of the prettiest autumn trees in town are right in their block. They'll be heading into spring at their new place.

Change is hard. It's good, it means we're growing and alive, but oh yes, sometimes it's hard.

Blessings on old friends for a good journey into new growth and green.


Erin said...

They sound like wonderful friends. I know how hard it is when friends move away... I was just tickled to find our old neighbor on MySpace. We had lost contact with them several years ago, so I was very excited when she e-mailed me back yesterday. Anyway, I'll be thinking of you this week...

On an entirely unrelated note, I found my library books, or rather my mom did, in her room, which I searched twice. They were buried under a big pile of photo albums; apparently Dad scooped them up along with the albums while he was cleaning the living room. I was so sure we'd returned them... Ah well. Mystery solved!

Beth said...

So glad you found your friend online! That's terrific when it happens. And I'm sure we'll stay in touch with our friends via computer, but it's really not the same. I think I am just feeling worn out from way too many goodbyes here all these years.

Hallelujah on finding your library books! A few months ago I found a book that I had been ABSOLUTELY SURE I'd returned to the small library here in town. They really browbeat me for it and I was vehement that I'd returned it -- and stunned by their rudeness. It was a book we'd checked out when Sarah was about two. Well, sure enough I found it way behind one of our many bookcases in the living room, probably a year or more after I'd caved in and paid for the thing. I know I didn't put it there so am guessing toddler Sarah did. :-) Ah well!

Erin said...

I had to laugh because the "Opus" in the Sunday comics had his old librarian coming after him again from his Anxiety Closet demanding the return of a book 3,000 days overdue... :-P

"Old Friends," incidentally, is a very autumnal song, from an autumnal album. When I see the phrase I can't help but think of that image of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel sitting together on a park bench in 2011. Hopefully not as frail as in the song... But I often wish everyone I care about could just stay here and not move. It must be especially hard in a school setting with so many coming and going... That's one reason I don't think I'd make a very good teacher. I'm not too good at farewells...

Beth said...

Oh my. Are Paul and Art really that close to 70? (Gulp!)

I love the song "Old Friends." It's always been one of my very favorites of S&G. My sister Martha and I used to sing it and laugh when we got to the line "how terribly strange to be 70..." and she'd quickly add "...and 83..." because when I'm 70, that's how old she'll be, Lord willing!

I seem to be pushing out a plethora of Simon and Garfunkel references for blog titles lately. Must be my main audience. ;-)

I know what you mean about struggling with living in an academic community. Believe me, it's hard. I still can't believe we're here after all this time; I've lost track of how many good-byes we've said, some of them really hard. I guess it's all part of life this side of glory...