Four and half years ago, my belly swelling with baby #3, I walked into a taco stand. A few days before, I’d received a tentative email from another mama about my blog; she had surmised by some weather posts I’d put up that we might, just maybe, live in the same area. We emailed back and forth, both a little cagey about giving personal details, and finally arrived at Yes. She’d been reading my blog for a while, and I hers. Turned out our boys were closely matched in age, and we lived about 20 miles from each other. So we agreed to meet.
That mama was Mo, and anyone who’s been reading me for very long knows what Mo has come to mean to me. I’ve met dozens of friends from the blogs now, but back then, it was still new and scary. I have wonderful friends via writing- people I dearly love and count among my treasures… but there is no one like Mo.
That first day, she brought along not only her two sons, but also a buffer friend, just in case I turned out to be some weirdo. Little did she know… Or me. We hung at the taco stand until our kids got too rowdy, and them headed to the mall, where she’d brought a roll of quarters and her friend fed the coins into the mechanical horses and cars while Mo and I sat on a bench and talked. And talked. And talked some more. We were both a little cautious still, but she was so easy to be around, so easy to like.
One of the many things I’ve learned from Mo over the years is to just put myself out there. Just do it. The first few times she came over, I was surprised at how comfortable she made herself, how long the visits lasted. I was used to the more formal LDS friends I’d made in my transplant Washington- they came, chatted, our kids played, they left. The end. Not Mo. She told me in Alaska, where she grew up, everything was so far that when you went visitin’ you visited. When she came by, I could count on them for lunch, and maybe dinner. There was nothing formal or stiff about it. She was so open, so honest, so generous with herself.
My track record with friends isn’t so hot. I don’t trust people easily, and always feel like the other shoe is going to drop at some point. It’s happened enough in my life that I’m warry. Shortly after we met, I got a card in the mail that simply said “Shoes are for wearing, not dropping. ~Mo”.
Over the ensuing years, we’ve celebrated the births of two daughters, countless birthdays, every Thanksgiving and a couple of Christmases, and unknown regular old days. We’ve moved each other, we’ve lived through her husband being deployed to Iraq, him being gone for much of a pregnancy, the diagnosis of two of our children with Autism spectrum disorders, the deaths of grandparents, marriages of friends, and the crater blown into the center of my own life by my divorce. We’ve been in the temple together, we’ve cooked holiday meals, shared secrets, and wiped each other’s tears. We’ve hung out with each other’s parents and in-laws, disciplined each other’s kids, cleaned up messes, and helped put back together broken pieces of shattered hearts.
From Mo I learned that I don’t have to fit any particular model or ideal to be who I want to be. I learned, through her example, that I could take off a cultural shoe that was just too damn tight, and be the kind of Saint I wanted to be. I learned that a woman with pink hair and tattoos had as much claim to our shared faith as any person I have ever met. I learned I could be whomever I wanted to be, and be really good at it, no matter what anyone else thought of me. I also learned how to wield my make-up brushes like a Ninja, and how to rock blue eyeshadow. I’m serious- it can be done.
In less than two weeks, Mo is moving. This is a good thing for their family, and I knew one day this would happen- it’s a fact of life for military families. I will be there to help load the truck, and I will be there to help clean their house. I will see her again, and I rejoice that she’s going to be working in a place she is excited about, and that her new house has not only a yard, but a basement where she can throw the monkeys- somethings she’s never had as long as I’ve known her. I am so happy for her.
But I can’t pretend anymore that this is not really hard for me. In a year that has cost me everything, I am losing my best friend, too. And my heart is breaking. I know she is not really gone, and I’ll see her- but our days of lazily hanging out around my kitchen table, in whatever form it takes, are coming to an end. And dammit, I’m going to miss her.
It’s only fitting that this chapter ends as it began- with the blog. So for all the universe, here is my heart. Here is my friend. I’m going to cry for a little bit. Then I’m going to pick myself up and go help her pack. And I’m going to make sure she knows how very much I love her.