Wednesday, May 15, 2013

first friends

Two years ago, we had come to the conclusion that we would be moving to Lynchburg, Virginia for THREE YEARS.
Talk about a big deal. We were stunned, scared, excited, totally overwhelmed.
So I started this blog, because I knew way in advance that I would be lonely, and that I would need some way to stay connected to my family. A way to feel like I was blabbing on about the details of life with them sitting next to me, rather than thousands of miles away.
My first post was sad and sweet and blissfully unaware of what life would be like here.
All I knew was that we were going to live in a townhouse apartment, Dusty was going to law school, I needed a job, and I would be a part of something called "The Law Wives".

That's how I met Allison.

The Meet and Greet for the Law Wives was a nightmarish ordeal for me.
To this day, I'm extremely proud of how composed I was. We did a "speed-dating" thing to get to know a few other wives, and I was mortified. As a newly arrived introvert with awkwardness baked into my core, I just knew this was going to be a disaster.
I somehow managed to make it through, with smiles and nods and "Ooohhh, you don't say!"s.
Throughout the evening, there was a pretty brunette in a white dress that was obviously in some sort of leadership role. She spoke a few times up at the podium (where it was revealed that her name was Allison Earl) and walked around. I honestly don't remember hardly anything about that night - I may have blacked out here and there.
By the end, I was so not ready to leave. I had promised myself that I would be involved 100% in this thing, to make myself make friends and to avoid being a total recluse. I felt like I had made no real connections, and there were still so many women I hadn't had a chance to talk to (a.k.a: they hadn't talked to me yet. I don't really approach people of my own volition).
The pretty white-dress Allison girl was still there, helping clean up. So I decided to help clean up.
Yes, I know. I wanted to be friends with her because she was pretty. But that's just the way it is.
I full-on creeped for the next 20 minutes.
I was slinking around the room, my eyes darting around, picking up a plate then putting it down, having no clue what to do or what to say.
Finally, we made eye contact. She started over. I smile/grimaced, nervous as all get out.
It was straight out of South Pacific -- some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger, you may see a stranger...across a crowded room. And somehow you know, you know even then. That somewhere you'll see her again and again.
Am I taking that song out of context?

She introduced herself, saying she hadn't had a chance to talk to me.
She asked me the basics. I smiled a lot, nodded, and said "Oohh, you don't say!" but this time I really meant it.
We exchanged numbers, and I skipped all the way home, bursting in the door to tell Dusty -

She called me to hang out on a Tuesday. I honestly don't know how I remember that, except that I was still unemployed and anxiously awaiting human contact.
I'll never forget the first time we hung out. She suggested we take a walk down one of her favorite trails downtown, and I happily agreed.
I got dressed in my typical get up. Dark denim shorts, flowy top, long necklace, earrings. Strappy sandals.
I was so excited. I heard the knock on the door, and hopped up!
I opened it, and froze. She was wearing running shoes, and shorts and a t-shirt.
She looked me up and down, and I suddenly felt like I had dressed up in a ball gown to go to the gym.
Oh. Ha. Hi.

I still laugh thinking about that. I have no idea what she thought about me, but we had a great day. Her son Aidan was less than a year old, and we walked down this beautiful trail with him in the stroller. I noticed she had a "I Drive Like a Cullen" license plate cover on her car, and she was excited that I even knew what that meant, since apparently she had received a lot of confused questions about it.
Little did I know I'd be joining two consecutive midnight showings for Twilight movies over the course of the next two years.

At the first Law Wives event (the monthly Ladies Night Out), I stayed late with two other girls, Stephanie and Heather, at Allison's house. Again, I was lingering creepily because I didn't want to miss out.
We stayed late and talked about scary apartment stories, among other things. I felt like I was in. It was happening. Best friendship.

But I can't get ahead of myself - things were still rocky. She didn't reply to a few of my Facebook posts. We didn't have any inside jokes. There were still so many things we didn't know about each other.

Then came the Farmer's Market.
I had already been downtown twice, but was thrilled at the chance to experience the local Farmer's Market on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately, she found out about one of my flaws, when a basket of kittens presented itself at the first stand.
I kept leaving her unannounced to go look in the basket.
She'd turn to ask me about a basil plant, and there'd I'd be. Watching kittens.

I'm really glad she forgave me for ignoring her! I already had several strikes against me. Improper attire for downtown walking and ignoring her for baby animals.

Things got serious when her and Greg invited us over for dinner.
Dusty and I had a 20 minute discussion over what we would say, how we would act, how we'd dress.

"Should we bring a movie? Just Friends?"
"Just Friends? Are you crazy? What if they hate humor, what if they think that movie is evil?"
"Evil? Cait...calm down."
"No. You can't just bust out a movie like Just Friends on a first double date. Let them do all the talking, ok?"
"I'm not gonna say anything inappropriate! Geez."

As soon as we walked in the door, both Dusty and I did a quick scan of their movie collection.
They had Just Friends.
Praise the Lord, we have found our match!
Over the course of dinner, everything began to fall into place. They got married New Year's Eve - we got married New Year's Day. We were both high school sweethearts. Greg and I both go by our middle names! What are the odds! (Robert Greg, and Sarah Caitlin).
Before long, I could tell they were doing the same thing to us as we were to them. Sizing up. Trying to figure out humor, level of rebelliousness, measure of fun. Who are these people really. 
We talked about movies, celebrities, Liberty, I made an awkwardly sensual comment about Alec was a great night.
Once they decided on watching The Ringer, we knew these were the friends for us.

It took me a long time to figure out if Greg liked me or not.
I had no idea if his serious stares and deep voice were a type of shy reserve, or if he thought I was obnoxious. I'll bet it was a little bit of both.
The more time we all spent together, the better it was. There were so many nights spent laughing together, making jokes and being idiots.

We started being invited to things, like the Superbowl party and a very exclusive Friends party that first year.

Allison and I can quote Friends with the best of them.
It became a staple of our friendship, and I hope it always will be.
"God bless the chickpea."

These first few get togethers led to many others, each one amazing and memorable.
Our group of friends was perfect, and I wish so badly that we could all be together again.
St. Patrick's Day, Barrister's, The Christmas Tea, our first snow day. I could go on and on.

 In January of 2012, she slapped my butt.
It was after a particularly fantastic and intense Guys Vs. Girls game night, wherein the girls kicked the crap out of the guys in a tie-breaking lightening round. I was the winning caricaturist, and things just went wild.
In her words, "I can't explain it, it just happened...but yes, we're officially friends for life."
Greg was unspeakable embarrassed by his wife's behavior. :)

Our first summer apart, we began exchanging funny videos and pictures and various text messages.
It was a hard few months away from each other.
Jealousy started to rear its ugly head, as we began posting pictures of our summer adventures with other friends.
We were officially a couple.

After a long summer apart!

Allison is a runner (and so is everyone else around here), and she slowly but surely began to weasel her way into my anti-running psyche. It's a pretty unbelievable feat, really.
She got me to run a 5K, The Color Run.
For fun.
Pretty sure no one else in the world could have gotten me to do that.

As if that wasn't enough, she also threw me a surprise birthday party last year.
I've always wanted a surprise party.
It's something that is near impossible, because I'm really obnoxious about birthdays, and almost always spoil any and every surprise involving me. I usually accidentally overhear something, (or purposefully overhear something), decide to plan my own party and end up ruining other people's plans, or I catch people (Dusty) in a lie because they're acting strange.

Not only did she throw me a surprise party, but it was a HARRY POTTER surprise party.
Is it totally okay to say that it was one of the best things that has ever happened to me?

The year went on with as much gusto as the last, even though it was different.
Beloved friends had left, graduated and moved on, and it was a different feel. Plus all the while we were aware that it was Greg and Allison's last year with us...and we tried not to think about it.
We had great memories, like our Murder Mystery Party, The Christmas Tea, The Super BowlHeather's Baby Shower, and their very last Barrister's.

What more can I say about my friend?
We spent countless nights laughing and watching movies. This year, we watched Dumb and Dumber and The Breakfast Club for the first time at their apartment.
Allison and I have laughed and cried together, been through midnight showings, movie nights, law school drama, girl's nights and weekend trips, Friends quotes and Saturday morning farmer's market runs...

We laughed and cried through the entire season 17 of The Bachelor (and by "we" I mean Allison and Dusty and I), getting together every week to see the nonsense unfold.
We enjoyed each season, going apple picking, carving pumpkins, going to the Christmas parade.

We cheered on our men through the annual Turkey Bowl (law school vs. seminary flag football), and through intramural soccer games.
I fell in love with her little boy Aidan, enjoying every moment we got to spend with him.

We would babysit him on occasion, usually watching Toy Story, since it was his favorite.
He was so easy to watch. Never complained, was always so chill and happy.
I was so elated the night that I made it through watching him all by myself - not because it was hard, but because I had never really been the babysitting kind. I probably know less about babies than any woman my age should.
When Allison came to pick him up, she went into our room (where he was sleeping in his Pack 'n Play), and stared.

"Oh, why -- you didn't put on his pajamas! And his shoes are still on!"

Don't worry, guys. I plan to read at least 37 books on parenting before procreating.

Best picture ever.
I have so many good memories of those two.
I feel really lucky to have been able to tag along so often :)

I know that Mint Oreo anything can cheer Allison up.
I know she makes a mean deep dish pizza, courtesy of being a Chicago native.
She's made me smile, brought me coffee, listened to me whine, whisked me away for pedicures, trusted me with her son and her secrets.
I got to be among the first people to know that they were having another baby, was around while that little person grew and grew, got to co-throw a baby shower for Allison, and then got to meet and hold little Brooklyn when she arrived.

It seems like we've always known the Earls.
Which is weird. But it's true.
I have no idea what this next year holds, but it was an absolute joy to be around them for their last two years of law school. I am so thankful the timing worked out the way that it did, because I love them so very much.
We're so proud and excited for them. We just wish it didn't have to go by so very quickly.

Our very last Farmer's Market visit.
The day of graduation, we got to see Greg officially finish law school.
We were able to meet his family, and were even invited to dinner with them, which was amazing.
Even though we felt like we were intruding on some of their family time, we couldn't say no.
We wanted every second!

They left four hours ago.
And it just feels too weird.
Last night we went out for frozen yogurt, the last three couples from the original power group.

I feel really blessed. And sad. And this post has been going on forever and ever because I don't really want to finish it, because then it'll mean they're really gone, halfway to Illinois, and I'm here alone in my office with no Mint Oreo ice cream to comfort me.

I'm really glad that the last pictures we took together, I was either in the middle of speech or trying to get my hair out of my face in the wind.
That makes it a somewhat comical farewell, and maybe I won't cry quite as hard these next few weeks.

They drove away, and I just stuck my head out my window, watching them go.
We didn't let ourselves cry until they were gone, and even then, we held it at bay.
Dusty had a follow-up interview for his summer internship, and I had to go to work.

We won't let ourselves be hot messes until tonight. True grit, right there.

Guys...we love you. We miss you already. Thanks for everything. I hate feeling the distance between us. It's a mean distance. I can't even begin to imagine the last two years without you...
Because, you know. You're our lobsters.

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