Years ago, in my early-to-mid-20s, I lived down South (in North Carolina, to be more exact). Though a born and bred “Yankee”, I wanted to stretch my wings after college, be somewhere I could build my own life, so when my brother came home after his summer job one day and mentioned he’d heard NC was hiring teachers “like flies”, I figured it couldn’t hurt to apply! So I did, and I ended up there for awhile. It didn’t take me too long to assimilate, by November my family was making fun of my new accent and by the time I’d been there a year my fellow teachers had all but forgotten I wasn’t from there to begin with (I know, because they told me). My first year there I had an adjoining classroom with another teacher in my grade level, who would become my best friend — I just didn’t know it yet.
It maybe took us a bit to figure each other out, but not too long. Soon enough we just understood the nature of the other person, appreciated it, called it out, and could read each other without a word. I honestly feel like we were (are) kindred. Do you watch Grey’s Anatomy? Familiar with the line between Meredith and Christina about being the other’ s “person”? She became my person.
When hurricane season came and I was asking how to batten down my little rental, she and her husband essentially told me I was just moving in with them for the next few days instead. I was there the day her daughter was born, and was the first person outside of her family that she left her baby girl with when she and her husband had to go do something (can’t remember what anymore). We kept each other sane, and leaned on each other without ever getting emotional about it. We didn’t need to, because we understood. She (and her own little family) became my family.
When I left the South to come back North, it was a decision made rather quickly, and I had a very small window within which to pack up all my things, say my goodbyes, and make it back up before the school year started for my new teaching position. I was able to say goodbye to most of my friends there, but though she promised she would, she never said goodbye. I never saw her between making the decision to go, and actually pulling away in the U-Haul. She played it off lightly, something she tends to do when it carries weight she doesn’t want to tackle, but I knew her. So I knew it wasn’t just bad timing. She just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Goodbye was too hard for her, so she skipped it.
We kept it touch, but not regularly. We didn’t plan it, we just reached out to each other when we needed or wanted to, and distance and time didn’t matter. When I met my now-husband, I knew I wanted — needed — him to meet her. So we went down to visit for a long weekend and stayed with them (and she was ridiculously, sweetly pleased that I wanted to bring a boy “home” to see them). Since then, we’ve made a point to see each other at least once a year, and every time we do it’s like I never left. She was in my wedding, so was her daughter. She was the first friend I told when I found out I was pregnant.