Onward

The other day at the beach, I lay on a chair in the sand, my skin hot in the sun. My five-year-old son walked out of the water and up to me and, dripping wet, sat on my lap. He lay along me, toes to ankles, head to shoulder. I loved it. And I thought, “There will be a day soon, maybe in three weeks, maybe in three years, when he will no longer do this. And then from that day on he won’t ever do it again.”

My friend, Melanie, (whom you’ve already met) is moving away this week, from the Chicago area to Portland, Oregon. I met Melanie when our sons were just weeks old, sitting on the floor of a community room in a weekly meeting for new mothers. We happened to place our baby blankets on the floor near each other, our sons lying on their backs, their eyes darting to the lights on the ceiling, to the people around us. We were part of a circle of other new mothers, all of us bleary-eyed and happy to be surrounded by those who knew exactly how we felt and why.

Melanie and her son, 2007

Melanie and her son, 2007

I can still picture the moment she first walked into the room—a smile on her face like she already knew everyone in there. That’s how easy it is to become friends with Melanie. She and I and several other new mothers formed friendships that continued outside of the community room meetings–friendships that became about more than just 3AM feedings.

Melanie has a laugh that’ll startle you. (It’s more of a shriek, really, accompanied by several loud hand claps.) Now that I’ve gotten used to it, I love being in public with her; when she laughs, I don’t look at her, I look at the unsuspecting person a few feet away from her who inevitably jumps.

She is hardworking, independent, blunt, flustered, earnest, intelligent, and supportive. She gives hugs. She makes herself at home. She is career-driven and a family woman, protective, a mama bear. She, her husband, and her children disappear most weekends—that is their time. I’m not sure I’ve spent more than three weekend nights with her in six years.

Our sons' first spring, 2008

Our sons’ first spring, 2008

She knows who she is and what she wants most of the time. When she doesn’t, she talks it out until she does. She told me once that sometimes she needed to sit on the front steps and read a book before she entered the house after work. I remember being impressed that she had figured out such a small yet significant detail about herself, and it inspired me to regard myself in the same manner.

Her move is another reminder that a moment has passed. The days of new motherhood, of uncertainly slipping tiny socks onto tiny feet, of crying, exhausted, in a dark nursery in the middle of the night, of falling asleep midday on the couch with a soft pink wrinkled baby cradled in my elbow, are gone. They slipped past as quickly as the future day when my son will no longer sit on my lap.

He goes off to kindergarten next month. And Melanie is off to Portland.

Things change. I hope to continue to get better at letting them.

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20 thoughts on “Onward

  1. Crying! What a beautiful post Jess! I don’t think it hit me that Melanie was really leaving until I read this. I am beyond thankful for having you girls in my life and know that wherever life takes us we will always have that connection. Love you, Melanie. You will be missed more than you know.

  2. That’s a beautiful tribute to your friendship and to life! Change is inevitable, and quite often a wonderful thing, but I don’t think you should plan on it’s getting any easier.

    • I know – bright side, bright side. I actually am pretty good with change, but sometimes it just knocks my socks off. Henry going to kindergarten is also coinciding with our almost-certainty that we’re done having children.

  3. I just had a conversation with Pete the other day about this. I think about the days that have passed and how little the boys used to be and remember them fondly. However I find myself more excited about watching who they become. What will they be when they grow up? Will they get married? Where will they live? I love to remember the past but I’m excited for the future. Beautiful Blog as always Jess!

  4. Awwww, ain’t you gals the nicest! I love your description of my laugh, especially the clapping. I love that my blanket was next to yours on that day when I felt like just a shell of the person I used to be. Our group saved my sanity in more ways that I can count and I love that we’ve stayed together over the years. I’m very excited about moving to Portland, but will miss you all terribly! Much love and hugs!

  5. Wow Jess, that was an awesome tribute to our friend – I got teary and laughed just imaging Mel laughing at your description of her laugh! 🙂

  6. I don’t know Melanie and haven’t met you in real life, Jess, but this post was emotional for me to read as if I was one of your girlfriends. It’s hard to make those kinds of connections with people and to call someone “friend” (and genuinely mean it). Change is tough, isn’t it? No matter what form. It sounds like you’re enjoying those body snuggles with the little one now – being in the moment – and that’s what counts.

  7. You never lose friends like Melanie. They can move away but they stay in your heart–like a sister. When you see her again, it will be like she never left. Those are my favorite friends.

    • They’re my favorite, too. Absolutely. I grew up next door to a girl I played with every day. My childhood IS her. We lost touch in high school and college. After seven years, I sent her a card. She responded. We went to a Cubs game and you’d never have known we weren’t ten years old again.

  8. I have found this to be the hardest part of life. We know letting go and moving on is part of life, but that doesn’t make it easy to accept. When I look back over my life and the people who’ve come and gone I shudder. I often wish everyone was a friend for all seasons, but some are not meant to go the distance they only come to us for a reason. Beautiful, Jessica. Sniff, sniff.

    • Thank you, Brenda. It is true, and I suppose a positive part of change, that looking back on all the people I’ve known, who have come in and out of my life for long periods or briefly, it is stunning to realize just how many people we touch.

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