Like many weekend trips I take, my Easter trip to North Carolina to visit Amy and Alan (and little baby Lily!) was mostly about hanging out. We got up and had breakfast and sat around and talked and watched movies and sat around and talked and then maybe got out of our pajamas in time for lunch and sitting around and talking and then maybe some venturing out into the harsh light of day for a while, and then came home and sat around and talked and then watched some Law and Order re-runs, which are inexplicably crack-rock-like to me, in terms of their addictive qualities. We talked about love and marriage and babies and families quite a bit. Both Amy and Alan are counselor-type people so we spent a lot of sitting-around-and-talking-time discussing the folks we work with and the similarities and differences in the way we all three work with them. We talked about people we knew and how weird and awesome they were and we wondered what we would have done back then, concerning some of them, if we knew then what we know now. We did this for four days. I walked into their house and set up camp on their couch and it was as if she and I had never been apart, no awkwardness or “So how’s life?” or anything. As with all my best friends, we just got into it right away as if we still live down the street from one another and we are speeding past the boy I like’s house just so we can honk the horn and drive off.
The times we did leave the house, we ran into people they knew everywhere we went and they always introduced me with these looks of pride on their faces and I felt like blushing and curtseying whenever they did. Alan told me all about the variegations of North Carolina barbecue and then he made me some right there in his kitchen on his very own birthday. We went out to lunch and dinner and ate Pop-Tarts for breakfast if we felt like it and Amy tried to convince me to get a John Deereshirt at the general store but I held out. If there’d been a Moon Pie shirt in my size, though, maybe I would have folded. We walked around the campus of their alma mater, which I visited in the winter of 1993 on my way home from college for my first winter break. We went to the original Krispy Kreme store even though I don’t much like Krispy Kremes.They gave me the grand tour of their awesome house, with its walk-in closets and energy-efficient design…in fact I had meant to take a bunch of pictures of the radiant floor heating and the extended awnings, in homage to a brief stint I had a couple of years ago where I was subscribing to the Real Goods catalog and dreaming about one day building an Earthship, but of course I didn’t take any pictures and of course I just sat around and talked some more instead. We looked out at the pouring down rain and snuggled into the leather couches and put in another DVD.
And of course we spent a lot of time talking about and playing with the baby. She’s a very happy baby, as far as I can tell. Very alert and playful and aware of her surroundings. I held her and talked to her and kissed her and bounced her up and down and helped her get into one of her many cute little outfits and enjoyed her company very much. By the time Ames took me to the airport on Monday I was accepting compliments on Lily’s behalf…strangers would say how cute or smart or happy she was, and Amy would be opening her mouth to say thank you and I’d cut in all “Yes, isn’t she?” Her skin was very soft and she babbled a lot and did this thing where she’d wave both her hands if you waved at her. Obviously, I tried to get her to do Baby Pimp Hands, with mixed results.
She doesn’t look like she buys it.
Holding her in the snugli and being a little unsure of how to proceed.
Friday morning when I got in at the airport Alan and Lily picked me up and took me to Amy’s school to visit her there and then all go home together. Y’all, she came through that door with such a big smile and gave me such a big hug and immediately began introducing me as her very best friend and I felt like a rock star. Everyone kept commenting about how we looked as though we could be sisters, which was very funny to both of us because the thing about our friendship in high school was that she was very very beautiful and all the boys liked her and I was (in my mind at least) kind of her fat and silly sidekick, with my long hippie hair and Chuck high tops and low self-esteem. We couldn’t share clothes and I remember wondering why being pretty came so easily for her. She is even more beautiful now than she was then and I am happy to report that I’m (mostly) over my ugly duckling stage, which lasted the better part of twenty years, but still. We never looked alike. Random people kept telling us we looked like sisters all weekend. I think it’s maybe because we both have short dark hair and glasses now, but secretly I think that it’s because we’ve been friends for so long and because we were both so happy to be hanging out together.
See, we’re so happy to be together that we are pointing out the anatomical accuracies of a statue of an Elk in Banner Elk, North Carolina.
On the way to the airport on Monday we were talking about our families and what they wanted from us and what we wanted from them, and we started talking about the definition of success. We talked about her husband and baby and job, and about my lack of husband and baby but also my job, and about if those things were accurate markers of success in life. I said that I didn’t think the thing I do for money really said much about my general success in life, although of course it’s nice to do meaningful white-collar work and to be kind of interested in the work you do, as a rule. I said I thought that people who define themselves by their work were going to be sadly disappointed when their work changed or ended and that if my work changes or ends I’m still pretty sure I’ll be mostly me. Amy said her relationships with her husband and daughter were very important indicators of her success in life, and I have to agree with her, even though I haven’t done very well in various romantic relationships and even though I don’t want children of my own and so don’t really know what I’m talking about.
What I do know is that the thing I’ve been best at, my whole life, is choosing good friends. I haven’t always done a good job of keeping them, or of not hurting them sometimes, or even during bad times of loving them very well. I’m still working on that stuff and I imagine I will always be working on that stuff. However. I’m just good at recognizing good people and at making them a part of my life to the extent that I can barely remember a time when they weren’t there, when they weren’t emailing me with octopus videos just because they know I like octopuses, or when I wasn’t being their bridesmaids or talking to them on the phone or asking their opinions on what kind of cake I should get for my birthday or making plans to have an alternative spiritual retreat together in the fall. That’s been the biggest indicator of success in my life thus far, and being with Amy and Alan and Lily made that very clear, for the thousand millionth time.