See this awesome family?
These grown-ups are two of my oldest friends, T. Mallie and Adrian Brathwaite. Mallie (yes, that’s what I call her) and I have known each other since we met working at the Iowa State Daily back in 1990. She and Adrian met the same year when she was bartending and he was drinking rum and falling (for her) off the barstool.
Some of my college memories are so vivid, I feel I could turn a corner and walk right back into them — onto campus with my old friends, heading to Dugan’s Deli to meet Mallie for a vodka lemonade.
Yet 24 years have passed, and in that time I’ve accumulated so much life, I can’t believe it! In that time, I’ve owned a house and sold it and bought another. I had a great car, paid for it, and sold it and have another great car and paid for it. Two cats have come and gone from the world. I completed grad school — 10 years ago. I met all of my Kansas City friends: too many wonderful ones to list as I’m afraid I might just miss one.
I had one… two… three big time heartbreaks, and more than a few minor scrapes. All before I finagled a meeting with COLIN and turned the page into “PART TWO: TOGETHER” of my grown-up years.
And then started the years of London and writing full-time, and an entire new brain space where I had something I literally had never had since grade school: unscheduled and creative time. I wrote two full novels.
And there was the Warrington in London, where I managed to begin to understand another culture, and my own. And I was cradled and loved by all the friends — Frances most of all — I met there as I paced around the cold foyer of “PART THREE: FAMILY.”
And I crossed the bridge back over to America and the Bridge to Parenting, which was a really really long suspension bridge swaying all the time.
And in this time, being family sort of became like being a snowball rolling down hill — accumulating soccer coaches and teachers and spare aunts and neighbors and friends and more friends.
All that starting with the first years at college, of grown-up time, when I decided that T. Mallie was a true friend worth keeping and loving, despite — actually because of! — her flaws.
And so it occurs to me, on this Valentine’s Day, that all those people who have become a part of my life in these many years have T. Mallie — and Adrian — to thank in some ways. They taught me a very special kind of forever love… one that isn’t limited to romance or gender or time or geography. It isn’t limited to any kind Hollywood ending or expectation. It isn’t even limited to society’s definition of sanity.
It’s just that enduring love of spotting goodness in someone. Of seeing their innate kindness and their wonderful imperfection. Of seeing the possibility of faults and vulnerabilities and recognizing that these are some of their best qualities. Of being with someone for years and years, in such a REAL way that no matter where you live, time and distance don’t change how you feel.
So if you are reading this, you gotta know that I love you… no I am not talking to Mallie and Adrian. I am talking to YOU.
I am happy to say it. I love you, in all your busted-down, puffy-eyed, political-ranting, not-sleeping, kinda cranky, wearing-sweats and just-don’t-care glory.
You are great. Thanks for being my friend.