It had to be that way.
It just had to be.
Nancy Lee? You would have a team of hormonal supersleuth women on your side...
(That can be a good thing, too, fellas)
IF you happen to be on the same side...
I've a friend from college--count her among my very best girl buds--
her name is Kathe'.
That's exactly how she would tell you to pronounce it too. With just that amount of spunk.
We went to UNO together, and honestly, I don't know why we got to be such close friends. She was a serious student, and I? sigh...
When "the" question of "what's your major" was asked, and everybody answered dutifully? Kathe' would intervene for me--"This is Karen--she's taking up space."
I never argued with her--she was right.
There are, on occasion, people I meet that resound within me. I know them as our eyes meet, even before a word of introduction.
The day I met Kathe' I was wearing argyle socks. I was well into the party daze the night before, so I woke up late. My mom and dad were in the kitchen, as my mom fussed, "aren't you going to be late?" as she readied herself for work.
My dad had just gotten home from the graveyard shift, and was dunking burnt toast (he liked it that way) into his black coffee.
He wasn't amused.
I donned my pair of argyle socks then, saying, "Look Ma, I'm a college student!!!"
Then I put on jeans that I had cut off to calf length, (ripped fuzzy) and a pair of sandals, that criss-crossed, showing off the diamond pattern of my socks.
An over-sized cable-knit sweater to match the socks, my bookbag and a visor and my "look" was complete.
I slammed back the rest of my coffee, saying, "see ya!"
when my mom, interjected.
"you're NOT--are you?" She wasn't sure if I was kidding or not. "Are you going to school like that?"
Nevermind. She was late too and we both ran for the door while my father just breathed his sigh of relief.
I laughed the entire way there too, chuckling to myself on the bus at the sight of my socks, so proudly showing with my "flood-water" "rips."
The amusement wore off by the time I got to the campus.
I was late.
I'd missed my nine a.m. and half of my lecture class in Anthro--so I went to straight to lunch. (That's a habit that took me years to break--I've almost got it too!)
I ordered a salad and a tall fountain "coke", and I was squinting into the crowd looking for a safe place to land when I saw my friend, "Donna" sitting with a lively group of people on the left.
I didn't know any of the others.
I nodded and went right, finding a quiet spot on a dirty table, recently evacuated.
I put up the pretense of an open book and stared at it, and I tell you, I could feel their eyes on me.
Then I heard, "HEY!" up close--Donna had come to fetch me--"come join us..."
"Really," I said, "I'm fine."
But Kathe was watching and hollered across the cafeteria, "come on?"
So I did.
* * *
I hate being "checked out". They did too, give me the old 'up and down', as I gathered my tray and book, and walked my argyles over there.
It seemed like a mile.
I was really regretting the socks by the time I got to their table, especially when Kathe' rolled her eyes and said,
"Love the socks!!!" before I sat down.
"Thanks," I said lowly. I was blushing furiously too, and I worried that social anxiety would get the best of me. Again. I was afraid I would have an anxiety attack, right there in front of God and everybody.
"I wore them just for you."
I don't know why I said it, or even where I found the balls to say it, but I'm glad I did--because to my surprise, Kathe' just giggled, rolling. Then?
She showed me hers.
We were friends for life.
* * *
Instantly, we were the kind of friends who finish each other's sentences, nodding excited, and interrupting, all girlish glee giggles and just bubbles...
We told each other everything too.
In about an hour. Smile.
I jest, of course. But it sure seemed that way.
But once, in the weeks that followed, in that love-happy spell women fall into when meeting like minds, I had asked her, with all seriousness, how she stayed so focused.
This woman worked hard.
She wasn't riding a free check from moms and pops. She had no student loan. (She qualified, but didn't want the debt!!!)
She waitressed and paid her own tuition.
She made "A's".
She had my total respect.
So I asked her, "How do you do it?"
And she told me that two years prior, she had given up a child for adoption.
(no, the story wasn't that simple, it never is)
But I understood, then, that I lived a kind of privelage that she never knew. She felt a responsibility I didn't understand. She envied my freedom from that, and I respected the strength I detected in her.
She knew "he" would come looking for her one day.
She was going to be ready.
So she became a nurse.
* * *
Years later, when I moved into that tiny rathole apartment to have my own babies, she was there for me again.
She bought me clothes, saying, "I'll bet no one thought to buy you a thing!"
She ooohed and ahhhed over every step of my boy with me, never once voicing the pain of her loss. But I knew...
So we started out just talking about him.
Then we gathered some details.
(nod...you know it ladies)
Then we found out his adopted name.
Then his address.
I guess we stalked the boy a bit.
(can you call that "stalking"?)
He lived near me too. (This was a closed adoption, but among family.)
So we'd drive there and park on days we knew he'd be off school.
Once she said she just wanted to hear him, so I did a quick phone survey.
I called his house and asked him questions about his television viewing habits.
We both cried when I finally had to say, "Thank you for completing our survey--your coupons will be in the mail."
* * *
It was a decade later, that she called me, and said, "guess who called me last night?"
I didn't guess correctly.
I thought Professor mumble-mumble had finally looked her up again.
"Nope." she said, smug, with my every miss of guess.
Then she told me.
"Last night, I talked to my son."
* * *
Tears then and tears now...
It takes such an incredible act of courage and faith, and such stamina of spirit to live through those unknowing years, to an undetermined future, all done, so unselfishly.
I'm honored to know women such as these.
I'm so glad to know you.
Come sit at our table, will ya?
* * *
You are grace.
Bring your argyle socks.