“Go outside and look at the moon,” she’d call to say. And I’d step away from the chaos and clutter of the kitchen into the brisk night air and see this luminous orb, sometimes full, sometimes a sliver, sometimes shrouded in clouds of angel hair, and feel reconnected to the universe. There was something so calming and healing about seeing the moon on a clear night.
We spent countless hours walking the pre-dawn streets of Pasadena, by the light of the moon. If you put all those hours end to end, year upon year of walking three miles a day, they might actually reach the moon. Add to that the miles of trails we covered every Saturday for five years, and all that walking and talking would probably reach, like the big nutbrown hare’s love, to the moon...and back again.
We’ve covered a lot of ground, she and I, literally -- wearing out our hiking shoes, and figuratively, emotionally as well. This is the friend who, when I was on prescribed bedrest, would put me in her car and take me to rest on a blanket in the park because she knew I needed to be outside. This is the friend who, when tragedy struck, just decided to show up. Every day. For weeks on end. Uninvited. Because she knew I wouldn’t have the strength to ask, yet she knew her presence would matter. And it did. I knew if I could just hang on until the afternoon, when she was through school, she would come. And everything would be okay. Most of the time on those days when it was really hard, we didn’t even talk. But having someone there, even in the silence, still managed to divide the sorrows and multiply the laughs.
One year I had gall-bladder surgery just a few days before Christmas. I also had a 7-month-old baby whom I was instructed not to lift because his weight could tear the incisions. So there I was, recuperating from surgery, trying to care for an infant and prepare for Christmas. And it all seemed so impossible. Until she showed up. Took the baby with her on her errands. Held him for me while I wrapped presents. Fed and entertained the children while I rested. And finally, at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, laid him in my arms. I wept. I wept while she held him, for the relief I felt knowing the baby had been in such capable hands. And I wept when she left, feeling the wholeness of that burden resting back on my shoulders. But mostly I wept out of gratitude and amazement. She always knew exactly what I needed. And then acted unhesitatingly. Holding that baby for me at I time when I literally couldn’t hold him myself was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
I have a small handful of friends who are family-close, and highly prized. I know they’ll be there for me to listen and care, even if they live too far away to be here in person. And some even remind me to look at the moon. (Not unlike the wise men, who probably called each other to say look at the star...and then set off on a long journey together to find what it symbolized. Sure, they came bearing gifts, but their very presence might have been the greatest gift.)
Happy Birthday, CB! Thank you for holding my baby that Christmas Eve. Your presence and friendship (plus a small handful of others’) is one of my all-time favorite gifts.