Friendship formed at church

If you go to church with young children, you’re going to be embarrassed to death at some point.

I remember the time that my youngest cherub baby was standing on the pew, resting her little elbows on the back of it. On my knees, focused on the prayers, I heard her suddenly begin to quietly chant, apropos to absolutely NOTHING: “dogpoopdog.poooop” Jolted out of my reverence, I shot her a stern look. She glowered back and continued chanting. Trying to keep my head bowed, I reached for her. She easily slid down the pew just out of reach and resumed chanting, just a little bit louder. Realizing I had no choice, I unbowed my head, and hissed “Stop that!” She simply cranked up the volume. I leapt to my feet, snatching her from the pew and heading swiftly to the narthex.

At the time, we were the only young family in the church, and the elderly people were delighted to have us. After that particular service, one of them said, “You shouldn’t worry about their noise. It always sounds louder to the mothers, but no one else notices it at all.” They loved our children, and they were exceedingly patient. The fact that many of them had age related hearing loss worked in our favor as well.

I was tickled pink when another young couple began attending. With three children, we always sat at the back of the church so as not to pose a disruption if someone had to use the bathroom, or got restless, or (heaven forbid!) began to chant, but the new young couple strode to the front of the church with their little boy. You do not see that kind of courage every day, and I marveled at it.

Dixie paid a heavy price for her courage. There came the great and glorious Sunday when our voices were raised in song. As she sang, Dixie thought, “Where is that draft coming from?” She kept on singing, but she interestedly looked around for the open window. Before the hymn was over, she realized that her small son had lifted her very full skirts up high exposing her backside to all of us sitting behind them.

We young mortified parents have to stick together, and so we did. I never told her that Matthew had actually lifted her skirts more than once during that hymn. Well, not right away, anyhow. Not until after we had become very good friends.

I like to laugh, and she is, simply put the funniest person that I have ever met in my entire life. She’ll tell you sad stories about her alcoholic father and in the next breath you’ll be laughing yourself to tears as she tells about that time her brother’s wife discovered he was having an affair with his home health aide. Her sister-in-law blew up their trailer. She didn’t kill her husband, but she badly singed the cat. The vet made a fortune off them, the cat was re-named ‘Boom Boom’ and, incredibly, the marriage endured until her brother died (of natural causes) well over a decade later.

Although my own stories did not compare, she thought I was pretty funny stuff too, and those stories of ours got us both through some very rough times in our lives: That child she was not ever supposed to bear turned out to be autistic. Their lives turned inside out to make the best life possible for Matthew. When my marriage came to a crashing and abrupt end, she was there to make me laugh and to offer encouragement. When depression crushed her, she fought back and was there to point it out a few years later when I was dealing with it myself.

We struggled with children. We struggled with life. We don’t live near each other, anymore, but we stayed in touch sporadically, by phone, by e-mail, by occasional visits. Months might pass, but when we talked, conversation flowed easily, and we laughed as hard as we ever did.

Even though I hadn’t talked to her in months, she was one of the very first people I called when I found out that I had cancer. Her response was a classic Dixie response: “I’ll put you on our prayer list. My church is very good at supporting breasts in prayer!” (Translation: the priest’s wife and two parishioners were being treated for breast cancer.)

She also gleefully pointed out that I had a free pass: I could be perfectly rotten, and people would have to be nice to me because I was sick. She urged me to take full advantage of that. By the time that we’d hung up, we’d laughed hard, cried hard, and I’d drunk a full bottle of wine during the course of the 2+ hour chat. I didn’t ask her how much she’d put away on her end of the line. All I knew is that I felt SO much better and it wasn’t just the wine.

This past weekend, Tim and I went down to see Dylan and Brittani. They moved into their new house in May. We wanted to see them and they wanted to show us their house. As a wonderful surprise, they looked up Bob and Dixie. They discovered that they live less than an hour away so they invited the two of them to have supper with us.

Bob and Dixie walked in the door and we fell into each other’s arms, and the questions flew. They had never met William, didn’t even know we were grandparents. And how was I doing? I had questions too. The last time that I’d spoken to her, Bob was having some pretty serious health problems. Their son Matthew has gone from being a non-verbal 5 year old to a college graduate who drives in Philadelphia.

In her heavy southern accent, she said, “Well, when we pulled up, I said to Bob, that looks like Cara getting out of that carbut it can’t be. She’s DRIVING.” We laughed at that. They had not seen Cara since she was 14, so this all came as a bit of a shock. The years have flown by. I am not sure how it happened, but it has. Brittani showed Dixie the Paris engagement pictures. Cara told Bob about graduate school and her excellent new job. Dylan and Tim and Bob talked about houses. My little grandson played happily in the middle of us all.

Years ago, Dixie and I were young mothers. In the intervening years, we have weathered a great many storms. We’ve prayed fervently for each other, and for our children, and that night, as we did our catching up, I realized just how many of those prayers have been answered. In the middle of all that talking and laughing, I took a moment to bow my head and be grateful.