Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Way to My Heart

Earlier this week, we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. After so many years together, my man knows the most direct route to my heart. That's why he didn't take any detours to flower shops or wrong turns at the mall. He headed straight for the one thing that never fails to bring a smile to my face. And he saw that smile, the second he walked through the door with that beautiful box in his hand.

No, not that box.

This one.

Because really, when a girl has all of this, what more could she possibly want?

Happy Anniversary, baby. What say we go another ten?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Reunited and it feels so good

There were only 23 people in my class.

Most of the folks who witnessed me hiding under Miss Lawrence's piano on the first day of kindergarten were by my side still as I smiled and walked away with my diploma. The lot of us lived on the lower tier of middle class, small town girls and boys, every last one of us white as Wonder Bread. The range of diversity spanned only the tiniest sliver of the color wheel, from olive-skinned Vinnie Cappabianca to alabaster Erin Brannigan. Something else we share in common is a collective apathy about reuniting. For many of us, the moment our paths diverged in 1982, we became strangers. In almost thirty years, we have yet to so much as get together for a beer. Some of us have made the virtual reconnection made possible through the magic of Facebook, and some have come together for a smattering of lunches and cocktails. There are also a precious few friendships that have stood the test of time, people whose lives have been forever intertwined by the shared experiences of youth. But for some mysterious reason, an overall sense of communal belonging has eluded us. Or at least it's eluded me.

Last weekend, I attended my first class reunion . . . not with my class, but with my husband, and the Little Rock Central High Class of 1980. And it was magical. I left it with much more than aching feet and a mild hangover. I left with inspiration. Watching these old friends reconnect was a beautiful thing. It was clear that these people didn't just walk the same halls together thirty years ago, they didn't just share notes and giggle about the same teachers. Somehow, they became a family. I watched as they embraced and laughed and danced and reminisced. Their smiles were genuine. When one woman fell ill in the midst of her old friends, their concern was equally genuine. These were not just classmates, these were friends, bound by more than just the past.

But what was it, I wondered; what made this class so special? Was it their size (nearly 500 strong) or their diversity (smiling faces in every shade from ivory to ebony). Maybe each of them has been forever changed, made better, simply by the unique privilege of having shared a place and time with their extraordinary classmate, Roosevelt Thompson. Or, maybe they had no choice but to come together to weather the devastation of his life being cut tragically short. Or perhaps there is just something in the air at Central High, some lingering essence that students pick up through osmosis simply by sharing classrooms that were once rife with hatred and struggle, intolerance and cruelty. Within the walls of this school, injustice was fought, ignorance was challenged, history was made. Perhaps just spending time there imparts the profound understanding that friendship is no small thing, but an honor, a gift to be cherished and preserved.

Elizabeth Eckford, Little Rock Central High, 1957

Whatever it was that knit this group together, I was proud to be in their presence. And I feel certain that Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Beals would be proud, too.

I am inspired, and I'm funneling that inspiration into plans for my own 30 year reunion. Not so that I can compare what we had to what my husband's class had, not so that we can compare how far we've come or how much we've changed. But so I can remind myself of what these people already know, that friendship is precious and we should grab it with both hands, and hold on.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nice Work If You Can Get It

I was eight months pregnant as the 2002-2003 school year came to a close. Although we'd miss the income, I was committed to my plan of giving up teaching to stay home with my son until he was ready for Kindergarten. But then, one of my best friends scooped me up to watch her son a few hours a week.

Over time, everything grew — the job, the boys, the friendship, my gratitude. I still can't believe she pays me for this . . . .

I swear some days I feel like I should be paying her. But please don't tell her.
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