12.17.2005

Missing

When I was in kindergarten my best friend's name was Melissa. I got on the bus at the first stop. Melissa got on at the last. More often than not, the driver would make me sit with a little dark haired girl that got on the bus somewhere in between. The two of us - forced to sit together - stared intently at our shoes the entire short, but seemingly long, ride.

I had black patent leather Mary Janes. She had navy blue laced-up shoes.

In first grade blue shoes and I were in the same class. We sat in alphabetical order. The letters in our name lined up. We both had the last desk in our respective rows. We decided to give up the shoe staring contest and started a friendship that continues to this day.

During our youth, it was easy to classify Stacy as "best friend." We did nearly everything together and even when our interest grew apart, we did not. We went to different colleges. We now live in different states. Yet all the distance has done is change the way we interact - not our basic relationship. She was the first non-family member to know I was pregnant both times. And I got the middle of the night phone call the night her mother passed away. We both know that no matter what, we're still those same little girls giggling under blankets as we pretended to sleep on the floor late at night. We were naive enough to think our parents had no idea we'd raided the M&M stash or failed to snooze by bed time when we had sleep-overs.

Today we email back and forth. It's one long continuous thread of emails that don't come quite as frequent as they used to. I'm juggling two kids and a job. She's juggling an Emergency Department, a toddler and a pregnancy. It's amazing we get any emails sent off. Occasionally we get to call. Yet even these brief encounters seem to be enough. No matter the lag between our correspondence we always pick up where we left off. We don't miss a beat. She's like the old worn in slipper for my tired feet.

Yet every year since life has moved us from close proximity I miss her around the holidays. We became woven into each other's family holiday traditions. When I go to church on Christmas Eve I feel an empty space next to me where Stacy should be sitting. It's a weird feeling and it is, admittedly, fleeting as I focus on the ones that are with me.

I played driedle for the first time when I was six. As we approached the holidays Stacy told me she didn't believe in Santa. She told me she didn't celebrate Christmas. I was flabbergasted. She invited me over to help her family light the menorah one night. So I went. I listened. I learned. I played driedle. That year Stacy went to Christmas Eve service with us.

As warmer weather crept in, I was invited to a Passover meal. Stacy's father showed me how to use the prayer books they had out at each plate. They taught me their traditions. I used to run to the door with Stacy and her sister to wait for Elijah. Stacy would come to my house for an Easter egg hunt some years.

This was something we did every year. As I grew older and began to usher with my parents on Christmas Eve, Stacy picked up a responsibility also. She, with her Star of David around her neck, would stand at the door and hand out the candles used for the candle light portion of the service. She'd happily and very off-key sing every single hymn from memory as the service progressed. And each year, I'd continue to join her family one night for Hanukkah and one night for Passover.

When we were 13, I went to her Bat Mitzvah. I remember feeling flustered by the service. Not sure what was happening as Stacy sang in Hebrew. Not sure when I was supposed to turn around and face the back of the Temple. Not sure of whether or not I was allowed to sip the wine at the reception. But, I also remember being so proud of her.

The year we started college, Stacy's parents moved several hours away. It was going to be my first Christmas Eve without my pal around, but she got permission from her parents to visit. That year was her first "Christmas morning." I have pictures of her opening the hand-made earrings I had bought from another student at my college.

A few nights ago, as we drove around looking at the houses decorated for Christmas, my son asked me about a menorah he saw in someone's window. I did my best to explain it to him in a way I thought his young brain could wrap itself around. I told him about the miracle - about oil enough for only one night lasting for eight. He asked me a few more questions and I answered as best I could.

And then I found myself remembering those nights I sat in Stacy's living room watching her father, sporting his yarmulke, lighting the candle. I missed her at that moment. I missed our traditions. I think I'm going to send her off a long over due email now and tell her this. Then I might tell her how much I wish we all lived closer so my children and hers could have the chance to learn from each other the way we did once.

15 comments:

Bhakti said...

This is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL post. I am so glad that Michele sent me here! I literally got teary-eyed while reading this. I love the fact that you two embraced each other's holidays with such love and joy. This post should be a model for our entire coutry (assuming that you are from the USA..if you're not, then the USA should use this as a model of integration rather than segregation of the holiday spirits).

Much love to you,
And Happy Holidays!
P.S. Tell Stacy I said Hello!!!

rob said...

Lovely.

Just lovely.

kontan said...

It is wonderful that you were both open to the traditions of the other. Great post and it makes me miss my long time friends who my only contact now is through email. *sigh*

here via michele

Kat said...

I love this story. My childhood best friend and I have not been great about keeping in contact over the years, but beginning later this month we'll finally be in the same area, possibly for good. I can't wait to reconnect, as she is my oldest friend (I've known her since age 2).

Carmi said...

I choked back tears as I read this. I hope she reads your blog, because this is one of the most wonderful tributes to a friend I have ever seen.

May we all be so lucky to have a soul mate like this.

Minerva said...

I loved this, this view of friendship and tolerance..Such a great post, not just to a friendship but also at Christmas - messages to all of us...

Thank you,

Minerva

Michele sent me...

dan said...

Thanks for clicking through to my site on Jane's. And thanks for your kind comment. I have alot yet to learn.

I can't say that I've ever had a friend as long as that... the longest term friends I still have regular contact with are from high school...

And even then, somedays... ;)

utenzi said...

It seems to me, Sandy, that a virgin birth beats out oil lasting a few extra days in as far as miracles go. Maybe that's why Christmas seems to win out. Like anyone in advertising knows, you really need a good story to sell a product.

I didn't know anyone that was Jewish when I was a kid. I did end up with a Jewish wife though so I guess that caught me up. Passover was a much bigger holiday and that one has a good story behind it.

Michele sent me over to read your story and congratulate you on a most wonderful friendship with Stacy.

Joe said...

Beautiful, beautiful post!

Here via Michele.

Crazy MomCat said...

This was a lovely memory and honor to your friend. I really enjoyed visiting tonight. I also love your site design!

Michele sent me.

sophie said...

Wonderful post. You have motivated me to get in touch with a friend I haven't talked to in far too long. Here from Michele's.

yellojkt said...

Michele sent me and I am glad she did. That is a great story. I wish I had a life long friend like that.

Sexy Soccamom said...

That's a beautiful post and a wonderful testimony to friendship. I wish I had forged a bond like that in my youth. To not only share in each other's beliefs and traditions, but to have such wonderful and open parents who fostered understanding is truly a great gift. I'm so glad Michele sent me tonight.

sage said...

wonderful story, I sometimes wish I still had friends from my childhood--occassionally I run into people I knew--but no with whom I keep that close

Deana said...

Email your buddy- you will feel better. Very sweet post. Michele sent me!