***I started this post on December 6 th, right after I opened this:***
Then life got in my way.
So here you go, the story of that box and one of my favorite people in the world:
I have wanted to write about my best friend Christa for a long time. But how do you encapsulate and explain a person like her? She is one of the kindest, smartest, most generous and caring people I have come across. How many times have you heard someone described that way? Does it sound false? Cliche?
It’s all true.
I did not know her 4 years ago. Autism brought us together. When the Roc was diagnosed I told the few people I saw on a regular basis, one of which was my friend and neighbor Tracy. I cried, and she cried with me, then she told me about her friend Christa, who she insisted I contact. She told me Christa’s son was also on the spectrum, and that she could be someone to lean on during this difficult time. That it would be good to know someone who went through the same things I was. I told her I didn’t know, I didn’t feel up to meeting anyone new right then.
I just didn’t want to belong to that club. I didn’t want to talk about it to someone I didn’t know. I wasn’t ready to talk. So I waited a few months.
Eventually I did call Christa and we had a long, heartfelt conversation. I felt like I was talking to someone I had known for a long time and I felt like I was finally talking to someone who “got it.” Someone who got the anguish and pain I was feeling, understood the depths of my fear and worry like no one else did. We got together not long after, and then again, and again and again. We got our boys together and found that it was nice for them. Tracy was right, I did lean on Christa, I still do.
She has been the person I call or email when I feel that I am not good enough to do this autism mama job, not smart enough to figure out what the Roc needs, just not enough. When I don’t think I can be the mother that the Roc needs me to be, I call or email Christa. She says and writes all the right things. She throws me a rope when the waves are crashing over my head and I just cannot get a breath. We spent a lot of time together when I lived in Delaware.
In September 2010 we went on a road trip together, she has been in the long process of writing her first book and needed to do some research. She asked me to come with, as her travel partner and photographer. I jumped at the chance. At that time I had never been away from the Roc for more than a night or two, and I could count those nights on one hand. We flew down to Florida and then drove back up the coast, stopping where she needed to stop,
talking, and taking lots of pictures. We had a blast. We travel well together. We had so much fun that we decided to try to get away for a long weekend together every year.
It was hard to tell her when we put our townhouse in Delaware on the market last October. It was even harder to leave her when we actually moved away in June. She brought us dinner on our last night in town,
and I’ll never forget that she came to see Giancarlo and I off on our very last morning in Delaware. She helped us load our travel bags and animals into our tiny Celica and she stood on the sidewalk waving goodbye as we drove out of our neighborhood. I know that she got into her car and cried when we rounded the curve out of sight because I could hardly see through my own tears. We were both worried that we would lose our connection, but we emailed a lot over the summer, sometimes late at night, catching each other just when we needed to be caught. We also kept our promise to get together every fall and she flew out to see us in September.
We had a great weekend together, tinged with the grief I was wrestling after my miscarriage, as she arrived days after I lost the baby. I worried that she didn’t have as much fun as both of us had anticipated, my heartache coloring my mood and affecting both of us by the end of the weekend. I had wanted to show her a good time, my favorite places, and the beauty to be found in Minnesota. And I did. We went to up north, stayed in a hotel, ate out, and I showed her my favorite places on the “north shore.”
We exchanged many lengthy emails after she returned to Delaware. We strengthened our bond and deepened our friendship with what we were finally able to share, those things that weighed heavy in the air while we were actually together were finally examined.
Christa and I keep in touch regularly, we talk on the phone when we get the chance, we exchange emails and facebook comments. She recently got an iphone, but I haven’t gotten her to text regularly, yet.
On December 6th I saw that she had posted on facebook about being an elf and I figured she had found the perfect gift for her son and was delighting in that small/big victory. I was surprised later that day when I received a box and upon turning it over saw her handwriting. I didn’t put everything together until I opened it, saw what was inside and then read the enclosed document.
“OH MY…WHAT IS THIS? Well, it’s a Mantle in a box, that’s what it is. Because I’m guessing you’re not the kind of girl who sits around for hours on end daydreaming about how you can make your fireplace look like it came out of the Holiday Edition of the Pottery Barn catalog, I thought I would take the liberty of doing it for you. And also because letting your gorgeous mantle go naked for the holidays is just a crime. In Minnesota, anyway.”
Christa had included a contents list and some instructions including,
“Take the pine cone ornaments and Christmas balls out of the boxes and group them together to make clusters of ornaments (usually in threes.) DO NOT group the pine cone ornaments with two balls or it will look like this:”
and she included a little drawing of how offensive that particular grouping would appear complete with the sentiment of, “and that’s just gross” next to it. I howled with laughter, tears in my eyes at first from her thoughtfulness, and then because of her humor.
The document is a couple pages long, complete with drawings of how the finished mantle may appear,
and also lots of suggestions of what I could do to it in the future, complete with pictures and notes. Christa has a good eye and lots of good ideas!
She knows me well. I really wanted to decorate my mantle, I even went to look at some things and left the store empty-handed because I was too overwhelmed by all the choices. The very morning that box arrived I had planned on stopping at Target to at least get some lights to go across the mantle but when I got to the exit, I kept on driving.
I carried the box into my family room, agreed to let the Roc watch a Scooby-Doo movie, then looked up at my poor attempt to decorate my mantle.
Then I got to work, following Christa’s directions, shoving the dog away from the garland again and again, and finally I was done. It’s probably not as good as Christa would do, but I am pretty happy with it,
and it’s so pretty at night.
So thank you Christa. Thank you for being such a good friend to me. Thank you for making me laugh, for cheering me on, for throwing me a rope when I need one, for always being there. I’ve never had a friendship like ours and I feel so incredibly lucky.
Thank you for making my mantle pretty.