The other night, one of the great loves of my life came over for a “sleepover.” The last sleepover we had was in the late 90’s so this isn’t our regular practice. We’ve both had a busy 15 yrs. or so. Stef & I became fast friends in junior high and we’ve been “besties until 3004” –our signature slogan– ever since. Our mid 20’s/early 30’s did us in a bit: she went hard into her studies, medical school, residency & building her career as a very successful Doctor. I went hard into marriage, building my career, popping out a couple of kids and then a divorce.
We were in different parts of the same state, but we may as well have been across the country…a good decade came and went that we didn’t darken one anothers door step. Some where along the line each of us believed the other was ‘ready to move on’ and was no longer interested in pursuing a friendship with the other. Was it besties until 3004 or 2004? Problem was, our self-told narratives couldn’t have been further from the truth. Neither of us called to confirm our suspicions. We let circumstances dictate what we thought was happening…that she was pulling away…that I was pulling away. Nobody was pulling away.
Adult Lesson #1: People. Call yo friends.
What’s beautiful about the relationship that Stef and I have, is how we pick back up like it never stalled. I have another friend where something very similar happened. Jen & I were fast and quick besties since 5th grade. I still remember the room & the configuration of the table on the first day I met her. Jen & I were ride and die from 1985 until 2001. That’s 16 yrs. of non-stop communication BFF’ing until we got into a spat about what else? Differences of opinion regarding men.
After several years of a tense relationship and zero communication, Jen & I reconnected first through Facebook, and then after she had her first child and when a mutual friends’ mother passed away. At the funeral, we embraced and cried so loudly we distracted folks. That was a life changing moment for us. All of the hurt and confusion just fell away. Any strife, any anger —poof. It was gone. We experienced something miraculous in that moment and I cannot thank God enough for that precious moment of reconciliation. But, over 10 yrs. went by before this happened lest any of us forget miracles don’t happen over night and sometimes the only way to thorough healing is through lots of pain and plenty of time.
Jen & I apologized profusely. We acknowledged that we were asshats, young, immature and out of line. Our reconciliation couldn’t have been more on time. Jen was a huge emotional support to me when I was going through a divorce and custody proceedings, as I lost my job and when my present and my future seemed extremely precarious. Both Jen & Stef, were part of my tribe who were stood by and articulated, “I don’t care what happened, I don’t care who’s fault it is, I don’t care how you got here, I don’t care. I love you and I will help you, and you will not lose your children and you will get through this.” They both helped financially, prayerfully and with unbridled emotional support.
Back to Stef. She recently decided to take a Sabbatical from work to pursue the most important things in her life: people and relationship investment.
When I was 18, I was approached by the owner/manager of a strip club in Detroit (on 8 mile no less) called "The Black Orchid." (I think). He offered me $1k to "try out stripping." I was a college student & broke & scared & I sadly put some thought into it. I remember telling one of my besties, Stefani (pictured here) how much I really needed the money & how maybe it could just get me a little ways through college. I remember she said something like, "no your not stripping," and then "no. Your not going to use your body for money. No." And honestly, that was the end of the discussion. I threw away his card. A few years later, I was still broke, my mom was very sick, I was severely depressed still trying to plug away at just finishing up a bachelors degree on a nanny salary. Stefani had started school after me had all ready finished her bachelors & was now in medical school & I felt like a complete loser. I told her I was thinking about dropping out of school & joining the army. I reasoned that it was taking too long & I was so far behind her. She said flatly, "no. Your not dropping out & your not joining the army. You & I are not in competition, it doesn't matter how long your bachelors takes. Your finishing it, now hush." And that was that. It took me 7 years but I did it. A few summers ago I called Stefani in hysteria when I lost my job, was broke, getting a divorce & terrified of losing my kids, depressed & suicidal. Like usual, Stef just laid it on me, "no. Your not killing yourself & your not giving up on yourself. Got it?" She's a very successful & very busy Doctor & we've seen each other only a handful of times in the last decade, but she surprised me & showed up at my wedding. She reminded me how much she meant to me, how she's been such a gift from God in how she's been there for me -with NO judgement- at really key times in life to be my strength. I have some great Stef stories I should tell some time! 😏 I meant to post this yesterday. Dr. Hudson is my #wcw We met &I became FAST friends when I was in 6th & she was in 5th. We bonded instantly over a pair of sweet Jordan's she had on the 1st day of school. This woman has my heart. ❤️
I recently posted on Intsa how she showed up and surprised me so thoroughly at my wedding a few months ago, that I interrupted the ceremony in delight so joyous I couldn’t contain it. That single gesture meant so much to me, I don’t quite know how to articulate it. Shortly after that we decided to get together for a general catch-up and those 8 hours just weren’t enough, so we had to make plans for a full on sleepover plus a girls trip to Miami. TBD, of course.
Stef laid down the rules. We must order in. There must be girly pj’s, Nutella & rom com’s playing in the background. My contribution was fruity Moscato because neither of us drink and when we do it must be so masked by sugar or fruit flavors that we hardly know the drink is alcoholic. But also? I brought the best of all contributions one could bring to a girls sleepover after 15 odd years: old letters and pictures.
Just a few weeks ago I found a fairly hefty box of old high school yearbooks, photo albums and cases of pictures from the days I used to drop off film at Walgreens and in exchange for $7.67, I’d leave with double copies of actual pictures. This box also contained a bevy of handwritten, typed and even faxed letters friends and I exchanged when we got our first “real jobs,” but before email. This box may as well be worth $300,000 for the downright hilarity it contained.
We read through letters we’d sent each other while each of us were pursuing our undergraduate degrees. Stef studied about an hour away from where I lived and I studied. We saw each other quite a bit during those years, especially for parties. Because, parties. Though neither Stef or I were “party girls” per se, we were some fast little suttin’ suttin’s in the boyfriend realm. Both of us, we always had a boyfriend. Or two. We reflected on this reality with a twinge of shame during our girls night extravaganza. For almost all of our dating years we knew who each one was dating. We always knew. We’d call each other just to update who was getting broken up with, or advancing to the next stage. Boy updates were basically ingrained into our relationship DNA. I digress.
We’re going through letters when we come across a very sticky sweet poem from a dude with The Most Excellent Penmanship either of us have ever seen. I’m talking luxurious, elegant, computer-generated font worthy penmanship. His name is Emmanuel and neither of us have a memory of my being with any Emmanuel. We are reading his letter perplexed. This man sounds like we were married for 25 years, his love for me intense and profound, we have no clue who he is. “Gracey, when I see your beautiful brown eyes, my love for you grows and grows.” By this point, Stef & I are dying. Then the letter takes a decided turn, “I just wish, Gracey, that you would respond to me. I wish that I would hear back from you. Because as you know…” And before we get to it, we’re trying to figure out just why I wasn’t responding to this Emmanuel character who was so clearly, smitten. And with The Most Excellent Penmanship what could have possibly been my problem? He goes on…
“Gracey, I would love to keep writing to you because as you know, I’m incarcerated and I have nothing but time on my hands. If you would please respond…” We. About. Died. Of. Laughter. It took a few minutes when I finally remembered that when my brother did time, a fellow inmate saw my pictures and asked if it would be okay to send me letters. Not only did my brother give him our phone number but also my address. I have a vague memory of Emmanuel calling me collect. To be nice, I chatted with him for 5-10 minutes hoping he’d go away. Well, the prison-inmate-boyfriend I didn’t know I had, ended up sending me four letters plus a very well drawn, home-made card with a very sweet poem in —-yep, you guessed it, The Most Excellent Penmanship Stef and I had ever seen.
Even though Stef wanted to stay up all night, we made it until 3am. It took me 2 days to recover.
Adult Life Lesson #2: Take time to invest in the relationships that really matter to you. No seriously, you should really do this. No matter what.
Adult Life Lesson #3: Don’t agree to allow your brother in prison to give yo contact info to his inmate friends. Simple Enough.
Adult Life Lesson #4: Get enough sleep.
Love you, Stef. Until 3004.