Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mermaids, flash mobs and a story that keeps unfolding

She called to tell me a mermaid story.  As soon as I answered the phone, she dove in: “Once upon a time there was a mermaid, and her friends noticed she’d been pretty sad, so they set out to make her smile...”  Her friends tried lots of things - Burger King crowns, ice cream, pedicures - ending with a flash mob that had me in stitches, and the whole story, she barely paused to catch a breath.  I was caught between laughter and sheer admiration. 

That’s my Ruthie.

Oh, but we didn’t start here, with on-the-fly storytelling.  Our friendship started off arranged, as roommates with a friend we both shared.  By the end of the year, we had bonded through a hard living situation, late night excursions to play in fountains, trips to Uwajimaya for mochi ice cream, and shared experiences with refugees through the organization I worked for as a social worker.  When she moved a little more than a year later to Mississippi to begin a new adventure in teaching, I drove with her across the country.  We piled into her weighted down car, ate way too many cherries in Idaho, paid the price by the time we reached Boise, stayed in an motel during an Indian wedding and dyed my hair red, cheered when we finally got through Wyoming, found a fountain in Lincoln, stopped off for some laughs in Ozarkland, kept a running list of off-the-cuff quotes, and squeezed in lots of episodes of West Wing on her laptop.  I left her with a rare tearful goodbye. 

She alone knows best how to coax my laugh from its cave, how to make me smile when I’m in tears without making me feel she’s uncomfortable with my pain.  She can manage to tuck a deep message in the folds of a goofy, spontaneous story without ever saying a direct word on the subject.  But she’s learned how to be direct, too, when she needs to be; and when she is, I listen.

The day my Papa fell and slipped into a coma, I’d left her at the airport before dawn with all her luggage, headed to Guatemala for at least a year to teach.  I wasn’t sure when I’d see her next.  When she arrived in Guatemala, she heard the news and immediately offered to buy me a ticket to come stay with her for a month.  Shell shocked I came to Guatemala, a month and a half after Papa’s death, and those weeks with her are dog-earred pages of a bittersweet story I cherish. 

One night, lying in a treehouse in the hills above Antigua, I cried quietly in the dark, remembering Papa’s final hours.  I felt her hand reach out and take mine, squeezing it softly, and this gesture, so much deeper than words, held me. 

And the night before I left, we finally watched the dvd slideshow of Papa’s life that I brought from his memorial service.  We cried and snotted on each other’s shoulders, and then drank huge glasses of red wine.  And then the jokes started flying with our eyes still red and puffy. 

That’s my Ruthie.

In all my life, I’ve never met someone like her.  She is a friend I always want by my side, whether we live miles or states or countries apart; whether we go months without talking on the phone or years without seeing each other.  In my heart, she is by my side, always, a tried and true friend. 

And now she’s getting married this weekend.  I have watched her, brimming over happiness, relaxing into the love of this man who adores her - and my heart smiles.  He is receiving a gem.

That’s my Ruthie. 

So happy for you, Ruthie and Cal! xoxoxox


  1. What a beautiful friendship, dear Amber, and you tell this story so well. Truly...what gift. I pray the wedding was filled with much joy! Love and miss you, friend.

    1. Thank you, Ashley! It is a dear friendship, indeed. So thankful for the gifts of each of my special friendships, in all their different forms. Love you.