Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!

I met Melissa when she transferred to my small Catholic Elementary School in Third or Fourth Grade (she'll correct that detail I'm sure).

Our friendship began in Fifth Grade when the yearly Talent Show was approaching and I could find no one else willing to participate in my goofy dance routine with me. Not only was Melissa willing, she had a big living room, stereo equipment, and a piano playing big brother named Derek.

And so began a friendship that has endured for 30 years, several moves - further away each time (strictly on her part), 3 weddings (mostly mine), 1 divorce (that's mine too), 7 pregnancies (I claim the majority on that one), 2 miscarriages (we split that one evenly), and countless hours of talking, whether in person or via several thousands of dollars worth of long distance phone bills.

When we were in High School, I pretty much lived at her house and did in fact live there most weekends and great parts of summer vacations. Every plane trip I have taken has involved Melissa and/or her family. Her parents graciously invited me to accompany them to Disneyworld when I was 15. When I was 23 I flew to Seattle and stayed with her and her oldest brother Chris and nephew Joshua in their home. When I was 24 and getting divorced we flew to Key West together and had a "Girl's Night Out" that lasted 7 days.

I helped to renovate a house owned by her sister Becky and her husband Kris. I still remember having a "blast" sandblasting the walls of their home. I'm pretty sure we were cheap help - we worked for lunch, but it was a good time nonetheless. We paddled in a blue plastic baby pool with her niece Amy, and her other niece Lisa was probably the first baby I saw as a newborn infant.

Her oldest sister Kathy was and is an AMAZING artist, and I enjoyed her paintings and sketches through the years and was delighted to meet her when she visited occasionally from the Seattle area.

Derek, the brother closest in age to Melissa and I, became a good friend and sometimes over-protective big brother over the years as well. He is a superb piano player and I definitely acquired a love of piano music from innumerable hours of listening to him play piano, sometimes while we all belted out renditions of Emerson Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, and countless others. With and without liquid courage.

I began calling her Mom, "Mom" years ago and my kids refer to her as "Grandma Kathy".

So you see Melissa is not only my friend, she is my family. When she moved to England to attend Graduate School, then met a native named Chris (there is some fundamental attraction to the name "Chris" in that family) and planned a wedding, it was assumed I would attend. When I was unsure how I would manage to find the funds (I was single and living in an apartment at the time), Mom and Hank assured me it wouldn't be a problem. Translation = Mom & Hank generously paid my way across the Atlantic and back.

As the date of her (and my adopted) beloved Grandma Ollie's 90th birthday approaches, she and her entire family have made plans to gather from all over the globe. The last time I saw Melissa, Jamie was 3 weeks old. He is now 5, I have another baby, she has an almost 2 year old daughter named Leone, and another baby on the way. It has been FAR too long since we got to gab and laugh 'til the tears run down our faces in the same continent, let alone IN THE SAME ROOM.

I always wanted a big family with lots of brothers and sisters and spent a large part of my youth wishing I had that.

As the time approaches for Melissa and her family to converge and I have reconnected with some of those brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, and realize that Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Hank have been there for every birth, birthday, wedding and funeral, something has occurred to me.

I have had that big family all along.


L said...

you made my eyes leak a lil' bit. what a wonderful memory. i'm so happy you get to see her soon!

i think the family we find in our friends truly is just as beautiful as the one we find in our blood relatives. i'm so happy you have melissa.

by the way, being done with graduate school is WONDERFUL!!! whoo hoo!!!!


with love from pittsburgh...

tbsomeday said...

well mb...now you've got me wanting to meet your friend :)
what a great relationship you guys have
of course your visit will be WONDERFUL!
and we can't wait to hear all about it :)

Norkio said...

Oh you got me right at the end. It's amazing what we see right in front of ourselves when we look from another angle. I love that your wishes for a big family have always been true.