In about ten days is the birthday of the last of 'the girls', my close-knit group of high school friends, who I've celebrated this year by writing of them. I've missed myriad birthdays in the decades since we were baking cakes and taking pictures together, but writing of them is what I can do...it's my gift to them. But because I'll likely be swamped in ten days (on the 18th) I thought I'd write while there is a free moment. Strike while the iron is hot, as the saying goes. So here's my early birthday reflections to the woman we know as Lace.
Lace is the smallest of the girls in stature. That's what you might notice if you met us. She sometimes has to shop in the kids' department, when Petites come too large. But her size is just about the only thing small about her. When I think of her, I rarely think of small.
She 'joined' us late, in a sense. That is, she was one of the two who didn't go to middle school with the rest of us. But she quickly found a home among us. Before we could drive, her parents were glad to drive some of us to all the away football and basketball games, and I'm not talking about a simple drive across town. We lived in the isolation of rural eastern Washington where the nearest town was eight miles away across the border to Idaho and the farthest opponent was over two hours away. It was no simple matter to drive to games in those games, but Lace and her parents gladly loaded up their large boat of a sedan and, as certain as the US mail, got through in any weather.
Lace was also the first of us to become independent. Her parents moved away during our senior year in high school, and to our amazement (and secret envy!), Lace was moved into a basement apartment of her own. It was just about the coolest thing we could imagine, glimpsing that adult world before the rest of us had the chance. But her parents knew Lace could handle it because she's responsible. That's what you have to know about her. In that small person is a woman with a backbone of steel who does what she says she'll do, whose word is her bond. She doesn't have to be asked twice either.
She's a loyal one, our Lace is. Friendships matter. Family more so. Lace is the only one of us who hasn't had her own child, but she's raised children. Nephews and nieces, grandnieces. She couldn't be more committed to them if they were her own, because, after all, they really are. And she's that kind of daughter, as well. She's the daughter who's present, in every way necessary, to her parents. There. Just there when they need her.
She's been that kind of friend too. She's always the first to respond to our emails about dates for our summer get-togethers, and is the one to make sure the more scatter-brained among us (like me) have put it on our calendar. She is the first to jump up and offer to help in the kitchen and the last to leave the dishes undone. When one of us went through a pretty bad time a few years ago, she was there not to give advice (which would have been my instinct!) but with paint and a paintbrush, ready to give her home a face-lift. Her practical, thoughtful gift meant more than my long, conversation would have. This is Lace--practical and present.
But she can laugh. She does laugh. We all do, of course. It's part of our story together. Part of our long history. And Lace has good stories to add to our collection. You should hear them. There's one about a hot day, a (different) painting project...on second thought, never mind, it's not mine to tell. But it makes me laugh just to think of it.
So I can learn from Lace. I do. She humbles me by her gifts on constancy--in work, in friendship, in family. She humbles me by her ability to speak her mind without giving offence. I was in awe of her independence when she was young and am in awe by her loyalty as a grown woman. In some ways, we couldn't be more different, but in the most profound ways--the ways that count--I'd give anything to be more like her. And I'm thankful for the example of her large presence in her small person all these years.
I love you, Lace.
Happy early Birthday!