Long Runs and Sprints

One day, almost 24 years ago, I forgot my gym clothes, and you did too.  And I remember not much else of that day or even that year, but that moment is an indelible snapshot in my memory, and the years fall away and there we are, small soft versions of us, sitting close in those beat up wood bleachers, in loafers and plaid skirts, loud squeaks of gym shoes and basketballs all around us and we are oblivious, becoming best friends.

Sometimes when you’re in the middle of living, you realize that moments are a big deal, and sometimes the moments are quiet and you have no idea what they mean.  I was only ten years old, and I didn’t know yet that a person you could sit down next to and talk to for the length of a gym class doesn’t come along every day.  I didn’t realize that forgetting my gym clothes would change my whole life.

And now it’s two decades later and I get the phone call that it’s time and then I get another one and then a text and then your water breaks and there’s another phone call and then the contractions are two minutes apart and you need to talk to me and you need to know where I am and each time I say “I am coming as fast as I can”.  Evening falls as we sit in traffic and finally finally we cross the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco fog has never looked so welcome.  My husband speeds through the hilly streets and I sit on my hands and bite my lip to keep from screaming “DRIVE FASTER” and then we are pulling up to the door and I hear a muffled “Go! Go! Go” as I slam the car door.

I run against city traffic without a walk signal, run through shiny linoleum tiled hallways, run past the desk where I am supposed to sign in, run past couples slowly walking the walls, run all the way, and I arrive out of breath and shaking.  I hope this is routine, all these doctors around you, and there’s no time for transition, I’ve burst into your darkened room and I feel loud and out of place, as if I have brought cold too quickly into a warm place, but there you are smiling at me anyway.  You are exhausted, I can tell, and your eyes look scared and your feet are in stirrups and there’s spotlights and machines and beeps and cords and blood pressure cuffs and everyone has to be careful where they walk, but you’re smiling, and later they would all say “that smile was just for you”.  And now that’s a part of me, that smile, and I’ll add it to the stack of things we have between us, that I ran in the room and grabbed your hand seconds before they told you to push, that I was there in the room when Elena was born and there in the room when Ava was born, that you were there holding my hand three years earlier for Eli and then when I had my Katie, there you were, and sometimes I forget that not everyone gets this, that not everyone has this person, any person, this person that they get to have with them, at that moment, holding their hand.

You are amazing, amazing.  I am peering over the sheet, watching, and I am certain that pushing this child out is physically impossible, and I am also certain that you mustn’t know this, and so I hold your hand and try to keep the adrenaline and panic out of my breath.   I hope I am helping with my loud quavery counts and wonder at the same time if you want counting, if counting is allowed, and I am still catching my breath from the run, and then your daughter is here.

They take her away for weighing and cleaning and I stay with you, holding your hand.  It is only then that I notice the view through the huge windows of your room, the mist rolling in, the dark city at night.  We laugh and I say “I ran against traffic, people were honking, and I ran through the hall and I ran past the check in desk” and a nurse stops to look at us while folding up a sheet or a towel and says “Now who is this?” and you reply “this is my best friend” and I pause, because “best friends” seems so small, but I cannot think of how to say:  “I ran through traffic and I made it here. But also we made it through two divorces and six new schools and surgery and two weddings and weight gain and weight loss and four moves and cheating boyfriends and family vacations and lawsuits and bad parenting and depression and heartbreak, through days I had to smash plates and days they told me something was wrong with my baby and whenever I had to make one of those phone calls where only my sobs could be heard on the line she was always on the other end of that phone call and so I knew I didn’t need words and we made it through all of that together.”

One day 24 years ago we both forgot our gym clothes and we sat next to each other in the bleachers.  I never thought that two decades later we’d be mothers together, that we’d be together through the long runs and the sprints and that I’d be there holding your hand, out of breath, while you smiled up at me and became a mother again.



18 Responses

  1. Friendships worth running against traffic for are definitely unusual and so amazing. This piece was amazing.

  2. This is so, so lovely. I have no words other than that.

  3. You have a Natalie. I’m so glad because everyone on earth deserves their own Natalie but especially you.

    I feel lucky to have her every single day.

  4. Bravo, this is just beautiful.

  5. Oh my goodness, I was totally expecting a post about RUNNING, and now I’m crying because this post is just so beautiful.

  6. Lovely post. You are both so lucky to have each other.

  7. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your friendship story with us readers.

  8. Beautiful!

    (And now I’m crying.)

  9. aw, geez, now here I am at my desk, sniffing, wtih tears running down the face. How very, very blessed you are!

    What an exquisitely written tribute to a beautiful friendship.

  10. Thank you. I needed this. I needed the tears that came from it, and the deep feeling of longing that is still coming from it because for the last eight months I’ve been missing my best friend. She disappeared through some kind of weird friend shift in the fabric of space and time and I haven’t been sure if I should try to get her back.

    And now I think I know.

  11. This is wonderful! You are so lucky to have eachother.

    I have her,too. We met in 5th grade at a slumber party though we went to seperate elementry schools only to learn we lived mere blocks from eachother. It is amazing how meeting someone while so young is life altering. Aren’t we lucky?

  12. you have me crying, i am in the airport heading home from making it just in time to the hospital to watch my best friend’s first be born. i have thought all those things in the past 5 days while trying to explain to nurses that she my best friend, get on a plane when i got the call she was in labor best friend. what a beautiful post.

  13. This was really, really beautiful.

  14. I am the luckiest. Whew. Thanks for a good, solid cry. You have quite the way with words, lady.

  15. over the top good.

  16. Oh, my god. I love this. Tears are splashing on my desk.

  17. I stumbled on here through my Google Reader (after being attracted to the Nebraska in your name) and almost skipped this post but I’m SO glad I didn’t. I was reading and my boyfriend asked a question and I turned to him, crying, and am still crying, minutes later. The relationship that you two have and your ability to put that into words is impressively awesome.(Using awesome in the awe-some way.) I’m going to send this to my best friend, and thank you for reminding me of how special that connection is.

  18. […] husband is by far my best friend, but I guess I’ve just never had the kind of friendship like this. But I’ve always, always wanted […]

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