I don’t know about you, but when I have friends coming over, I scramble to make the house presentable. The clean, yet unfolded, laundry will get tossed on my bed, I wipe down the bathroom counters, take care of the pile of stuff that’s accumulated on the front table, run the vacuum, etc. All the little niceties to help my friends feel welcome and at home. And I’m not saying that’s bad… What I am saying is that its not always real life. Real life is messy.
A friend from high school moved about 10 minutes away from me last spring. We weren’t close in high school, friends of course, but we ran in very different circles. And when she found out they were moving home, she contacted me to help her find a rental home. Honestly, I was happy for her that she was going to move closer to family, and I was looking forward to our sons having play dates. But I had no intention of the friendship moving beyond that.
Lynn had other ideas. And no matter how hard I tried to keep her at arm’s length, she pushed back. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her friendship, its just that I’m used to saying goodbye to friends. And it hurts less when you’re not close. Silly, of course. But never the less, the truth. I just had a feeling that they wouldn’t be staying long.
Slowly but surely, Lynn eased her way into my life. Homemade dinners when my grandma got sick with cancer, offers to babysit, a bottle of wine when Grandma died, play dates, and more. Soon, more than a day didn’t go by without us talking to each other, texting, or having each other’s son over for play dates. Hudson and Holden were two peas in a pod, and their instantaneous friendship gave us all the more reason to hang out together.
Then one day, for whatever reason, Lynn had taken my kids and our van for the day. I forget the reason… it could’ve been a day to allow me catch up on design work, or it could have been for one of my dad’s cancer appointments. But I came home and both to my horror and surprise, I had a completely clean vehicle! Tired of hearing me complain how dirty my van was and how many times I kept saying I needed to clean it, she took it upon herself to clean it for me. And this was no easy task, friends. A minivan with four Littles who constantly leave behind school bags, snacks, clothing, is a nuclear wasteland.
And she gave me the beautiful gift of cleaning it for me.
She doesn’t know this, but I drove away that day with tears in my eyes. Tears of gratitude, tears of shock, tears of humility. It was in that moment that I realized what its like to actually LIVE messy life with someone.
During the next eight months, we grew closer than ever. Holden became our fifth child on family outings, Hudson became their adopted child too. There were days Lynn would show up and whisk Hudson away for an ice cream date with the family. Food would show up in our fridge, there were school pick-ups and drop-offs, babystitting, poker nights, Corn Hole, bbqs, family dinners. She and Holden would even come over for a play date and she’d pull up a seat on the couch and start folding laundry with me.
As the days grew closer to their moving date, she and I had many teary conversations. It was Lynn that taught me how to embrace my mess, it was Lynn that taught me how to be a friend through the mess, it was Lynn that gave me a gift that I’d never experienced before with another woman. It was a beautiful gift, and one that I’ll take with me into other friendships.
When we said our goodbyes, I thanked her again for pushing through my walls. I sobbed the entire way home. Its not that we won’t ever see them again, her family is still here, but Texas is too far to live messy life with someone.
I think as women we’re so bent on projecting this face of who we want to be, of who people expect us to be. And we forget HOW MESSY life really is. There is hurt, pain, death, diseases, financial stress, there are dirty kitchen floors, counters needing wiped. There’s the laundry to fold, beds to be made, bills to pay, dinner to cook. Life is hard and life is messy. And how wonderful it was to share the load with someone who understood that. I’ve always been one to embrace the honesty and realness of friendships, but Lynn took it to a whole new level.
And I will always be thankful for that.