About 15 years ago, my best friend's boyfriend invited me to his little sister's birthday party. I expected her to be about 5 since he had just purchased a "Tickle Me Elmo" toy for her. But when he presents the doll to a girl clearly in her teens, bouncing through the livingroom and hugging it instantly, I figure she's a sweet 16 year old.
"How old is she turning?"
"18" Jose answers.
So years passed and I figured I really had nothing in common with this little girl. But I see her at parties for her brother Rob, the birth of my god daughter, Jelisa, her own baby shower, funeral after funeral after funeral. She holds it together well for a little girl.
Then in January 2007, I had just bought a house in Island Park. My bank account is empty. My fridge is empty. My cell phone is cut off. And I've just waited all day for a Verizon guy who never shows up.
I bundle up and take a 15 minute walk over the bridge to Long Beach where my best friend lives with Jose, Maria, and Rob Ordonez. But it's Maria who answers the door.
"Can I use your phone?"
She invites me inside and listens in awe as I scold the Verizon people for not showing up.
"Our guy went to your house, but left when no one answered the phone."
"What phone?!?!? He was supposed to be installing a phone line?!?!?! He didn't think to knock on the front door? Too cold for him to get out of his car?!?!"
She and Rob make me tea and listen as I practically have a nervous breakdown in their kitchen. I listen in turn to her troubles as a nurse at Long Beach Medical.
"I have an online shopping problem" "Me too"
"Can I use your driveway?"
"I want to write a blog" "Me too"
"Can I ride with you?"
"I love sushi" "ME TOO!!!"
The Foodie Entourage is born: Me, Maria, Rob and sometimes Lex, who tolerates our excitement for food.
Sitting at the kitchen counter, sipping wine, we go on and on about our past, our dreams, and our present ailments. Lex is off in the living room half asleep, half watching the kids.
"I've never really been friends with girls." She tells me. "But your easy."
"Please don't say I'm easy."
"Easy going. Like Sunday morning." She gives me the nickname Sunday Morning.
It's easy to convince me to operate a waffle iron at her son's birthday party. It's easy to get her to act as photographer at my wedding. Six years of being there as my life flips sunny-side-up: I find a guy, plan a wedding, and prepare to be a 1st time parent. She's always there. A text away.
Especially when Hurricane Sandy hits and my house is gone. The house I worked so many extra hours for. The house my sister and I lived in and imagined being a summer home someday when we were rich enough to have a second home. The house my husband proposed to me in - right there in our kitchen one early morning (The beautiful kitchen!). The first house he mowed the lawn, cleaned the yard and barbecued for his wife. The house we were supposed to bring our baby home to in 2 more months.
"Can I use your WiFi?"
Maria had just left Long Beach a month before Hurricane Sandy. Just in time to to get settled in her new home. She opened the door and with Rob, she offered us her phone, the wifi, coffee, tea, warm food and a place to store what we could salvage. She opened her home to another family who lost their entire 1st floor. She reached out to whoever she could because that's just how she is.
I think the saddest part about losing the home is losing our neighbors. All the sisters who were once a 15 minute walk or ride away are now 45 minutes and longer through traffic.
When I think about it, I don't have a lot of girlfriends either. I have two amazing sisters and younger brother and sometimes I think they're all I need. But God really knows what we need because he puts friends in my life whether I ask for them or not. I have friends that are so close we become sisters. We feel comfortable in each other's homes. We turn every meal into a social event. We eat off each other's plates.
4:30 am on June 1, 2013, I leave my new apartment in Queens wearing a purple dress, with purple nail polish on for the first time in my life. I drive quite fast because I think I'll be late and they'll go off in their hot air balloon with out me there. I almost hit Bambi on NJ 17. Only for a sister I would do this.
The field of tall grass is still wet with morning dew, but the sun is rising into a clear blue sky. The balloon is being blown up with the roar of flames that frighten me. And when she steps out of her car, it's just perfect.
Lex and Bam, with the hot air balloon and shining sun in the background, finally make it official!
I love you both. Thank you for welcoming me into your family and for being a part of mine.