Saturday, February 9, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship....Part 5

Part 5

In the spring of 2002, at Easter time, I flew out to Texas to visit Marie and meet her family. I never heard of her kids going all out for Easter, like mine were used to doing. So I celebrated Easter a week early with my family and went out there to try and give her children the kind of Easter that mine had always had. I sent a package ahead of time filled will baskets, plastic eggs, grass, candy and little gifts. The rest I packed in my suitcase. That Easter her kids colored eggs. When they went to sleep, we made their Easter baskets and filled the plastic eggs and hid them around the house. The kids woke up to an Easter egg hunt and then opened their baskets. It was fun to watch their eyes light up and enjoy these little Easter traditions the way my girls always did. I had a special basket for Marie too. It was filled with little things I knew she would enjoy. I always wanted her to feel loved and appreciated. I don't think she had much of that in her lifetime. She, in turn, presented me with a new backpack and told me I was ready to go back to school to study French. To be honest, I had cold feet and was reluctant, at my age, to go back into a classroom after not studying French since High School, which was 30 years ago. But now I had this backpack and I didn't want to disappoint Marie. We enjoyed our week together and when I got home I looked into what I had to do to register for college and took all the necessary steps. By the fall of 2002 I was a graduate student in French and taking my first of many classes and getting all A's.

I wanted Marie to come back to see me for Christmas in 2002. She didn’t want to leave her daughter behind, she was the baby, the boys were older. I told her I would get tickets for her and her daughter to come up and it would be my gift to myself. She wasn’t okay with that at first and thought it was too much for me to purchase two tickets. She even became angry at me because of her pride and she quoted something from the movie "To Kill A Mockingbird." It was something about "entailments," and I never really quite understood it. For a couple of days we didn't speak. I asked my husband what to make of it, because I was genuinely confused. He told me sometimes people get offended if you try to do too much for them, they have pride and want to do things for themselves. I let that sink in. Eventually, Marie and I began talking about my offer and she said she didn't want her pride to get in the way of our seeing each other. In the end she agreed to accept the plane tickets for her and her daughter. They came a few days after Christmas and stayed through New Year’s Day. The first day we went into Manhattan to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. The next morning we had another “little” Christmas all together. I had gotten extra gifts for my girls and her and her daughter so we could “celebrate” a second Christmas. The tree was still up after all so why not. After the girls went to sleep, we put out the presents. They were nothing extraordinary, just some little things to share the experience. Marie and I exchanged our gifts that night. The girls opened theirs in the morning. Everyone had fun and we got to see what it would be like to spend Christmas together.

There was another Christmas, after she and her husband had separated and he had been laid off. He went back to stay with his parents out of state and money was tighter than usual. She told me they had no money to get the kids Christmas presents that year. It broke my heart to hear that and I wanted to do something. I had "adopted" that family and brought them into my inner circle. So I decided that instead of sending her children gifts that year, I would send her a check and ask her to shop for me. I told her it made no sense for me to pay postage and I couldn't send them what I wanted. I had checked online and saw Walmart was having a sale on bicycles and asked her if she would pick up three of them for the kids for Christmas. I told her she could tell them it was from her or Santa, it didn't matter. And I sent a little extra money so she could get them a few other things and maybe some stocking stuffers. She agreed to do that and the kids had a great Christmas. I could hear them in the background, while we were on the phone that morning, all excited to go out and ride their new bikes.

Another year I went to Texas to be with her on her birthday. I got her a new printer for her computer and we went to eat at a very nice French restaurant. We spent the week visiting some of the attractions in her city. We went to the dinner show at Medieval Times, we went to see the Wax Museum and the Believe It Or Not museum.  We went to a Jamaican club and everybody in the house was jumpin’ jumpin’…including me, and I hadn't been out dancing since my twenties!

I wanted to go visit Marie the summer of 2006. That was the summer her mother was in the hospital in a coma. I asked her, but she didn’t think it was a good time, like when my father was dying. I just wanted to go to support her and be with her for a few days. I thought maybe I could try to lift her spirits or give her a little distraction from the situation. But she was going back and forth from the hospital, visiting her mother daily, with one of her sisters. I didn’t want to intrude, I didn’t know if my presence would be more of a hindrance than a help, under the circumstances. When her mother passed away, I sent flowers to the funeral home. In the following days and weeks, I could hear the sadness in her voice. I understood how she felt. My mother had passed away just three years earlier. A few weeks later I asked her if she might like to get away for a long weekend and come see me. A change of scenery might do her good. She said yes right away. She came up for Columbus Day weekend in October. We spent Saturday in Harlem. She loved it there. We walked around for hours. We had a relaxing day Sunday and she returned home Monday afternoon. And the friendship went on as usual.

When her older son turned sixteen, she wanted to surprise him with a trip to New York City. That was six years ago in the summer of 2007. Her son’s birthday is the day before mine. Of course I was all for it. When she purchased her tickets, I made some plans for the places we would go and the things we would see that I thought he would enjoy. In addition to many of the things we saw on her first trip, I add the Planetarium and Museum of Natural History, because I thought he would appreciate those things and she had never seen them. We also took a trip up to Harlem because she wanted him to experience the cultural aspects of the neighborhood. We took rolls of pictures and made him a photo album of all the places he had been for him to take home and show his family and friends. The day of his birthday we went out to dinner and then came home for cake. He loved the Italian cannolis, so we got him a big cannoli shell filled with miniature cannolis. I'm sure he had a very memorable birthday and I was happy to be part of it.

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