When my friend and I were texting about meeting for coffee, months ago in Arkansas, she warned me that she may want to pray together in our booth and maybe even sing some hymns. I said there was no way she could make me break into spiritual songs in a public place and she called me a “brat” --and a wave of warmth and affection swept over me.
Because only people that really know me know that I can be kind of a brat sometimes. And only people that really love me would ever tease me about it.
It felt like a laughing hug in my soul.
And when we sat on picnic blankets outside of church, talking about our favorite songs, and I racked my brain for the perfect song and a different girlfriend asked knowingly if I was trying to think of something weird and different (which I was), we giggled and I felt the comforting roots of relationship wrap snuggly around me.
Or when another friend knew to be mindful of how and when she knocked on my door because I get afraid of strangers showing up at my house and would probably hide instead of answering the door…
It’s the “knowing” and the “being known” of love that binds people together. It’s in the vulnerability and maturity of a developing relationship that real intimacy begins to happen.
Which is why I was so surprised when my four year old daughter said it.
When we were sitting in our new Seattle kitchen, me wiping off counters and her coloring dinosaurs while we listened to “her” station on Pandora after breakfast. The song on the radio was about a train, and the melody was sweet and whimsical and the girl sang the sound of the whistle and strummed the “chug chug” on her guitar.
“I like this one best,” I said with my back turned while I scrubbed oatmeal off the stovetop.
“I know,” she said.
“You do?” I glanced back.
“Yeah. This is the kind of songs you like. Ones that go like Oooooooo, ooooo.”
She sang the whistle part super high and off-key, not even looking up from the Pteranadon she was coloring.
I was facing her completely now, dripping rag in hand. She was right. I do like songs that do that.
“You… know that about me?”
And she laughed at me, because I guess it seemed like a silly thing to be surprised about, but I kissed her hard on her squishy cheek and said honestly, “Thanks for paying attention to stuff like that.”
It surprised me because….well, because I forget about her sometimes.
I rush through the folding of laundry and hanging of shelves and DMV lines and grocery lists. I wipe her face and braid her hair and teach her phonics. We share meals and chase chickens and sing loud in the car to the CD we both love and she knows all the words to grown-up songs about life and love.
I spend more time with her than any other person in the world.
This little four year old girl.
And so she sees me. She sees all the waves of emotion that we stay-at-home-moms experience in these days- these little years that are such a spicy cocktail of duty and delight. The ups and downs that I balance into normalcy for everyone else…she gets the raw reaction parts of me that are real and unregulated.
This little four year old person. She sees the real me.
I think I just forget about the growing woman inside of her. The gentle, fierce, knowing,watching woman in her that is learning how to live. Learning how to be herself and how to be a friend to someone else. Practicing on me and simultaneously picking up her cues from me.
Its worth taking a big, deep breath about and softening the creases on my forehead. Because I’m hungry for purpose and relationship these days, but I’m not alone.
I mean, I’m literally never alone. She even wants to shower with me these days.
We are both women under one roof, one a little younger than the other, that are learning how to live our best lives and be our best selves for someone else. And even though we aren’t necessarily partners, I am her mother more than her girlfriend, we are still together in this. Every day, every hour: together.
Pulling up the roots of my life and friendships in Arkansas was hard and sad and I long for roots here in this new Seattle life, but there’s always something to be thankful for. There’s always something to embrace.
So I’m thankful for the relationships that I do have right now, which right now is mainly my friendship with my daughter. I’ve heard wise women say that if I want to be friends with her later in life, I need to be friends with her now.
Maybe some day soon I’ll be sipping coffee with a grown-up friend who isn’t afraid to call me out when I’m being a brat and know my quirks and can laugh at my phobias. And we’ll talk about life and whisper about how long it’s been since we shaved our legs and roll our eyes about the things that exhaust us. But for now, I’m sipping invisible tea in tiny plastic cups at a restaurant called The Pet Giraffe located conveniently under my daughter’s bunk bed. We’ll talk about silly things, like what our dog Banjo would say if he could talk, or how it would feel to be a gecko climbing walls with our sticky hands.
And as precious as it sounds, it’s not easy for me. To just sit and play and be. It’s honestly hard to let go of everything else and just connect with her when there’s so much else that I want to be doing and thinking and feeling on a grown-up level. But these hard days will pass and the woman inside of her is a permanent fixture in the rest of my life.
The best and hardest part of being a good friend is the part where you love them better than yourself. Where you set your own interests aside for their sake and eventually reap the harvest of that kind of love- the fruits of a rich and intimate, selfless friendship.
So I’ll get a refill on that tiny cup of tea and maybe we’ll even put real water in the tea cup because one day, when I’m older and grayer and sipping real tea with a real friend, she’s the one I’ll want to see sitting across from me.