We’re so delighted to share with you the next HerStories: Tales of Friendship essay. Today’s guest post is from Christine of A Fly On Our (Chicken Coop) Wall and it’s about finding a friendship just when you need it most and the special bonds that are created when two families connect and become important to each other.
I owe my life to a dog.
When my husband and I moved to Indianapolis, he was fresh out of law school and starting his first job as an attorney. I had left my teaching job, not only because we were moving, but also because I was 8 months pregnant. I decided I was going to be a stay-at-home mom.
Turns out, being a stay-at-home mom in a city which doesn’t have a single familiar face is very lonely. My poor husband found out just how lonely I was when he told me I should leave the baby with him and go out and do something. I immediately burst into heaving sobs, crying, “If I had anyone to go with, don’t you think I’d be doing it?!??!?!”
Yeah, I was lonely.
Skip ahead to a time when our oldest was almost two. We also had a 4 month old daughter and were living in our first house. Despite my best efforts, I was still desperately lonely. I went to every library class, tumbling class, and park in a 15 mile radius, hoping to connect with someone. I do believe my look of “Please, oh please be my friend!” scared everyone away.
And then one day, I was pushing the double stroller on a walk through the neighborhood. A dog came running down a driveway, and my toddler (who was normally scared to death of dogs) was practically falling out of his seat trying to reach out and pet it. I looked up the drive to see a woman with two kids. Two kids who looked to be the same age as mine. I put on my best nonchalant face and calmly asked her if my son could pet the dog.
“Sure!” she said. “My name is Amy.”
That very day, we ended up staying to play in their yard. Turns out, Amy was just as lonely as me. She and her husband only had one car at the time, so she was stuck at home all day, every day, all alone with her girls. We made plans to take a walk together the next day. And the next, and the next, and the next.
In our times together, I was able to observe a parenting style quite different from mine. I realized that when a child asked to do something, Amy’s first inclination was to say yes, regardless of the mess it would mean for her. My first inclination was to say no. That attitude was doing nothing for my son. If I wanted his curiosity to blossom and his imagination to grow, I was going to have to change my attitude. My new motto became, “The messier you are, the more fun you’re having and the more you are learning.” It is still my motto, and the kids have flourished because of it.
Frequently, the kids would be playing well, and we would be enjoying our conversation so fully that we completely lost track of time. At least twice a week we would be surprised by one of our husbands coming home from work. Neither of us would be anywhere near ready for dinner, and we’d rush to get the toys and the kids cleaned up before we scrambled to get home and throw some food on the table.
This predicament led to the best idea ever.
We dubbed Thursday to be Community Dinner Night. Every week, we would plan on having dinner together, and the husbands would show up at the home of the host family. With this plan, we accomplished a variety of things. First, both families were guaranteed to have a full-blown, real meal at least once a week. Secondly, we got to spend even more time together. And lastly, we were able to bring our husbands into the wonderfulness that was our friendship.
Through these weekly dinners, our families became one. We celebrated new babies, new jobs, birthdays, and accomplishments. Parenting dilemmas were hashed out and plans made. There were no secrets between us. Amy and I could vent to each other about our husbands, safe in the knowledge that no judging would occur and we would be able to be sweet and supportive once the husbands came home. Through it all, there was so much laughter.
We also helped each other through some difficult times. Illness, extended family issues, and death were all made easier by the presence of the other family.
For seven years we made these dinners a priority. Even as the kids grew and we could no longer spend all of our days together, we never gave up on the Thursday dinners. They were just too important to all of us.
And then one day, Amy’s husband’s office was closed. They were going to have to move to a new city. Every single one of us was devastated. The weeks leading up to the move, we cherished each other’s company more than ever. It seemed that every day together was a chance for us to gather memories and store them for the horrible days after the move.
On that last day, I picked her girls up bright and early in the morning and brought them to the farm so Amy could finish packing. We were going to have a full day of memory-making. The kids ate both breakfast and lunch in the “house” they had built in the barn. They played with the pigs and chickens. They climbed trees. They played games. They pushed each other on the rope swings. And I followed with my camera, hoping the photos were turning out. I couldn’t tell through my perpetually teary eyes.
We have seen Amy and her family a few times since the move four years ago. We all take up right where we left off, except for one difference. We both cry as Amy holds and plays with my youngest boys who were born after the move. It is such a reminder of the years we spent helping each other raise our little ones, and a slap in the face that I don’t have her now.
And that dog that started it all? On the day we met, Amy and her husband had agreed to give the dog away. It was gone within a week after our first meeting. I had been a hair’s breath away from never meeting the best friend that I have ever had.
Christine is a woman who refuses to make solid plans in her life, but does whatever comes her way. As a result, she’s taught just about every grade, decorated cakes, owned a photography business, given birth to six children, and bought a 140 year old house that happened to come with a small farm. She is fortunate to have married a man who is responsible and sets goals so she doesn’t have to. You will often find her either driving their 12-passenger van around town or disposing of the dead animals that frequently litter her property. She writes about all of her family’s shenanigans at A Fly On Our (Chicken Coop) Wall.
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