An Afternoon Spent with a Friend — Abby Off the Record

An Afternoon Spent with a Friend

by Abby on June 1, 2014

Written May 28, 2014

As a blogger and essay writer, I have a constant stream of ideas running through my mind at all times. For a while now I’ve been meaning to write about an afternoon I spent with a friend a few months ago. She and her family used to live across the street from us, and we got to know each other while playing outside with the kids. We bonded over mom and neighbor stuff at first, but then discovered a shared sense of snarky humor and a love of all things artsy and creative.

flying sock monkey costumeMy friend used to work as a set designer on movies, and makes her kids the most amazing, elaborate Halloween costumes. One year, her son’s flying sock monkey costume wowed every house on our trick-or-treating route. Don’t even get me started on the tiny mermaid costume she made for her baby girl.

And the birthday parties… Her son’s pirate party last year featured a cake with edible sand, messages in tiny glass bottles, and hand-painted treasure chests filled with plastic jewels. Oh, and hand-sewn bloomers for her little “pirate lass.” But she pulled it all off in a whimsical, imaginative, unique way, not an “I dropped $5k at the craft store so I can brag all over Pinterest” kind of way.

Anyway, my friend and her family moved to a different neighborhood, so we hadn’t seen each other in awhile. She came over that day with her kids. I was going to write about this playdate for a couple of reasons. One is that not once the whole time did she look at her phone. I know it’s strange and maybe a little sad that this made an impression on me, but it did. She wasn’t trying to do a million things at once, like I usually am. She was fully present. She was there, in the moment, asking me questions and really listening to the answers.

That’s also something remarkable about this friend: she asks really good questions that she really wants to know the answers to. She looks directly at you with these striking green eyes and before you know it, you’re rambling on about something you didn’t even know you had feelings about.

And she does this with kids, too, not just adults. Has real conversations with them, asks about their lives and interests. She remembers stuff about them. She met my son, Miles, when he was maybe 4 years old and still tells the story to this day about how he jumped out of the bushes wearing a green mustache and called out, “Bonjour!” (It was St. Patrick’s Day. I can’t explain the French.) Every time she tells the story, she cracks up. I love it, because it’s clear to me how much she loves my kid. Don’t you just automatically love anyone who thinks your kids are hilarious and brilliant?

pirate lass and skeleton costumes, made by MomAnd by the way, HER kids are also hilarious and brilliant. One time her 3-year-old son was over, and my boys showed him their bug vacuum. (You use it to suck up bugs, duh.) They asked if he had one and he replied, “No. We’re not that kind of people. We’re Irish.”

Until now, I hadn’t written about this playdate because I couldn’t decide what my point was. Was it a commentary on how smartphones are the devil and are ruining our interpersonal connections? Was it a musing on friendship, and how awesome it feels to know someone who totally “gets” you? Or was I going to write about how we bonded over being artsy types who refused to turn into frumpy moms without a fight?

This friend is constantly telling me how cool she used to be back in the day before she was married with kids. (Weren’t we all, sister.) Like I couldn’t tell that from the funky names she gave her kids and her tattooed, motorcycle-riding husband? (OK, she’s way cooler than me.) But she makes me FEEL cool by introducing me to her other cool friends as “Abby, my friend who’s a really great writer.” Again, how can you not love a person like that?!

Anyway, I knew I wanted to write something eventually about this particular afternoon I spent with my friend, because it stuck with me. When she left I was so glad we’d finally made the time to get together.

My friend died yesterday. Her husband called us early this morning to tell us. We are in shock, and we are reeling with grief. I don’t even know where to begin processing my feelings about this awful, unexpected news.

Except I guess I do. Here. In my own words, in the moment, before I’ve fully processed and revised and accepted and healed. In times of tragedy, people often say “There are no words.” But I’m a writer, and words are what I have. So today, I sat down to write. And I wrote this, about that afternoon I spent with my friend and her kids, and what I remember about it, and about her. I wrote what I want people to know about this special person. She was my friend. She will be missed.

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LINK O’ THE DAY: My new favorite hobby is hitting refresh on this site. Over $24k (!!) has been raised in 2 days (!!), from friends, family, and people who didn’t even know her. If that’s not a testament to how many lives she touched, I don’t know what is.

READ O’ THE DAY: No matter what age you are when you lose your mother, you never forget her. A part of her is always with you. That’s the lesson I learned from Erin Kienzle, whom I heard read this touching piece in the Charleston, SC, “Listen to Your Mother” show a few weeks ago.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah June 1, 2014 at 7:25 am

I’m so sorry for your loss and for her family as well. I think this blog and any other anecdotes or details you can write about her for her family is the greatest gift you can give. I’m sure her children will always long to know her and it is a gift you can share. Thinking of all of you.

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Abby June 1, 2014 at 9:59 am

Thank you, Sarah. I know you know a thing or two about grief, so your advice means a lot. It doesn’t seem like enough, but I can give them that, so I will.

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Kris-Ann June 1, 2014 at 8:41 am

Thinking of you. So sorry for your loss.

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Abby June 1, 2014 at 10:00 am

Thank you, Kris-Ann.

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lizard June 1, 2014 at 11:47 am

A beautiful testament. She was pretty freakin’ amazing.

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Abby June 1, 2014 at 2:27 pm

She sure was. Thanks for reading.

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Abby June 1, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Thank you, Kate and Lisa. I appreciate it.

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Kathleen Basi June 1, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Abby, I’m so sorry. Someone like that is a light to the rest of us. How wonderful that you had one last opportunity to be with her.

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Lisa June 1, 2014 at 5:57 pm

You captured her spirit beautifully :-)

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Janice June 1, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Beth, I’m so sorry for the loss. What a beautiful reminder to take the time to connect with those we love.

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Mary Chelton June 2, 2014 at 12:17 am

Abby, I am so happy to know more about this woman. I have been following this loss through another friend & even though I don’t know anything about what happened, I feel it all the way in California. No stranger to grief, the tenuous steps of motherhood, womanhood & the cravings of friendship, I feel you. I recently saw an interview Charlie Rose did with Mandy Patinkin, who was never really on my radar screen. But one thing he revealed has stuck with me. Before every performance he does, he prepares by receiting the names of all the family & friends he’s known that have transitioned from this world, having heard once that they will exist as long as someone is here to keep saying their name. So please keep saying her name… Thanks, m

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Abby June 2, 2014 at 8:48 am

I love that, Mary. And I believe it. Thanks for sharing that.

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Kathy at kissing the frog June 2, 2014 at 1:04 am

Oh Abby, I’m so very sorry about this loss. When you were describing her, I was thinking of my best friend from high school. I haven’t seen her for a long time, and she called me on my birthday recently. Then I randomly saw her out shopping one day. It just reminds us to make the effort to see and talk to the people we care about more often. I hope good memories of your friend are comforting you at this time. xo

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Abby June 2, 2014 at 8:47 am

Thank you all for your very thoughtful comments. I am reading and feeling each one. To everyone who reads about her, I want to say “You would’ve loved her.” She could find something in common with anyone.

And Kathy, I’m glad this reminded you of someone in your life that you can reconnect with.

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Erin Kienzle June 2, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Abby,
I’m so sorry for your loss. I feel like I was punched in the gut reading this. Sending numerous prayers your way. She was simply amazing.

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Abby June 4, 2014 at 10:20 am

Thanks, Erin. Whenever people say she will live on through her kids, I think of your essay and the one arched eyebrow. :)

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Helen Mitternight June 4, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Abby, what a wonderful tribute. Made me tear up for a woman I never met, which means that your words gave her life after death. What a wonderful gift you have given her, and us, your readers

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Abby June 4, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Thank you so much, Helen. That means a lot to me.

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Steph June 9, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Abby, I hope that your heart, and the hearts of everyone who knows her, will find peace in the wonderful memories of the time you’ve spent together. (HUGGS)

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