best friends for life

Yesterday, Emilie left for Lesotho. She just began service in the Peace Corps. She'll be back in spring 2010. Lesotho, for those not aware, is a landlocked country right in the middle of South Africa. Yep, it's surrounded completely by South Africa - like a little cut-out in the middle of the country. It's far. It's also not the easiest place to get to. I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will only see Em once, at most, in the next two years and four months.

I vaguely remember meeting Em when I was young...maybe about 9 years old, or so. My stepdad was her parents' realtor. We knew them from church, but I knew her brother better, since he was in my grade. I was with my stepdad once when he needed to run by their house, and I think I played Barbies with Emilie. She was nice, but she was two grades younger than me, and that's a big deal when you're 9. Fast forward to summer 2000, after my junior year of high school.

Although I grew up in my church, I kind of missed the friends bus for a while. I had a couple of wonderful friends, but we kind of kept to ourselves, and I didn't feel like I fit in with a lot of the other kids in my youth group. In July 2000, a group of us went to a conference in Minnesota. Barbie, my best friend since 4th grade, was going, but there was a slight problem with the rooms - they were quadruples. My youth pastor and his wife were making the room assignment list, and they weren't sure what to do with Barbie and me. They ended up putting us with a couple of girls that they thought we'd get along with, even though they were two years behind us in school - Emilie and Trulie.

Em, Tru, Barbie, and I became a foursome that week. We clung to each other over the next year, until Barbie and I graduated and went away to school, but Em and Tru were two true friends and we kept in touch. Emilie was the first person to see my ring when I got engaged the next summer. She came to visit me in Miami during her senior year. I surprised her at her dorm twice - once in 2003, once in 2004.

I don't know exactly when, but sometime in there, I realized that she'd become one of my best friends. There's not anything that I can't say to her, nothing that she wouldn't understand. There have been some parallel events in our lives, giving us a shared perspective on our experiences and on faith. We're not all alike, though, and that is why she is suited for her Peace Corps placement in southern Africa, and I am not.

I'm going to have to kick it old school with the letter writing. She will probably have limited access to email, but she's not sure yet. And she might even be able to get a cell phone, so maybe I can explore this Skype thing that I hear about so often. I kind of dropped the ball when she did a study abroad semester in France, and I still feel terrible about my communication issues. I'm actually working on a Post-It note system to keep up with my letters to her, and I'm even thinking of patenting it if all goes well.

She left Chicago on November 5. I went home the last weekend of October, since it was her birthday weekend, and I had a day off for "fall break," which is really code for "Emilie's birthday, observed." We watched some of our favourite episodes of The Office, saw the latest Reese Witherspoon movie, went out for some of the best sushi I have ever had, and avoided saying goodbye at all costs. We tried, before I left to drive back to Michigan, but I kept laughing, and then I was crying, and it was too hard, so we said that we'd talk on the phone before she left. We talked a little on Monday night this week, but again, I couldn't let her say goodbye. It wasn't until she called yesterday, from the airport, that goodbye became necessary.

How do I get upset with someone for wanting to make the world a better place? How do I feel sorry for myself when my best friend is taking an extended leave of absence from the continent to join the Peace Corps? Is it acceptable to be upset that Gilmore Girls Season 7 is coming out next week, but I won't be able to watch it with her for over two years? How do I get upset over a television show when she's going to be teaching math to kids in Lesotho? How do I say goodbye to my best friend?

I just cry. That's all.

I'll get used to it, right? After a while? Of course I will.

Me & Em on our last weekend in Chicago together for quite some time


hamrchk82 said...

Hi Mel! I know how it is to have one of your super close friends to be in the peace corps and gone for a long time. One of my friends, Cindy is in the peace corps in Nicaragua until 2010. Its hard to be away from her but I am so happy for what she is doing.


Em in Lesotho said...

mel, i can't believe i didn't find this til now (wait, i'm in the peace corps so i do) i'm so moved by what you wrote (you made me cry!) i miss you haholo (a lot)! i love you! don't worry, it's already been 5 months...21 more to go, we'll have a lot of catching up to do!!!

Modesta said...

Well written article.