It’s June and we live in a military-heavy neighborhood, which means that at any given time there are at least three moving trucks parked against the sidewalk. Summertime is when the military hits the refresh button, when it cycles people in and out on three-year orders, transforming their lives by way of zip code.
On Saturdays there are garage sales and on Sundays outgoing residents heap unsellable leftovers on the curb, prostituting decrepit dressers and non-working appliances on the sidewalk.
Last week I found myself looking long and hard at a stack of tired dresser drawers. There was no actual dresser to be found, but still I asked myself if I could resurrect purpose out of four rectangular boxes estranged from their IKEA frame. I could not, I decided, but then felt inexplicably guilty since they were condemned to the dump. I worried that I had let orphans be orphans and not intervened. Was this a principle of social justice or was I just being dramatic?
Three of our four neighbors are moving this month, so if you’re looking for moving boxes I am your girl, the neighborhood insider, a hustler of quality cardboard goods. Already once this week I have facilitated a box exchange between two grateful parties: my neighbors and our friends Danny and Rosario. The trade was so mutually beneficial that for a second I wondered if I had stumbled across a genius entrepreneurial idea. What if there was a platform for connecting grassroots sellers and benefactors with searching consumers? Then I realized I had just missed this opportunity curve. And by ‘just’ I mean that Craig’s List was founded in 1995.
In a cruel twist of fate, Danny and Rosario became close friends of ours in the final months before moving away. This seems to happen to us often. Mike and I catch our favorite people in doorframes as they are heading out and we are coming in. It’s a cosmic tease, really, when we say goodbye to relationships saturated in potential that we didn’t have time to fully uncover. I could name half a dozen people that became good friends in the text message streams immediately following goodbye. I discovered Friday Night Lights several years after it went off air and joined Twitter for the first time last week. Clearly, I’m either a straggler or a creeper, one of those people that suspiciously lags behind.
Danny and Rosario became our friends so organically that it took me a minute to remember when exactly I began liking them so much. At the end of last summer, we happened to be riding bikes near their house one afternoon, and they happened to be putting food on the grill, so we stopped by and immediately created a habit without meaning to. Rosario prides herself on operating on feels rather than schedules or conventions. She RSVP’d “maybe” to her own going away lunch. She named her cat Cat. Both times it wasn’t a joke, which is precisely why she is so funny.
A few weeks ago I had a really hard day after making a major personal decision and Rosario knew it, but instead of texting me inspirational quotes or even probing with questions, she simply said, “Danny is making bean burritos. Nothing fancy. Want to come over?” And we did. That night we didn’t even talk about the heavy thing. We talked about The Mindy Project and Danny’s favorite beers and the impressive quantities of food Molly singlehandedly consumes. As we lingered over the dinner table, Molly smeared beans and rice across her face and through her hair and ate an entire burrito as if discovering her favorite food for the first time. She ate and ate and bathed herself in the leftovers, clapping sporadically and sending shards of pinto bean across the table. All of us wondered aloud if Molly wasn’t only a surprise redhead, but also part Mexican. Then we passed her around and put her down and to our surprise that was the first night that Molly began independently walking. Do you think babies can read the intimacy of a moment and respond accordingly? It seemed so that night, since she started walking in front of just the right audience.
Earlier this spring, I got really sick with the flu and Danny came over to our house in the middle of the night to stay with Molly while Mike took me to the hospital. This was the first time we experienced one of those crisis situations that makes living far from home complicated. But the complications are what make you realize who your safe people are, and that’s when I realized who Danny and Rosario were to me.
That weekend was the same weekend we were moving out of our downtown apartment and preparing to leave for Iceland. And as I write this, I’m remembering now that Danny didn’t just stay with Molly that Friday night, he came back the next morning and dropped off some moving boxes Rosario had saved for us at work. They were our friends in the staying and in the going, as all friends should be.
So here we are full circle, exchanging moving boxes again and coming up with euphemisms for the word goodbye or else avoiding it altogether. It’s June and moving trucks are lined up down the block. Mike got news recently that even his orders could change this summer, so the whole world is upside down and we are all moving and shaking and declaring friends permanent when nothing else seems to be.
The risky part about relationships is that you don’t know the end game when you first call someone a friend. You might not like the same things. You might be surprised by incompatibility. And someone will absolutely move away before you’re ready. This could make you skittish or a little noncommittal. And sometimes it absolutely does.
But sometimes, by the grace of God, you are able to ignore the uncertainty, overlook the end game, and simply show up. That’s the kicker. You have to show up, which is really a brave and bold thing to do.
And it’s a miracle when something you thought temporary becomes lasting, when a friendship that occurred in the transition under a doorframe accelerates into lasting bond. It has surprised me before and surprises me still: that the people who love us well often do it on the way to somewhere else.