Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Good friends

Eleven years ago next month, I moved back to the Minneapolis area from Wausau, Wisconsin. I was 30 years old, newly divorced and looking to start a new chapter in my life. I was extremely fortunate to land a great position at a junior high in a large school district. The students were at-risk, needy and hard to deal with at times, however these types of schools tend to attract a staff that is willing to go the extra mile – the teachers are more tolerant and empathetic. There was a large group of us, between the ages of 30 and 40, who socialized together. Many of us were single which seemed to allow us to work harder and play harder.

Of course there were some of us who dated each other. Two of my favorite co-workers paired up and married during this time and are still people I care about deeply today. Meg is a math teacher and Paul is an administrator. I can still remember Meg and me walking up to our end-of-the-year school social, from our parked car, and she pointed to Paul’s truck. She said something about having a crush on him. It was so innocent and sincere. I remember being really surprised by her revelation, but thrilled because these two people deserved happiness more than most. They were both divorced, but not because they didn’t try hard to have successful marriages. Neither was looking for another relationship – it just seemed to make perfect sense. I still claim FULL matchmaker responsibility for pulling them together.

Halloween of my fourth year at this school, I met Chris at a party over in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We dated long distance until the following summer when it became obvious that one of us should move. I moved so that we could be closer to his family. It was a bittersweet move. I knew the closeness I felt to many I worked with, and for, was rare.

Meg and Paul, along with Meg’s two children and their four-year-old daughter, still live and work in the same school district. I try to visit them each time I come back home. Last week we spent a wonderful long afternoon with Meg (Paul was on his annual Canadian fishing trip). My kids loved their Emma – okay, they buttered her up to get to her Jeep – but I know they loved her for her vivacious personality even more! Being with Meg is always like walking down memory lane. It’s a chance to catch up on people I haven’t talked about in ages and to reminisce about old times. She is one of those people in your life that you can just BE with and that’s more than enough. We never go to restaurants, shopping or events when we get together. It’s not necessary. Our conversations are always more than enough to keep us engaged.

I think one of the greatest things I love about connecting and re-connecting with Meg and Paul is their solidity. They keep me grounded to “Carol” – not Mommy, Chris’ wife, or any other title I’ve attained over the last seven years – they still act as if they think of me as single, a tad irresponsible and slightly ditzy – and I’m COMPLETELY comfortable with that!

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