Two things happened this past weekend. My friend Laura and her husband Ken came down to visit from Wichita, KS, and my husband and I marked the 28th day since The Fire with a long discussion on where do we go from here. We have done the things that need doing, and are no longer homeless, carless, or without clothing and paperclips, but now comes the living part of things, and trying to make sense of this event. We both do not want The Fire to define us in any way, but on April the 1st, this past weekend, we were feeling roundly beaten by it. It is daunting to realize that so many people have been kind and helped you out, and that you have needed every bit of that help and are so grateful for it, yet still, you are still far short of “normal”. The unhappy result of this talk was that we were feeling stuck and cranky on the morning of April 1st when Laura and Ken were due. Wiser people might have opted to let Ken and Laura know that we were not up for visitors, but my stubbornness at sticking to a plan once it is made won out, thank God.
Laura had told me on the phone when we arranged the visit that she had something she “wanted to give me in person”, but I never dreamed it would be the extraordinarily beautiful comforter pictured above. What you can’t see in this picture is the title of this work of art; “Roses Will Bloom Again”. The gift itself was extraordinary, but the blessing of its meaning made me cry, which I will explain in a moment. What you also don’t see in this photo is the history Laura and I have. We’ve been friends since the 4th grade, when we both landed in the “ALC” (Accelerated Learning Classes), which put a few of us kids who tested as “smart” into a pod within a larger school filled with “regular” kids who absolutely hated us. Laura and I were both bullied with regularity, the kind of bullying that leaves visible bruises and less visible internal scarring, but managed to get each other through it. Back in the late 1960’s I don’t even think we called it bullying, it was just what the popular kids did to those of us who wore cat’s eye glasses and buried our head in books, and (in Laura’s case) played the cello. I honestly don’t know if I could have gotten through those years without her. Despite this history of being each other’s life rafts, I found myself being astonished that anyone, even Laura, would elect to drive five and a half hours each way to spend part of the day with me. That morning, I didn’t feel worthy of that kind of love, no matter the longevity of the friendship.
It’s embarrassing that I would feel that way, but there it is. It angers me, as I see it as an indication that my true self has indeed been diminished by this event. While “The Fire” was not a personal attack on me or my husband, we both find ourselves taking it that way. We are in turns angry and then defiant. We are easily wounded, it is easy to prick us. When we read in the local paper that a tenant of a neighboring building opined that our building had “looked a little dated for the neighborhood”, with the clear indication that she thought this had maybe its burning was for the best, my very first thought was that I hoped her condo would burn down too, maybe with her in it. I know, it’s awful of me. I take comfort that Glinda said something similar to the Wicked Witch of the West. “Begone, before someone drops a house on you too” — and she was the GOOD witch.
I am grateful that Laura and Ken didn’t know any of this when they ventured down here to Dallas this past weekend. The first thing Laura did when we met up was to hug me. That was the best hug ever. I didn’t know how much I needed both it and the miraculous gift of herself. My friend. The four of us had a great time, went out to eat, saw some sights in town, including the JFK Grassy Knoll, which is very moving and disturbing at the same time. Dallas has (somewhat gruesomely) inscribed big X’s in the middle of the road indicating where the first and second bullet hit that remarkable President and killed a million dreams. That gave me some perspective on a true tragedy, which I needed. We walked, and talked and for the first time in 28 days, I felt at peace with the world.
It was at the end of the day when Laura presented me with ‘Roses Will Bloom Again”. As I mentioned, the gift made me cry. I cried because it is beautiful, and because my friend made it and said prayers for us with every stitch, and because I have some idea of the hours and hours of her life this quilt took to make. I also cried because it tore away at a badly healing scab that I am coming to realize was my doubt that I will ever feel “normal” again. Because my friend visited me and reminded me that things do bloom anew, I realized that Craig and I will not be defined by a random tragic event. Our figurative roses can and will bloom again, we just have to keep watering them with a little faith, and a whole lot of friendship, love and compassion.