In a spirit of celebration, I boarded the plane last Friday bound for San Diego. My best friend, who I nicknamed "Toves" some eight or nine years ago, just got engaged. With that information and a personal invitation to her engagement party, I booked my ticket and headed south. Toves is one of those people that can make anyone smile and laugh over the simplest things. Outgoing, bright and bubbly--those are a few of my favorite words to describe her. I met Toves within the first few weeks of college back in 2003 and we became friends immediately. In that first month at our university, we even swapped our soccer player roommates so that we could live together. Our friendship has been remarkably "easy" at times--a characteristic I am unfamiliar with in most other relationships. Of course we've had some tension and conflict but I think I can count those times on one hand or was it one finger? I'm thankful for her relationship and have enjoyed watching God grow each of us through the other's example. Toves was my maid of honor when Ken and I got married two and a half years ago. During my visit, she announced that I would be her "Matron of Honor" this August. I am ecstatic, let's put it that way.
Then there's "Ames" or "Purple," as our journalism professor called her. Both endearing nicknames developed over time. Ames drove down from Los Angeles last weekend so that we could hang out and attend Toves' engagement party together. She also helped me bake the towering cake that we contributed to the party's dessert spread. (See photos below.) Ames and I go way back. I remember meeting her the first week or two of college. Sitting outside my dorm room in a state of despair, as I had accidentally left the mini-fridge door open hours earlier--causing my soccer player roommate's dairy products to sour, Ames walked up to me and asked if everything was OK. I told her my story and she empathized. Her roommate was also difficult to understand and get along with. We quickly realized how much we had in common. Sophomore or junior year, Ames decided on Journalism as her choice of major and that's when our relationship really blossomed. We took most classes together and co-authored stories for our school newspaper. After graduation, Ames made it a point to stay connected. I admire her dedication, integrity and incredible work ethic. She never does anything half-heartedly, and that is admirable, especially in today's culture. Friendly and engaging, Ames is undeniably one of the most polite people I know.
Another of my closest friends, nicknamed "Cricket" years ago, joined Ames, Toves and me for a reunion weekend. Cricket holds the record for being my first college friend. I still laugh, as I recall our chance encounter waiting for the shuttle bus to pick us up for "Freshmen Bonfire" at Pacific Beach. We had both missed the first bus and starting chatting about how awkward it felt being minorities at such a white-dominant university. Surprisingly, we both didn't want to attend the 'scheduled activity' and so I invited her over to my older sister's on-campus apartment. Cricket and I enjoyed a night filled with spam musubis and stories about our childhood. Then, when Toves and I became roommates, I found out that Cricket also lived on the same hall. On weekends when Toves went home to see her family, Cricket and I had sleepovers in my room and spent long hours into the night laughing and sharing our hopes for the future. We were such idealists. Upon graduation, Cricket and I moved to different areas but we remained close through phone calls and handwritten letters. I treasure her writing. She's an amazing pen pal, but most of all, she's honest. Perhaps brutally so--in that counter-culture, genuinely loving sort of way. Cricket is authentic and full of great stories. She is one of those friends that I could call in the middle of the night and know that she would be there for me. No matter what. I respect and admire her heart for others.
To be fair to the two ladies who weren't in San Diego this past weekend and are equally significant in my life, I will include them now. "Schmitty," another of the five women who shaped my college years and continues to walk with me through life's many trials and joys, is also dear to me. Schmitty lives the closest in proximity to me (about four hours south) and continues to be a source of strength and encouragement. We see each other two to three times per year and I just love her sense of humor and candor. She's sincere and trustworthy. Schmitty and I met over kettle corn popcorn at "Movie in the Greek" in the outdoor amphitheater my freshmen year of college. Turns out we both wanted to keep the giant bag of popcorn that was being passed around all to ourselves. Luckily, we agreed to share the loot and place it in between us--appeasing our mutual desire for tons of the sweet and salty confection. Years later, we still laugh about that seemingly random run-in with one another. I'm so glad we met. Schmitty cracks me up and I still have little notes saved with memorable sayings and quotes she's shared over the years.
And in comes my dear Canadian friend, "Sheriks" or "Sherika." Sherika lived on the same hall as Toves, Schmitty, Cricket, and me. She was at the far end of the building, and lived with the oddest gal I've ever met--but I'll spare you that story. Back to Sherika. My first memories of her include a crazy, wild-haired girl with a Canadian accent jumping on my bed and dancing. She and Toves thought it was hilarious to taunt me with "Dance Attacks."All of a sudden, while I'd be lying on my bed studying, the song "Hey Ya!" by OutKast would start playing in the background and I'd be blindsided by two girls dancing, jumping and laughing around me. It was slightly traumatic, but also much-needed exposure to breakout dancing. Thank you Sherika for teaching me how freeing dancing can be. On a deeper note, she also showed me how distance doesn't need to define relationship, as she and I have remained the closest of friends despite physical distance over the years. Last summer, I had the privilege of hosting Sherika here in Seattle. She will always be one of my closest confidantes and dearest friends. I value her love for sports, all-things-Canada and her sensitivity.
What began as a blog about my recent trip to southern California quickly morphed into a story about friendship. I guess I couldn't help myself in emphasizing the unique ties to friends that began in late August 2003 in southern California. Going back there, even for a short trip, reminded me of the close-knit community I enjoyed during my college years. These ladies and I shared life together. But the story didn't end there--we continue to invest deeply in each other's lives and for that, I am truly grateful. Thank you ladies, each of you, for coming alongside me through various life seasons. I treasure your letters, your phone calls, your emails, your visits and your authenticity. All my relationships since have been molded by a desire to be vulnerable and real with people.
You helped teach me the value in that.
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Here are some photos of my recent trip. Enjoy!