She is a babysitter, little sister, best friend, co-pilot, packing buddy, confidant all rolled into one.
I wasn’t looking for her, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t looking for me, but from an initial fist bump in the church sanctuary (that she doesn’t remember) to an early spring afternoon sitting at a neighborhood playground, a friendship sprung and blossomed and thrived.
One dreary day in late January, only a few weeks after we returned to Ohio, I expected Jim to bring home a pizza for dinner. Which, to his credit, he did. He also brought home our Tiffany!
Oh, they had plotted and schemed and kept me in the dark to plan a surprise visit. And I was so thrilled to see her standing in my box-strewn house (boxes, I may add, that she helped pack just two short months before), that I didn’t even care that I hadn’t showered that day.
We had the best, albeit short, visit, showing off our “hometown” via Handel’s Ice Cream, Frisch’s hot fudge cake, and Tony Packo’s chili dogs. (And yes, in her own words, there are times when it rocks to have a pregnant friend!)
We shopped, played Phase 10 and Candyland, went to Bible study and MOPS, watched American Idol auditions, and basically, just did the “everyday life” that we’d been doing together for months, and it was heaven, and I sobbed like a baby when I had to shut my front door behind her and send her back to Tennessee…
And although I got to see her again in March when we went to Tennessee for spring break, part of that visit was sending her off again….this time, for longer and further away…
Now, we are surviving a months-long separation with only letters to hold us over. We are used to talking every day, sharing coffee and meals and shopping trips, seamlessly co-caring for my little ones, and now….she is hundreds of miles away at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, training and learning and growing and serving her country in the National Guard.
I’m so very proud of her.
But I miss her so.
Her car is sitting in my driveway. An antique skeleton key on my memo board reminds me to pray for her health and safety. A hundred times a day, I think, I need to put this in my next letter to Tiff…. Her voice, lovingly recorded, fills the darkness of Erin’s nursery as the lullabies she wrote my children play on repeat. She is never far from my mind or heart.
And today, she turns 21.
So far from home. Not surrounded by family and friends and cake and well-wishes. But she is being remembered and celebrated nonetheless.
Tiffany, you are a joy. A virtuous woman beyond your years. You are a treasure to all who know you. You are a blessing beyond measure to our family. And I’m counting the number of sleeps til you’re back in Ohio with us. (It’s 102, by the way!)
Happy birthday, darling girl! You are going to own 21!