Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Dear Girl, You are My Person

Dear Girl, You are My Person

"She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order." ~Toni Morrison, American author

All of my posts thus far have thanked people from Timber Creek or  who are associated in someway with my job. That makes sense because my colleagues are my family. It may seem odd that my first non-TC post will fall in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week, but seeing as how my best friend's birthday is today, I think it only appropriate that my thank you goes to her on this beautiful, spring morning.

A few years ago, my daughter Zoe's school was having a book fair and I picked up a great book titled Dear Girl, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal and illustrated by Holly Hatam. In this whimsical book the speaker urges her young readers to accept themselves for who they are and recognize all the wonders in life. It's right up my Transcendental alley and I'm so gratified when Zoe begs me to read this particular book for our nightly story time. As I flip the pages, I can't help but think of myself as a girl and remember who helped me accept myself and who painted my childhood, preteen angst, and utterly embarrassing high school years with all the wonder the world has to offer.

Before Timber Creek, there was Missy.

Melissa Leigh Swansen who is now Melissa Campanalonga and who will always be Missy to me, is my best friend. I think we met in 3rd grade, but I don't think either of us remembers the actual day because I believe we really met in a previous life and our souls have just been running into each other across the ages forever. Since we were in elementary school we have been making each other giggle until our sides hurt, talking too fast and too much at the same time, and crying about boys or some other life drama. The speaker of Dear Girl gives the following advice: "Dear Girl, Create traditions, fun crazy handshakes, and silly inside jokes." I could write a book (and maybe I will one day) detailing all of our traditions, handshakes, and silly inside jokes, but for now, I'll stick to the grown-up stuff.

In recent years, Missy has let me try out all of my arm-chair psychological advice on her. They say that the best way to learn something is to teach it, and as a teacher, I can attest to the truth of that adage. Nothing helped me learn the finer rhythms of Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet better than teaching it multiple times a day for 15 years. And nothing helps me navigate my own life better than using Missy as a sounding-board for all of my theories on how to be the best humans we can be. She calls me with various issues and we talk (we have a habit, or maybe I should say talent, of talking at the same time but being able to repeat what the other person is saying verbatim) about the problem and the possible underlying problems. She asks for advice and I go on for 20 minutes with what I hope is some practical philosophy. By the time we hang up the phone, I have always come to some new conclusion and from that I create a new resolution. I hope it's a symbiotic relationship, but I know it is a relationship I couldn't live without.

Missy always prays, "Dear God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." After I was diagnosed, this favorite prayer of Missy's was the first thing that popped in my head. I could hear her voice and see her face, though she lives in Forked River, about 2 hours north of here. She sent me a travel mug that reads, "Side by Side or Miles Apart, Friends are Always Close at Heart." She is not only close at heart, but she lives in my heart  and mind every day.

The last pages of Dear Girl read, "Dear Girl, Whenever you need an encouraging boost, remember you can turn to any page in this book. Most of all, dear girl who I love, know that you can always always always...turn to me." I will always turn to her and I hope she will always turn to me. She is my person. Seriously.

Happy Birthday Bestie, and thank you for everything. Now stop trying to make out with me and have a great day.

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