Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Friendsday #2

If you got here somehow other than through Facebook, here's a catch up: I'm starting a series of posts about people in my life who make my life better.  I want to take the time to thank them because it's just a great way to live.  If you missed my first Friendsday post, you can read it here.

The first time I met Vicki was at an event for the spouses of the 14th Airlift Squadron at Charleston AFB.  At first appearances, Vicki and I had very little in common, especially compared to just about everyone else in the room.  Most of us were moms of toddlers, and thinking back on what Vicki’s perspective might have been, she was probably really, really tired of hearing stories about poop and nap times.

When Vicki asked me if I wanted to meet her for lunch one day, my first thought was actually, “Why would she purposely want to hang out with me and my two-year-old?”  Vicki didn’t have any kids, and what little I did know about her was that she had a law degree and was married to one of my husband’s bosses.  Despite the fact that Vicki had never given any indication that any of this mattered to her, as a young lieutenant’s wife, I was hesitant to create relationships beyond polite acquaintance with my husband’s superiors and their spouses.  (I have since learned that the vast majority of Air Force members are open and warm and leave their rank in the office.)

We met for sushi, and Will was as well-behaved as could be expected, but as lunch ran long, I knew we needed to move on to a more kid-friendly environment.  Vicki invited us over to her house, which was in the same neighborhood.  Our conversation over lunch had turned quickly to books and traveling—two things of great importance in my life, so I agreed to stop over for a bit.  When I got to her house, I saw what was sure to be the end of our relationship.  Vicki was a cat lady!  I think she had somewhere between 17 and 652 cats.  I couldn’t be sure.  To someone as allergic to cats as I am, it might as well have been four thousand.  Luckily, I’d taken my allergy medicine that morning, so I steeled myself for a short visit.
The above picture is literally the only picture on Vicki's FB page of herself,
so I'm adding a picture of her cats.
I'm pretty sure that's what Vicki would want anyway.
The first thing Vicki said when we walked into the house was, “Pardon the mess.”  To be honest, it was sort of a mess, but not any messier than my house could be on any given day.  There were some stacks of books and some dishes on the counter and what looked to be a few bags from a recent shopping excursion.  My focus was quickly pulled away from anything that could be considered a mess when I saw Vicki’s library.  It was like a real, true library—not just random bookshelves pieced together like in my house—but a whole room devoted to books.  Lots of books!  Multiple versions of the Harry Potter series in different languages.  Old books.  New books.  Bestsellers and classics and…and…and…I found it difficult to breathe.  And not just because of the cats.

Over the last few years, I’ve learned a good deal more about Vicki, and her life is fascinating—from being one of six girls in a truly book-worthy family to her marrying her husband by justice of the peace in Enid, OK to the magic she works in her garden.  Our relationship is primarily nurtured over Facebook, as we live so far from each other, but I get to see the way she interacts with her world on a daily basis.  She challenges people diplomatically, celebrates victories no matter how small with encouraging words, and engages fully in her world.  She’s an avid reader, an excellent wife, a cat lover, and a genealogist—and I don’t think she misses anything.  Whether it’s something as minor as the death of a famous musician or what someone is wearing on the red carpet or something as major as natural disasters or terrorist attacks, I can count on Vicki to be informed and to keep me informed.  She’s like my personal headline news coverage.

First and foremost, Vicki has taught me that people who love cats can, in fact, be trusted.  Also, I look to her as an example of what I want to be like as an officer’s wife in many ways.  There will be a day when I am that old lady (I think I might be already—yikes!) to whom young spouses look for cues on how to navigate the world of military life, and because of Vicki I know that kindness far outweighs a clean house.  I want to be approachable and never to take myself too seriously.  I’ve also learned from her what it looks like to support a husband, while pursuing my goals to lead a fulfilling life outside the Air Force, a task many military spouses struggle to accomplish.

Most importantly, Vicki is the living, breathing application to the old adage to “never judge a book by its cover.”  We are really different people.  I have children; she does not.  Vicki once threw a spouse social at which she had everyone potting plants, while eating dishes all of which came at least partially from her personal garden (including the mojitos!); I buy a new basil plant at Trader Joe’s every week because I can’t make one grow in a pot.  Our age difference is just enough for her to say things to me like, “You’re too young to remember this, but…”  And did I mention the cat thing?

What I’ve learned from Vicki, though, is that “taking 'the other’ to lunch” as Elizabeth Lesser suggests, has helped me see just how much I have in common with and love about the “other.”  There are lots of things that we can’t agree on from big to small—William Faulkner is my favorite, and she loves James Joyce (blah!).  We have walked really different spiritual paths.  And yet, maybe the most vital piece of our friend puzzle is this: when I interact with Vicki, no matter if we agree or disagree, I always, always, always, always, ALWAYS feel loved and respected.  And that is really all any of us needs.

So, cheers to you today, Vicki.  My tea cup is lifted in your honor.  Thank you, and I love you.

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