At the end of 3rd grade, we moved to America. To California, to be precise. Before that I had spend only 6 months in America, and I knew little-to-no English. My memories of those first months are all visual. I wonder if that is what my kids remember from our first year in Germany?
I did get to try ESL (English as a Second Language) but either I was a really fast learner, or I didn’t fit in with the other kids. After one session I was left to my own devices in a muted classroom. No one else spoke Dutch, the rest all spoke Spanish, Vietnamese or Cambodian. I was in San Jose, California. A mecca for immigrants in the 70’s, and still at the top of the list of US cities with most immigrants. Just not a lot of Dutch immigrants.
I don’t remember feeling too lonely or isolated. I do remember the day I met my best friend. Jill walked into the classroom, new kid on the block, a couple months after I did. My teacher, a fantastic man, Mr. Plummer, sat Jill next to me. Whether it was because we were both new, or as it later turned out exact clones, I don’t know. I do know we were immediate friends, inseparable until my dad’s job took us back to Holland two years later.
Some friendship are meant to be. They stand the test of time and separation. I moved back & forth between California and Holland into my teenage years, finally settling in the California bay area. Jill finally settled in Santa Cruz, California, her mother changed jobs frequently as well. We stayed in touch. And as I got my drivers license I spent many hours driving that dangerous Highway 17 between Santa Cruz & Los Altos. I love Jill. I love the beach. I love the crazy, crunchy-granola-ess that is Santa Cruz. What a fabulous place to spend your teenage years.
When Soren came along unexpectedly in 1990, Jill stood by my side. Later she stood up as Soren’s Godmother and he was ring-bearer in her & Mitra’s wedding. Then she left me. She moved to the East Coast, leaving me behind with a big hole. The next 20 years had both of us moving a lot. Me with the military as I became an army wife, her as an attaché’s wife as Mitra joined the State Department.
In September they moved to Paris. Six-hours-from-me Paris. I did a happy dance and talked to her for hours. We were back, baby! The weekend before Christmas, Jill, Mitra and 15-year-old Ella (named Elizabeth after me, my middle name is Elizabeth) came for their first visit. I hadn’t seem them since Cole & Ella were both still in strollers. Nothing had changed. We picked up right were we left off, and reveled in our happiness.
Mitra & Dave followed close behind, marveling at the fact that there are two of us. Two of us who get stressed when we are late, even if it’s only a minute. Two of us that are compelled to pick up every shoe & jacket. Two of us that worry if a child is out of sight for just a second. We both wear glasses now, we both have night guards. Time may have moved on, but we grew & changed even more the same in that time.
The two of us picked up our families, and our mothers (and my dad), and took Stuttgart by storm. We led our group 11 through crowded Christmas markets to the best booths, to the best glühwein and the ice skating rink. We exhausted our parents, and even Mitra, and they all found a warm, cozy bar to fill up in. Jill & I kept the kids herded, and entertained, never missing a beat in catching up.
She left two days before Christmas, but I didn’t feel a loss. I know we are barely separated, and I will see her again in no time. Next time in Paris! I had been feeling so lost with all my friends leaving. And God opened up a door, threw it wide open, and led my bestest friend back in.