When I was a little girl, I loved getting the mail. So did all four of my brothers and sisters, so we had assigned “mail days” where we were permitted to retrieve it. (We also had assigned seats at the dinner table, assigned seats in the car, and matching tshirts for whenever we ventured into the Great Big World. And my husband wonders why I thrive on things being planned.) Getting the mail was awesome on any old day–but things especially perked up around late November. Because that my friends, is when the Christmas cards started coming in. Christmas cards from neighbors, business associates, my parents college friends… but every year I always looked for one particular Christmas card from the Story family. Our parents knew one another in college and I liked their card because they had lots of kids, close in age, just like us.
Mostly we watched the Storys grow up via Christmas card. One memorable time in elementary school they stayed at our house while the parents went to a high school reunion. We watched Oliver and Company and played in forts made out of paper boxes. But they lived in Jackson and we lived on the coast, so other than that special occasion we stuck to Christmas cards.
Fast forward to freshman year of college (at this point in life I was free to get the mail whenever I pleased, hallelujah, amen). It’s move in day. There are over-zealous sophomores everywhere shouting things like “I GOT A FLAT SCREEN IN THE FOUR RUNNER PEOPLE” via megaphone. Said over zealous sophomores help us carry everything to the dorm I was assigned to… and who do we see but Christmas Card Girl. Emily, the second oldest Story is not only attending the same school as I am but lives approximately three doors down from me.
I remember wondering if Christmas Card Girl and I would be friends or just those “haha oh yeah we kinda know each other this is slightly awkward” acquaintances. But then she invited me to come to her house for dinner which I figured put us squarely in the friend camp. And I was right. Emily and I weren’t in a tribe or any other extra curricular activities together, but somehow she and her roommate Kate and I still became friends. We dressed up as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles together. I hid in her room and we all listened at the door when two girls on our hall got into a rip roaring fight over stolen blue jeans. We cooked in the little dorm kitchen. She French braided my hair for my 6:50am running class. Adjusting to college wasn’t bump-free for me, but even when I felt really lonely, I was thankful to have Emily and the rest of my “dorm friends.”
But eventually, college got easier for me. After a year or so I didn’t just have friends, I had multiple groups of friends. But still, Emily and I stayed friends. She went to London for a semester and sent me funny postcards. The next year I was an RA in a freshman dorm and she was living in an upperclassmen dorm, but she still came and visited me, even in the midst of nursing school. We always managed to sneak in an afternoon run or breakfast together. Even when her schedule was crazier than mine, she pursued me.
Then, the next year we lived together in a tiny apartment. We had very different schedules, but became closer than ever. We made pancakes and dozens upon dozens of cookies. We saw each other through multiple boys. We made oreo balls for Valentines Day and Story Cookies for Christmas. We prayed with and for one another. We scurried past our downstairs middle aged neighbor (with her disapproving stare) to go salsa dancing on Friday night. We laid on our twin beds and made big life plans (there were two different routes, one involving Boys and Families and one involving a grand cross country couch surfing trek). We trained for a half marathon… and finished it, running together every step of the way. And once we even got dressed in almost exactly the same thing by total accident (photographic evidence located at the beginning of this post).
In the midst of our crazy opposite schedules, we sometimes communicated through food. We would take turns going grocery shopping and share whatever we brought home. Notes that said “leftover OEC in fridge” or a text that said “hey I picked up some fruit” were commonplace. Any time one of us opened up an avocado, we would leave the half wrapped in the fridge for the other.
When I think about my relationship with Emily, I think about how many times in college (and beyond) I’ve desperately needed something… a friend, accountability, love, a distraction from something else going on, or even just a snack… and how many times Emily has met those needs without even knowing I had them. I don’t think she has ESP or a super prophetic sixth sense. I think Emily is just good at loving people, and when you love people consistently it’s bound to coincide with deep need.
I’m thankful that Emily and I are real in-the-same-city friends right now. One day we might be Christmas card friends again… but I’m sure that we’ll be able to go deeper at a moments notice. And I know that for the rest of my life, every time I cut an avocado in half, I’ll remember life in apartment A5, where Emily loved me through things big and small.
Happy (late) Birthday, Ems! I know it’s not as good as a Sufjan concert like we went to that one year, but I wanted to write this down. Olive juice for always, Ruthie