It’s really the greatest thing when your girl friend is also your next-door neighbor. And that’s how it was with Kathy and me. We were both stay-at-home moms, living in our little starter houses on a cul-de-sac in Juneau. Between us we had four kids. (Kathy later had another baby, but Dan and I were already anticipating our move from Juneau when her youngest was born.) In the seven years we were neighbors, we saw each other through a total of five pregnancies!
Kathy and I and our four little bambinos did just about everything together. I remember our weekly grocery shopping trips and what a circus they were at times. Even getting ready was entertaining – struggling to put snow pants, mittens, jackets and boots on all of those little wiggly limbs. Occasionally we took all four of them to Pizzazz Pizza for lunch, but the most fun was when we’d pack a picnic lunch and head to the Auke Bay recreation area for a couple of hours. I remember the wonderfully long naps that happened after all that fresh air and exercise on the rocky beach. Oh, and the kids took long naps too :-)
Although our friendship seemed to revolve around kids most of the time, it was more than a "mom's club." While the kids napped, we often sat together, sipping Diet Dr. Pepper (our favorite), and talking about adult things -- books we were reading, dreams of the future, recipes and homemaking (Kathy was a wonderful housekeeper!), things we'd studied in ladies' Bible class, health concerns; we shared everything, really. And Kathy was such an example to me of thoughtfulness -- especially in remembering birthdays and special occasions, usually with a gift she'd made by hand.
The summer before Chris started kindergarten Dan and I packed up in preparation for a move to Oregon. Dan had to depart ahead of us, to start his new job. Kathy decided to join me in the trip south -- a three-day voyage from Juneau to Seattle* -- and visit her family, who also lived in Oregon. So Kathy and I and our flock-of-five (yes, by then Kathy's youngest had been born) set out on this adventure, which turned out to be a wonderful and memorable final farewell experience for Kathy and me.
Dan and I stayed in Oregon 20 years. Our boys grew up and graduated from high school there. When the Alaskan dream bit us again, we moved back to Juneau, where Kathy and her husband had been all those years and still were.
To quote Thomas Wolfe, "You can't go home again." I guess he meant that you can't recover the past, and I have to agree. Kathy and I really weren't the people we'd been 20 years earlier. No longer were we young mothers, in fact we were both, now, mothers-in-law. Kathy was even going by "Kathryn" now (though I was never able to make that change). We'd both had busy careers. Kathy was retired and caring for two of her grandsons; I was still working full time. Neither had the time for those mid-afternoon Dr. Peppers or long conversations. And we weren't next-door neighbors.
But, in a way, this was good. It gave Kathy and me the chance to get to know each other all over again, as mature women who had experienced both good times and bad, joys and griefs, comforting and being comforted. Our friendship wasn't as intense as the first time around, probably because of time constraints, but there was a certain depth and texture to our relationship that hadn't been there 20 years earlier.
It's not often in life that you get to make friends with the same person twice. There is something especially sweet about our friendship, now, because we chose each other as friends the second time around.
*The southern-most terminal for the Alaska ferries is now Bellingham, WA. But in 1978, when Kathy and I took this trip south, the ferries went as far as Seattle.