Fourteen years ago my parents told us my Dad had gotten a new assignment and then they put blindfolds on us and put us in the car and told us where we would be moving would be revealed when we got there. I hoped the whole car ride that we were heading to Outback! And I screamed and jumped up and down when we got there and the blindfolds were removed and there we were. I was so excited to get to live in Australia. I saw it as a great adventure and a great opportunity. And it totally was. My 10 years in Australia were wonderful. They shaped me in profound ways and probably most significantly, I found my two soul mates in Australia. The two people who, aside from my family, have had the biggest impact on me and who I see being in my life until I die. Of course my husband is one of those people and thankfully I got to bring him back here with me! Sadly I had to leave my other 'other half' in Australia and I have missed her every day so much. So today is a wonderful day because my best friend, my second greatest thing to have come from living in Australia, my Hananh arrives today!!!
At sixteen, I was a pretty typical American teenage girl at that time. I had boy short wavy hair (what on earth was I thinking?!), I wore a reasonable amount of make up. I wore well coordinated outfits and trendy clothes. I fit in. And then I moved to Australia. And the girls there were so different. They all had long hair that they pulled back for school. I went to a private school were make up and jewellery were discouraged so they girls did not wear them. The fashion was different. And suddenly I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb. I started worrying about whether I'd make good friends and fit in. And then I met Hannah. And I loved her right away. She is hilarious, brilliant, accepting and so easy to just spend time with. A couple of months after being in Australia, I remember inviting her over after school and I remember the day very well because I was wearing denim shorts overalls and to this day she makes tremendous fun of me for my overalls! And we played tennis and I totally cannot play tennis. And we laughed so hard and had so much fun. My mom remembers that day and watching us hang out and knew I'd made a special friend. I will be forever grateful that Hannah loved me crazy short frizzy hair, overalls and terrible tennis playing and all and that from that day we forged an amazing friendship.
(I tried to find a photo of me with the short hair and overalls but in the craziness of this week did not manage to! Plus I would like to not totally humiliate myself on my blog!)
After that day, Hannah and I were inseperable through the rest of high school. She stayed the night at our house because we lived close to school many nights. We studied so hard together. We would call it 'study camp' and we followed a 'study regime' and it was hard core. We set up a table and would have structured study times and would sit there together eating Mint Slices and Party Animals and guzzling Diet Pepsi and working as hard as we could. When we would get tired of our table, we would pack up and go into the State library and study there. We crammed in these 12 hour study days- it was crazy! Areas that I was stronger in I would teach her about and areas that she was stronger in, she would teach me about. What I will always love about my friendship with Hannah is that we brought out the best in each other. We encouraged each other to study and acheive our best. We did better in school because of each other. And that is true not just of school. I know I am a better person because of Hannah. And when I am with her, I am a happier, stronger, funnier more content person. She brings out my best, and that is probably what defines a best friend.
We had so much fun doing everything from shopping for formal dresses to going on school camps to spending countless hours discussing the boys in our lives. I love that I got to watch Hannah fall in love with her now husband and be there from the beginning and through the ups and downs, be the person she came over to show her engagement ring to and then be there at their wedding day. Likewise I'll always remember that Hannah had stayed at my house the night before my first date with Al. He took me to a boathouse for morning tea and then for a row boat ride. And Hannah stayed at my house the whole time so she could be there when I got home to hear all about it. I got home from my date and she was hanging out with my Dad and dying to hear how it went. She was the person I shared all of my relationship issues with, the person I went crying to when there were hard times and the person I dropped in on at 10pm the night I got engaged just to tell her. She was, of course, my matron of honor.
As you get older and you get married and have kids, you continue to make wonderful, close friendships but there is something wonderful about your best friend during high school and college because you get to share unique things, like getting to live together. Hannah and I lived together for two years and it was so much fun! We loved living together, we never experienced any of the whole 'oh don't live with your best friend' things. We loved getting to come home to the person we wanted to tell about our day! We were leaders in a young adult Bible study that met at the crack of dawn every Saturday an hour from our place and we would drive there in the dark still and somehow be laughing and having a great time, even though we were always so exhausted! I could bore you all with countless stories about our advenutures during my 10 years in Australia, there were so many!
Of course then four years ago Al and I moved back to America. It wasn't an easy decision but we both wanted to try something different and I really wanted to be close to my parents to get married and start a family. And given everything we have faced with the babies, we do not doubt we are in the right place. And we are very settled here. But we miss Australia, or more importantly the people we left in Australia, terribly. We miss Al's parents so much and I miss Hananh every day. It has been hard these past two years going through the biggest things in my life without her here every day. The first two months after they were born, I emailed her almost every day. She helped me process everything that was going on. We talked on the phone and she helped keep me calm. Because she is a doctor, and because she is brilliant, she understood everything that was going on and talking things through with her always made it seem less scary.
Hannah's trips to America have been a tremendous blessing. The day after we found out about their kidney condition, Hannah booked her airfare to come out in a few months time. And immediately I had something to look forward to. I had no idea when my babies would be coming home. I had no idea what was going on so I had to cling to something good I knew was going to happen so I counted down days until she got here. And that June, Hannah came and spent every day in the NICU with us. It was the best two weeks of all of last year! I loved having her here. She helped me find the humor and the joy in our circumstances. She spent hours holding my babies and loving them. She witnessed Max's blue spells, she experienced all the good, bad and ugly of that phase of our lives. And I recharged. We had wonderful lunches in Rice Village, we went shopping, we had awesome conversations driving back and forth to the hospital. Hannah is a psychiatrist and even when she isn't trying to, she makes me better. And by the time she left, I felt like I was in such a better place.
Hannah had talked about coming out once she had Heidi for a long time. I know she hated not to be able to come for my surgery but being 8 months pregnant suggested it was not the right time! But right before my surgery, she went ahead and booked a ticket for November. I think it made going through Addie's transplant easier just knowing when she'd be here. We picked next week because I would be off work but of course had no idea it would end up being the week after Max's evaluation or two weeks before his transplant. It just seemed convenient so she booked it. And what an amazing blessing it has been and will be!
We had a stressful,emotional, draining week and when we were tired and overwhelmed, it helped so much to think about how much fun it will be when Hannah is out. And much like last time she came out, I think it'll be a much needed chance to recharge and have some fun and have someone to share all this with and sort through all my thoughts and feelings with and get my strength back up before we head into to December and Max's hopeful transplant.
So today for my month of thankfulness, I am thankful that true friendship is never limited by distance and that God has provided these special visits from Hannah at just the times when I most need them!