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"don't cry. you'll ruin
your spray tan."

these were the words spoken to me by my best friend yesterday as i attempted to compose myself to hug her goodbye. well, to hug her "see you soon" to be exact. friendships like ours know no goodbyes. even after six months of us physically living on two different sides of the country, yesterday we both confessed that we feel like we haven't lost one bit of each other. those of you who know me are very familiar with my repetetive stories about my best friend sara. even those of you who don't know me very well have probably still heard me bring up her name in conversation.
today, i'd like to explain why.
as i squinted my eyes and let them fill with tears--but not actually streak down my brand new mystic tan--i choked out to sara my reasoning behind the heartbreak of being so far away from her.
"it took me twenty two years to find you, and having you so close by my side for only three years just isn't enough."
granted, i AM the one who packed my bags and moved to california--which makes you think that i would easily accept the consequences. however, just because i chose to follow my dreams, doesn't mean i'm not having trouble accepting the fact that it came along with being far away from the people i love most. i don't regret being in california because i know it's something i was truly meant to do. for as long as i can remember--i mean, i literally can't ever remember a time in my life when i didn't feel drawn to california--i've longed for the west coast.
would i want to look back on my life thirty years from now and think that i didn't accomplish something i've wanted to do my entire life? absolutely not. but i am struggling with some of the things that have come along with it.

but what do you expect?
i grew up in the same place for over twenty years. and by same place, i mean: same street. same house. same room. same town. raleigh is my home base in every way possible. not only did i go through all of school (elementary-college) here, but even after college i remained in raleigh where all of my comfort zones were at arms reach. so really, how can i expect that after just six months in a brand new city all the way across the country i'm going to be fully adjusted?

imagine eating the exact same cereal for twenty five years and then one day waking up and having grape nuts.
you'd be a little off too.

but this post isn't about me.
a few paragraphs up, you may have been wondering to yourself: what did you mean by "it took you twenty two years to find sara?" well, let me begin with a quote that is very close to my heart and sums up my entire story.

"you only meet your once-in-a-lifetime friend, once in a lifetime." ~charlie brown

here's what i have learned in my twenty five years: people will always come in and out of your life. you will have acquintances. you will have friends. you will have best friends. and very rarely--in my opinion, once in a lifetime--you will meet someone who you know was brought into your life entirely on purpose. the kind of person you instantly connect to before even meeting face to face. the kind of person who you are absolutely certain that if the circumstances of your life and theirs were completely different, you still would have somehow been brought together. in my opinion, these people can come in all different forms. mine came in the form of a best friend.
and this one happens to be very special.

i know what you're thinking sar. "really fanny, this picture?" but it sums up a big part of your personality that i wanted to share with everybody today. one of the things i've always admired most about sara is her connection with her hometown roots. sara is a born and bred southern girl through and through. she says "mama" and points out which crop is tobacco when we pass by a farm, but it's more than that. there's something so genuine and wonderful about sara's southern charm. seeing her in the comfort of her south carolina home and in the arms of her incredible parents reminds me of all the reasons she's the person that she is today. this past weekend, i got to do exactly that. most people think of a visit to the myrtle beach area as a wild get-away where you'll hit all the tourist attractions and leave with a sunburn. when i cross over that south carolina border, little river is a place i call a second home. a place where we spend our saturday mornings watching ghost whisperer marathons on lifetime and our afternoons eating plates of homemade spaghetti that even mario batali would be jealous of.
if you're lucky enough to spend a day with the mclamb family, you're lucky enough.

"he's just a big teddy bear with dull claws"
is the first description sara ever gave me of her dad. 
i'll never forget the first time i met mack mclamb. seeing as how he despised the three hour distance between him and the baby--yes, that's sara's nickname--sara thought it would be a brilliant idea to set up a dinner where we surprised him with her presence. this occasion would also just happen to be the first time i was introduced to not just him, but to sara's mom as well. after only a few weeks of knowing sara and instantly becoming close friends, i had already heard countless tales of her amazing parents. she spoke so highly of them that the butterflies in my stomach must have thought i was having dinner with the clintons.
we walked into the restaurant and around the corner, and there he was. standing there with his mouth wide open and eyebrows raised was a man wearing one of the most confused expressions i have ever seen. i don't believe he even got out a full sentence before i saw the tears start to form in the corners of his eyes. he was too baffled to speak for the first ten minutes of our meal. that was, until the waitress came by and asked for our order and he shouted to her,
"i'll take the oyster roast!"

...we were at a barbeque restaurant.

it was that meal at sticky fingers in wilmington, north carolina where i first fell in love with sara's family. i don't think i understood a single word through the thick little river accent that came out of her dad's mouth, but i knew from the second i saw him that mack mclamb was a giant heart wearing sneakers with no socks.

skip to three years later.

his daughter has just landed her first--and very prestigious--job out of college as editor-in-chief of a local newspaper. after the typical "well HELLO!" and "when you moving back from callee-for-nia?!" i received from him just two steps into the door--he sits me down at the kitchen table and hands me a yellowed, wrinkled newspaper. although this crumped six-page journal looks like it's been saved from 1952, it's actually the three week old first edition of sara's newspaper that she produced. as i welled up with pride--pretending i hadn't just seen it two hours before--i watched mack out of the corner of my eye as he read sara's autobiographical article along with me. it wasn't even three minutes before sara nudged me and whispered, 
"my dad's crying."
it's not only wonderful to be around sara's dad because of his compassionate nature and warm heart, but he's the kind of entertainment that not even the most brilliant comedian could dream up. whether he's shouting "do WHAT?!" at a waiter who mumbled the specials, wagging his finger at their cat dusty and demanding "what you doing there luccer?! oh. that's not luccer", or standing up from the table last sunday at noon after devouring a waffle and saying "thanks for dinner"--that man can unintentionally keep the entire house laughing for hours.

"he would steal pennies off a dead man's eyes!"
is one of the many expressions spoken by winona mclamb that makes me reconsider everything i've ever known about the human language.
although mack is the proud owner of the occasional word i can't make out through his deep southern drawl, it's sara's mom who continuously adds volumes to my mental dictionary. the southern phrases i learn over a plateful of paula deen-style potato wedges in that house could fill a book. however, it's not just laughter we've shared in that kitchen. 
if i had a dollar for every heartfelt conversation i've had with sara and her mom around that big dining room table, i'd probably have enough money to buy myself another plane ticket back to raleigh. of course i enjoy the beach days, the nights at molly darcy's, and the occasional lunches at thai season--but some of the warmest memories i have from my hundreds of trips to little river include those after-dinner talks.

sara has always been the kind of person who tells her mom everything. i mean every detail from little to big. she confides in her like a best friend, and after a few rounds of sitting around that table with the two of them, i understood why. there's something so comforting about opening up to winona. maybe it's her motherly nature, or possibly her thirty plus years as a respected nurse where people are constantly seeking her advice and guidance. she'll ask me one simple question like "sara said you started a new job. how's it going?" and next thing i know i've poured out my heart and told her half of my life story. countless hours have passed as the three of us have sat at that table pointing out the stray cats drinking out of the pool and talking about everything under the sun.
like clockwork, the time comes when winona will grab her diet pepsi, stand up, and head for the laundry room. as sara calls out,
"winona! where ya goin?!"
she'll shout back something about taking clothes out of the dryer--but i know that she's just taking off to give us some time together. 
the irony is that sara and i will immediately put our plates in the sink, grab our ben and jerry's out of the fridge, follow her into the next room and force her to watch a movie with us.

because my time in little river is always limited, every second that i get to spend with this family is important to me. if sara and her mom and i aren't sitting around the table chatting and finishing off the pitcher of homemade sweet tea, we're lounging in the living room picking on martha stewart and waiting for the next hallmark movie to come on. winona may shout at one of the cats for jumping on a table, but if you turn down the volume of the heartfelt romantic comedy we're watching, you'll hear her sniffing and holding in tears.

if you've ever read anything that sara has written about herself, she never fails to credit her parents for the type of woman she is today. my entire life i was blessed with two extraordinary parents of my own and a sarah to hold onto. how lucky am i that my fortune was literally doubled a few years back. it was over three years ago when i fell into sara's life and walked into the arms of her family, and these three never fail to make me feel at home. whether i'm leaning against the kitchen counter watching sara and her mom search through the cabinets that they swear "eat all their tupperware lids", or watching matlock with sara's dad at a volume level so loud dinosaurs could hear it--i can't help but smile when i'm inside that house. i can always count on a bowl full of potatoes, a new kitchen gardget on the counter, andy griffith on the tv, and a southern living recipe in the oven. these memories on mineola avenue will always hold a piece of my heart, and spread a smile across my face every time i see a plate of spaghetti.
although the bond between sara and i knows no distance, it doesn't make me miss her or these special weekends any less. lucky for us, we have a whole lifetime of weekends to look forward to. that's the beauty of once-in-a-lifetime friends. no matter how long it takes you to find them, you know that once you do, you can't imagine your life without them. even when circumstances pull you in different directions, you're never really "without" them.

you're always just a text,

a phonecall,

a plane ride,

or two hours and forty five minutes away.

i will always come back for you.


Jeffrey Slater said...

Beautifully written and filled with rich and authentic emotions. Friendships like these are true gifts to be cherished for a lifetime. I am so happy that you and Lamb Chops are BFF.

Kate said...

Aw, this is so sweet! I agree that you find your once in a lifetime friend, once in a lifetime. Some don't ever find them. I'm lucky to have found mine and I tend to think no one has a better friendship than ours. I'm sure you feel the same way with your friend. I have traveled the country with my sistafriend, we have become part of each others families and she will be an aunt to my future children. We are lucky to have found our once in a lifetime friend!