My decision to live with Nikki my junior year of college and my decision to marry V were the top two decisions that altered the entire course of my life. Sure, the decision to marry someone, that’s an obvious influence, but a college roommate? Those can come and go. This one came and stayed, thankfully.
It was an unlikely match starting from the beginning, starting with just where we were from. I grew up in a suburb of
non-Texas as you can get. I remember the
first time I went home with her to . I felt as if I was on the edge of the
world. Big Spring, Texas Big Spring
is not far from where the famous Elizabeth Taylor movie, “Giant”, was
filmed. It is vast, stark, and seemingly
void of living things. As we turned into
her neighborhood, our car was surrounded by mesquite trees that were barely as
tall as me. I felt claustrophobic, not
able to see past the brush that surrounded all sides of the uncurbed road to
her house, but yet I felt a freedom, as the West Texas
sky loomed above me in a way I had never seen.
Her brother was the high school quarterback and we had come home for the
homecoming game. As we turned onto the
double-laned highway outside of her house, I saw nothing but sky and open road
beyond the windshield of the car. “Where
the heck are we going?” I asked. “To my
old high school,” she responded, confused.
I grew up with a high school stadium that had a seating capacity of over
14,000. We cheered her brother’s
homecoming game from the tailgate of a truck her family had pulled up to the
fence. As her brother threw touchdown
passes, we shivered on the tailgate, wrapped in quilt blankets, sipping hot
cocoa. Prior to moving to The
Netherlands, that night was the coldest night of my entire life, and after the
West Texas wind whipped over, around, and through us for an hour, I relented
and begged her to let me stay inside the truck with the heater on.
Our friendship continued to grow over the years. I shared her excitement when she read her law school acceptance letter in the living room of our apartment in
Waco. I helped her look for apartments in a few months before her first day of
classes at Lawrence,
law school. She helped me decide that Kansas University Addison
Circle apartments outside of Dallas
were where I should be after a broken engagement and a start at a new
life. This proved to be a twist of fate,
graced by Nikki, as Addison Circle housed my future husband, V, who I
‘accidentally’ met while walking our dogs in one of the courtyards. She was there, in the happiest moments of my
life: She stood beside me (in a dress!)
at my wedding, helped host Baby Girl’s baby shower, and was at my home along
with my parents and grandma when we returned from the hospital with Little
Man. When I told her I was moving to
The Netherlands for two years, I can’t say she completely shared my
enthusiasm. “But you were in Kansas
for three years! It will be just like
that. Every time we see each other, it
will be as if no time has passed.” I
tried to reassure her.
I have a tendency to think I can do more than I can. In January, as V was establishing our new life in The Netherlands, and I was wrapping up ours in
Texas, I became distraught. It was the Sunday prior to our departure and
I was supposed to give the keys to our house to our renters in the
afternoon. I was living at my Dad’s
house and had dropped my 3-month old and 21-month old off with my mom for the
day. We had movers, but the connotation
and gloriousness of ‘having movers’ is deceiving. All possible things had left the house, but
upon my visit in the morning I realized the seriousness of the task I had
before me. When you move
internationally/store your things, the movers will not pack up cleaning
supplies, propane tanks, lighter fluid, potting soil, and cans of paint. You’d prefer not to store or ship trash cans
(gross!). My pantry and fridge was
stocked full of food that I could do nothing with. I had 28 bags of trash in my garage. I had a closet full of clothes I had been
wearing to work for the past few weeks.
I had bags of change and wedding photos I just did not know what to do
with. And the movers had left EIGHT
boxes under the stairs. They just. . .
forgot to put them into storage. That
was the tipping point. After I saw those
boxes, with no where to put them, I realized I was in serious, overwhelming
trouble. My mom was taking care of my
children and my husband was on the other side of the world. I could throw the food away, but it’s like a
zero-balance budget, the more trash you create, the bigger that problem becomes. With
28 bags of trash already, I knew the city of Plano
would not pick them up. I was going to
have to take it to the dump, and the problem was already bigger than one trip
in a 2000 Ford Explorer. As I surveyed the
damage, the clock ticking, I realized that I would be there until midnight.
But I couldn’t be there until midnight, because I had two tiny children. That’s when I lost it. I’ve only cried
that uncontrollable cry, body-shaking, I-just-don’t-think-I-can-do-this-cry
three times in my life. I called my
husband in The Netherlands. Of course, V
was distraught. He would have done
anything to be there with me, to help me.
So he did the only thing he could think of. He called Nikki. She lives an hour away, but she was there in
45 minutes with back-up. We loaded two
cars full of trash and went to the dump.
She took my authentic 1960’s Beatles records to her cousin’s house. She took more boxes to her home, she took the
cleaning supplies, we took food to my Mom’s house, to my Dad’s house, and she
promised to take good care of my wedding photos. We
made plans for the bags of American change which would be worthless in The
Netherlands and the propane tank. We
decided to just leave the lighter fluid and charcoal for the renters.
She came to my Dad’s house the night before I left. We shared pizza and packed my bags. She kissed Baby Girl goodbye and then snuck into Little Man’s temporary room as he slept in my Dad’s house. “Next time I see you, you’ll almost be walking,” she whispered to him in the darkness. As I hugged her goodbye and she said everything she needed to, I choked, nodded, and mumbled, “I’ll miss you and I’ll see you soon,” all my words unspoken. She hugged me tight, understanding everything I wanted to say, but couldn’t.
In May, she sent me her flight confirmations. She was really coming, in October, and the best part of her timing was that she was going to be here for Little Man’s 1st birthday. I had confidence that we’d at least be able to have a party with friends in The Netherlands by October (unlike Baby’s Girl’s bday in April when we were still establishing ourselves and meeting people. We celebrated with our nuclear family by visiting Efteling, a Dutch theme park, which was a fun, small celebration, although, if we wanted to host a party, our dog sitter said she would have happily joined in on the festivities). Prior to and subsequently after the confirmation, every restaurant I visited, every museum I explored, every town I traversed, I always had the ‘Nikki needs-to-see/do’ checklist in the back of my mind.
We corresponded for weeks before her visit and I still couldn’t believe she was going to be here, but upon her arrival, I found that, like every time I visited her in
it seemed as if nothing had changed. I
was so proud to show her my house, my bike, my local Jumbo Grocery store.
We took the train to
Delft. I had the kids in my
American-stroller-with-six-cup-holders and as we exited the train and surveyed
the platform looking for the ‘lift’ I started pushing towards the stairs. “Of course they have a lift!” she said. “How else would they accommodate the
handicapped?” I shook my head and smiled.
“I know. I know. But they don’t. Take an end.
Do you want feet or handle?” We carried the two kids and stroller down
the steps. “At least this is better than
Paris,” I said, “there are very,
very few metros with elevators in that city,” I explained.
By day 5, she was attempting to pack her groceries at the Jumbo like a Dutch pro, and she understood the stress I was under every time I bought bread, vegetables, and cheese. She pedaled a bike across town next to me. She hates to cycle. “Why did you enroll Baby Girl in a school on the other side of The Netherlands?” she questioned me, breathlessly. “Because, they speak English. And Dutch. They say let’s go outside, or please sit, in both English and Dutch – so I think that helps with her understanding and I can talk to her teachers in my native language.” Without further question, she understood. She got confused by my washer. She was irritated by the microwave that beeps incessantly every two seconds post-microwaving. Yet, she also embraced the architecture, the fabulous food, and the beauty around every corner. We went to the Dutch resistance museum in
and she visited the Van Gogh collection at the Hermitage. She endured the trek up 35 stairs to her
bedroom and loved the view of the train tracks and the quiet neighborhood
street from the front balcony. We met a
friend of mine for drinks on Saturday. “So,
you’ve been here a couple of years? How
have you found it?” Nikki asked of my friend.
“It’s been good. It’s hard. But it’s good,” she said. Nikki laughed. This is what I’ve been telling her. After a week with me, I can, without doubt,
say that she gets it.
We celebrated my son’s 1st birthday last night. It was a mix of long-time and newly-formed friends. It was a wonderful celebration, complete with fajita marinade from
of photos, and Duncan Hines cake mix and frosting from the Jumbo (at a
price). This morning as Nikki left for
AMS, I hugged her again, choked up by tears.
She said everything she needed to say.
I could only manage, “Thank you for visiting, and I’ll see you
soon.” Again, all my words left
unsaid. “Mama’s crying,” Baby Girl was
running around shouting. But yet, Nikki
knew. She knew. I will see her in just a few weeks. After months of thinking her visit would seem
surreal, once she was here, it seemed unreasonably natural. It felt like home.