stories about community • part 2
We were about 7 or 8, attending summer daycamp for the first time. Our older siblings had hyped camp up for years and anticipation in the air was thick. As we walked into the huge gathering room with exposed log rafters and huge barn doors, we were prompted to take our seats on the smooth concrete floors where cold chill seeped through jean shorts making us shiver in the early-Oregon-summer morning.
Later, all of the campers our age were corralled together in a corner to be split into smaller groups, and that’s when I saw the twin girls with firey red-orange hair giggling together a short distance away from where I nervously stood. I had always wished I’d been born a twin and so was fascinated by them; fortunately Maddie and Mary and myself were placed in same group. Also placed with us were two other girls – Natalie, who I knew as the girl with a butterfly net stuck in her backpack that was used for catching newts and salamanders, and Sarah, who laughed easily and was kind and welcoming to everyone – both of whom I took a liking to immediately. We became friends over canoe excursions, swimming tests (you were only allowed in the “deeper” part of the swimming area if you could tread water for 60 seconds), hikes, being terrified and simultaneously thrilled by the Big Swing, and laughing hysterically at our camp counselors antics during the lost-and-found fashion show. After that week was over, our paths continued to cross during grade school and middle school at community Bible studies, big homeschool co-op events, and community functions. Our lifelong family homes were far enough away from each other that we connected by writing letters or making sporadic phone calls; we mostly lost touch until Natalie and I ended up in the same class in high school and we all went to Mexico on a missions trip after sophomore year.
It was the summer after our senior year of high school; Natalie and I had just graduated from our tiny private Christian school, and Maddie and Mary had completed their last year of homeschooling. I can’t recall why, but we decided to reconnect and go to the beach one Sunday after church, knowing that we were parting ways for a long time after that summer. I was headed to California for a liberal arts degree, Maddie to Washington for discipleship school, Natalie was considering a PT Aid program at the local community college, and Mary was pursuing professional ballet.
I can distinctly remember the feeling as we drove to the coast in the twins’ car – that something magical seemed to be happening.
That day was one of the best of my life. Not only because it was a rare gorgeous day on the coast – bright blue sky, warm enough for bathing suits, very little wind, and the perfect hidden cove to spend our time – but because as the day went on, I realized that these women felt like sisters to me. Sisters who shared my beliefs, my hopes, my dreams and my values, ones who had always been this way but now we were old enough to appreciate it and speak about it deeply and intelligently.
We talked a lot about that – how our upbringing in the church and homeschool community and even our homes in the country had instilled a love of family, of honor, of not being willing to settle for less-than-best in relationships, of our shared appreciation for good literature, classic movies, and the domestic arts. I felt more known by these women than I had by even best friends in my life. A simultaneous joy and sadness filled me because I was only just now realizing it, on the eve of us being split across the west coast.
I think I can count on one and a half hands the times after that Beach Day when we have all been together again – not including Natalie’s and Mary’s weddings, both of which we were all present for. One year we spent New Year’s Eve together…another summer we watched the 6-hour version of Pride and Prejudice on a 90+ degree day in a farmhouse with no air conditioning…one evening – I can’t recall if it was Fall or Spring – we only had a few hours when we were all home from school and work and free to be together. After getting off work at Red Robin, I drove the 30 minutes out to their neighboring farms and we sat around that farmhouse table eating a mushroom soup (that I still dream about to this day) and catching up on the time that had elapsed since seeing each other last.
This past weekend we got together again – Sarah joined us too! – and amongst lots of hugs, laughter, really good food, prayer and a few tears, some reminiscing and trying to recall old memories, we processed adult life with our families, journeys of health and healing, Mary’s coming baby and Meyers-Briggs assessments.
I don’t see these women often enough, but when we are in each others presence, it feels just like that cliche: that no time has passed at all but that the reality which has come and gone can be processed and shared in a safe and sacred space, one where we are known and also accepted, loved, celebrated, honored, challenged, and simply adored. These are my sisters, my “kindred spirits”, my dear friends.
Professional grade photo by the lovely Madison Kay Photography