Wednesday, June 29, 2016

You Don't Know What You've Got Til It's Gone: The Neighborhood Edition

Somebody stopped by my house today with a parting gift (which I loved, thanks so much...).  After she left, I read the note she'd attached to the gift, and she seriously brought me to tears with her kind words.

It made me think - I sometimes take the people around me for granted.  Or anyway, I assume they know what I think of them. But really, why don't we take the time to thank the people who help us settle in at each post?  The time flies by so quickly.  We bond hard and then separate fast. And sometimes the people we've been relying on to get us through don't even know it.

So here's a partial list of the neighbors who got me through it.

Beth is one of the first people I met here.  She was throwing a party for newcomers the week after I arrived at post, and I'd heard about it, of course, but I didn't figure she meant to include me, since we'd never met.  My social sponsor and soon-to-be friend Karla assured me that, yes, Beth did mean to include me.  So I went. It was fun, and I met lots of new people.  More importantly, I discovered that Beth was the backbone of the post.  She's always looking out for the new people, always making sure people on their way out have a proper send off. Always smiling, even when she has reason not to be.  Always calling up to see if you want to stop by for tea on a rainy afternoon.  I wish I could be as outgoing and spontaneous as Beth.

Tamara and I arrived within days of each other, and she's the perfect neighbor.  You can be sure if you need a teaspoon of cumin or a can of pumpkin, she'll have it.  She'll laugh till she cries over a smashed watermelon. She'll stop by with a meal if she hears that you're sick.  And she'll swear up and down that no, she didn't hear you fighting with your kids this morning at breakfast. (The walls are thin and she's such a liar...) We've had some fun together, she and I, even when we've only been running errands or trying to find our way back to the Embassy.

Melica got here when we did, too. She's fearless, that woman.  She'll go anywhere, try anything. When I'm tired of being a parent, she'll let me send my kids to her house.  When I'm tired of cooking dinner, she'll invite us for a potluck - and believe me, when you have four kids, you don't get too many invitations that include your entire family. She doesn't stand on ceremony - she'll invite you in even when her house is a mess, and she'll never notice when your house is looking less than sparkly.  Wherever she and her husband go, much laughter ensues.

Lori and I didn't get to know each other until more recently, but she's just the kindest person. She showed up midway through pack out two weeks ago and told me to give her a grocery list.  What an amazing gift that was - at the end of a long day of packing out, there was a pile of fresh food in the refrigerator, no thanks to me.

I met Hilde when I first got here, and our kids have been in and out of each other's houses for the past two years. We don't see each other as often as I'd like, but she's taken one of my kids under her wing and it's nice to know he has a second house to call home when ours isn't working out for him. She's one of those moms who makes the full-time-job-plus-parenting-gig look effortless. Plus which, she makes amazing brownies and she's always willing to share...

I don't see much of Branka, either, but she was one of the first people who asked me on a friend date. We went to lunch together and had a great time.  Why does she have to be so busy?  Oh well.  We'll grab lunch together again in another country, I've no doubt.

Yzo and Isa - it took me a year to learn to tell them apart.  But they basically adopted my daughter.  I think she spent more nights sleeping at their house than at ours.  They always had a hug for me or for my daughters, and when they left post it seemed suddenly a bit less sunny around here.

Mickey has taken in my other daughter.  I'm going to have to make sure Ainsley doesn't attempt to stow away in their luggage, because she much prefers their house to ours.  What's not to like?  Her door seems to be always open for my youngest, any day, any time. She makes homemade spring rolls and noodles rather than sending her home for lunch.  She has a great laugh and a better singing voice.

Rim.  Everybody knows Rim, and Rim knows everybody.  In my next life I want to be as fearlessly outgoing as Rim. Sarah, too.  She always leaves you doubled over, laughing.  (Well, except for when she's giving you a shot in the rear.  But the world needs nurses, so I'll forgive that one transgression.)  Kelly -  I've never met anyone who is quite as much of a friend magnet as Kelly.  She draws you in with her laugh - you can hear her a block away - and then keeps you close because she's so beautiful, in and out. If you ever get a chance to serve at a post with Kelly, you're going to want to do it.  There's nobody else quite like her out there.
Then there are my gym buddies.

Suzie is fierce in the gym, an awesome workout partner.  She's smart and strong and serious. So inspiring on so many levels.

Janet makes me laugh.  When I'm in a bad mood, I seek her out because I know the mood will pass. And she's committed - you can't skip the gym on a Janet day, because you know she'll be there waiting for you.

Alamanda is the strongest woman in the gym.  When I start feeling cocky, thinking I can pick up heavy stuff, I look over at what she's doing and I shut myself right up. If I ever get in a bar fight, I'm bringing her and Areti as my backup.  Those women can throw a kick like nobody's business.

Annabelle is patient and calm and so strong.  Renee curses like a sailor and runs circles around me, even while she's laughing. Tina inspires me to program burpees, just because she hates them so much (yet has gotten so good at them). Peggy sings show tunes and tells slightly off-color jokes while we're swimming. Everything's more fun when she's there.

So many others - some still at post and some long gone. It's been a lonely post for me in some ways.  But when I travel door to door in my mind's eye, I realize I have so many friends here.  More than I can count. More than I can describe in this post. I've gotten sappy enough already.

So pay it forward, my friends.  Go seek out someone who has helped you at post and tell them.  Don't wait until they're leaving.  People need to know when they make a mark on your soul. My soul is feeling happily scuffed up today.


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