Long long ago I gave a toast at a wedding and it was awful. Awful. I'd stressed about it for weeks, was still writing it while having my hair done, and then when it was finally time to speak, no one understood what I was saying through all the CRYING. I have no memory of what I said, only the crying and the pausing to control the crying and the feeling like an utter FOOL. A few tears during a wedding toast is charming and sweet. Not being able to HEAR the wedding toast for all the SOBBING is just embarrassing.
But when Liz and Adam invited all their people to a farewell gathering a week or two ago I was determined, for the first time in my life, to try this toasting thing again. I even had notes, which I'd typed up on my phone for easy access. I had ten years on my previous toasting experience, which is ten years' worth of increased not-caring-what-people-think. Also this gathering would be in a bar, so I would have ample opportunity to liquor myself up. BONUS.
The farewell gathering at the bar, however, was very loud and very crowded and I would have had to stand on top of the table and shout at the top of my lungs for my toast to be heard and, well, that required a kind of bravery even ten years older and liquid courage could not provide. So I had fun chats with the people sitting near me and then I went home, not even speaking to the host and hostess beyond "hello" and "goodbye".
You know where introverted awkward people end up giving thwarted toasts?
TO LIZ (and Adam, whom we so very much adore, but mostly) TO LIZ, without whom the last six years of my life would be shabbier, duller, and a lot more sober.
As a blogger, one's dearest wish is to be taken seriously by your corner of the internet, to inspire, to lead, to say fresh and refreshing things, to speak truth, to be KNOWN as a speaker of truth, and ABOVE ALL to MONETIZE. I had hoped, as a blogger, my byline would one day be seen by all the mommies in all the internetland, and that my ad network would reel in for me many hundreds (dozens?) of dollars. I hoped the hope that any woman - frazzled and exhausted, with a baby and an internet connection and an English degree - hoped: to be PAID to WRITE. And for a few years, inexplicably and randomly, I was paid the grand sum of $20 per post for contributing to a Parenting.com blog. This, I felt sure, would propel me up the massive slope that was Internet Rockstardom. LOOK OUT, DOOCE!
I go to Mass on Sunday mornings - a fact I've never managed to integrate smoothly into my scintillating online musings - and on one of these Sundays, as I was packing up the diaper bag for my one single baby and getting ready to leave, a bright and cheery woman accosted me.
"YOU'RE MIGHTY MAGGIE!"
"I am?" I said. "I am!"
"I READ YOUR BLOG!"
"I RECOGNIZE YOU FROM YOUR PICTURE!"
"I SAID TO MY HUSBAND, OH HERE HE IS, THIS IS ADAM, ADAM THIS IS MIGHTY MAGGIE, I TOLD HIM I THINK WE GO TO THE SAME CHURCH AS YOU AND I WAS RIGHT!"
I had gathered myself enough to realize I should introduce her to my husband and my one child - "This is my husband -"
"OH, I ALREADY KNOW THEIR NAMES! HI JACKSON!"
(Maybe I am not remembering this exchange accurately, but eh, details.)
This was Liz. She became my friend. An Internet Friend, a real life friend, the Catholic friend I'd always hoped to have, the local stay at home mom friend I needed, the friend whose kids were the same age as mine, the friend who knew all my other friends, the friend I invited to my sister's wedding because my sister said, and it was true, "Oh sure Liz can come, she's practically family."
My longtime best friends, the Asian-American ladies I've had since my college days, well, they LIKED Liz (see above: Liz knew all my other friends), but they referred to her as my "white best friend", usually with a tinge of sourness. Of course I delightedly told Liz this, knowing she would enjoy the moniker as much as I did.
I had a baby, then she had a baby, then I had a baby, then she had a baby. Then two more. We moved houses. Twice. We got involved in church stuff and regretted getting involved in church stuff. We did Blatherings together - can I just say how crazy special it is to have a Real Life Friend who speaks Internet? We enneagrammed ourselves. And our husbands. Oh, and when our HUSBANDS became friends? That was even better.
I had my amazing online community, I had my amazing real life community, and God saw fit to give me Liz as well. Liz really IS a testament to the goodness of God in my life. It was as if the relationships he'd already blessed me with were not enough, as if there were a gap, as if he said to himself one day, "Maggie appears to be lacking in the Wine-Drinking Friend With Whom To Bitch About Twitter And Church Committees Department, let me see what I can do about that!" And lo, Liz appeared after Mass, daring me to deny that was MY picture on Parenting.com.
I fear I've been a shoddy friend this past year. I decided my small amount of free time would be best put towards opening a questionable business. My disinclination to drive anywhere grew, my aversion to playdates anywhere but your home or mine solidified. Our kids went to different schools. I started going to a different church. I was nowhere to be found these last few months as the this-move-is-actually-happening drama grew large and unwieldy. Had the situation been reversed Liz would have brought me dinner at least three times a week. I wish I had at least shoved a case of wine out of my van as we cruised by her house.
Growing up on military bases, your good friends move away every summer. And then when you graduate college, your good friends might leave for new cities and opportunities. But it's been a very long time since a good friend moved away from me and I am out of practice. I have not yet processed what this means. I have not really explained it to my kids. I have mostly decided not to think about it.
This is probably not a good plan.
TO LIZ. To the time we almost missed our flight to Sacramento. To being the awesome moms in the moms group, back when the moms group was fun. To Twoness. To being my plus one for nearly everything. To the post-committee meeting texts. To bringing dinner out of the blue. To the time we prayed over your bedroom, before Fritz was born, when everything was about to happen.
To Chicago, and husbands who are home more than they are away. So thankful.
To the best thing I ever got out of blogging.
At this point in the toast, know that I am gurgling all my words and no one understands me. It occurs to me that Liz's dad would have an appropriate inappropriate remark to lightheartedly cap things off, so I'll let him end it. He'll whisper it, and add something about an exciting and bright and joyful future that I would be too sad and selfish to add myself.
All the best in your new endeavors, Liz and Family. All of us love all of you.