It’s been at least 2 1/2 decades since I met Denise. I can’t tell you exactly how or why we became friends. I was already married and living in a campus apartment when Denise moved into the dorms for her freshman year of college. But our paths kept crossing and somewhere in all of the intersecting, a beautiful, valued friendship grew.
She was in my home two weeks after my oldest was born, leaning on her crib and saying, “You need to wake up, baby. Aunt Neesy wants to play with you.” I had to remind her that a two week old doesn’t play much and I might have threatened to harm her if she woke up my sleeping infant! She babysat as often as her schedule allowed and my kiddos loved to see her coming!
My kids have always called her Aunt Neesy. My youngest daughter actually cried the day she found out that Denise wasn’t really a blood relative. My sisters both adopted her as an honorary sister. She helped out at one of their weddings and did the cake for the other. When she got married, she stated that the wedding party was going to be all family so I was blown away when she asked me to be a bridesmaid. My youngest daughter was the flower girl and my hubby was an usher. When people who knew her “family only” policy asked, her answer was simple – “Like I said. The bridal party is all family.”
She grew up in Iowa – Cedar Falls, to be exact, where the University of Northern Iowa is located. 3 of my kiddos have earned or will earn their Bachelor’s degrees from that University and two currently live in that city. She now lives in Michigan with her wonderful hubby and her two lovable kids. I grew up in Michigan and now make my home – an empty nest! – in a city just an hour and a half from her hometown. We haven’t lived in the same state for more than a decade so I’m deeply grateful for social media allowing us to keep track of what’s going on with one another!
This past Sunday, Denise and her daughter, Emma, were in Cedar Falls for a graduation party with all of their family that still lives in the area. (I’m still in denial that all of our kiddos have graduated from high school but that’s another issue!) The schedules worked out so that hubby and I were able to go. My oldest and her beautiful 7 week old daughter, Henry, were able to ride over with us as well. Esther was only 2 weeks old when Denise held her for the first time – she has literally watched my daughter grow up! – so it seemed fitting that she should meet the newest member of the family as soon as possible! My two kiddos who live in Cedar Falls – and their significant others – were able to stop in for a bit as well.
When I walked into the house and hugged “Neeser”, it was like coming home. We told stories about one another to our kids and simply enjoyed being together again. Her daughter Emma loves babies so she spent quite a bit of time holding Henry, even offering to handle bottle duty! Time and distance hadn’t affected a single thing. We simply caught up on extended family happenings and talked about work and kids.
I value every single one of my friends. The reasons why are as varied as they are. But there is something abundantly precious about those friends that you learned how to “adult” with; those friends that have known and loved your kids pretty much as long as you have. They are a treasure, rare and priceless.