At one point this afternoon while I was on the phone with Dennis, I clicked over on call waiting to find one of my mom’s great friends, Joyce, at the other end. Since my mom was entertaining guests downstairs, I stayed on the line and talked with Joyce. One of the many things we discussed was how my mother has the ability not only to make friends wherever she goes, but to keep them. Forever. It is in that respect that my mother I differ terribly as I have about as many friends from my past as would fill a motorcycle, while my mother has magically captivated caravans of double-decker buses, filled to the brim and spilling over with friends, even more of them running behind in the dust of those buses with smiles on their faces waving banners with my mom’s name. And these are not just fair weather friends. They are the sort to drive, let’s say, from Hingham, Massachusetts, pick up a friend from Maine, and then come to our house in Vermont for a couple of hours—-all to drop off a quilt. THAT kind of friend.
You may have heard me talk about a magical place from my youth called Camp Arcadia. This was my summer camp in Casco, Maine when I was 11, 12, and 13 years old. It has been around for almost a hundred years and is steeped in tradition, down-to-earth good natured-ness, and lots of blue uniforms. It was the camp my mother and aunt went to for a decade when they were young, and the camp I dreamed to go to when I heard my mother tell stories about it.
Arcadia is a camp only for girls, so the friendships my mother made there were strong and true, unlike the friendships we make when boys are in the mix. Those were the friendships uncluttered by jealousy or competition. They were friendships built on a love of the outdoors, by the shared experience of spending whole summers away from parents, by going on hiking and camping trips into the White Mountains of New Hampshire and coming back with stories and songs from those trips. Camp Arcadia is a place that helped make my mother who she is today: strong, determined, responsible, and caring beyond words. Camp helped her form the basis for all the friendships she ever made and as much commitment as she placed into her friendships at Camp, she did the same for all the friendships that would ever come into her life until now.
I write about this today because two of my mom’s friends from her time at Arcadia came to visit today, from Hingham, MA and from Maine, and brought to her a beautiful quilt. A handmade quilt, enormous and loving, and colorful blue and green: the same colors of real Maine summer days. On the quilt are pockets taken from the blue camp uniforms from years ago, and in each pocket a quilt square decorated with words, drawings, and prayers from her other Camp Arcadia friends. It goes without saying the emotion and love that went into creating a piece like this, and that went into receiving it. We were all in tears, the six of us there in the living room. My little mom in her lime green pajamas, the thin silver hairs sticking out on her pink little pinhead. For hours they all sat together and read the wishes on the quilted squares, looked at pictures, told stories, laughed. I could not help but stare at my mom, watch how she came more alive with every passing minute that she was in the company of these women, the ones she met when she was just 10, 11 years old.
In fact, she came so much alive, she thought she might go for a drive with the “kids,” as she later referred to them, and show them around our town. She even asked me if that would be alright. “Please!” I said. I could barely contain my excitement. She has not left our house in three weeks, nor has she been in regular clothes in that same time. She changed into regular clothes—-soft blues to represent Arcadia colors, and the three of them hopped into the car and toured the town. As soon as I saw the car drive away, a hunger overcame me as if I had not seen food in months. It was the oddest physical reaction to happiness (or maybe it was relief?) that I’ve ever had. I have found my stomach tight and clenched recently and haven’t felt hunger in a while. Perhaps it was seeing my mom go out and do something normal that made me relax and feel something besides anxiety again.
When they returned, they toured the house and the grounds. I watched my mom point out the flowers she’d planted, the hammock they’d hung up years ago, where the contractor had leveled the ground when the new addition went on. It was, for a moment, just like normal. And everything was so good. And everything was just as it should be. And it was so, so good. And I forgot about tomorrow and the tests and the chemo and I just watched my mom walking around with her friends.
I am so thankful for these friends, for all the friends of my mom who would—and who have—given their time to help her, in whatever way they know how or can. At Arcadia, we seek to have have what’s called a “true blue spirit,” which means we are filled with honesty, caring, determination, positivity, morals, good citizenship, strength, love, the will to do things well, and the desire to be good people. I know not all of my mom’s friends went to Camp Arcadia. But all of them have that true blue spirit.
**** You can see pictures of this amazing quilt over at Team Tina. We’re going to put pictures up tonight.****