Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Parallel Courses

The yard was large and scattered with trees. The trees were in full leaf and their limbs spread and feathered making cool patches of shade on a lawn that was so green that it looked almost unreal. The flowers around the house were in full beauty and you could see the bees busily visiting one colorful bloom after another. The house was a small white structure, but it was warm and inviting. You felt that you would find love inside it’s walls. Behind the house was a large vegetable garden green and healthy, it’s bounty overflowing. A red barn stood on the back edge of the property. The barn door was open and you could hear the sounds of life and smell the fresh hay. It was a greeting card perfect picture and I fell in love the minute that my friend drove us into her driveway.

My friend and her husband were born and bred Southern Californians, but her husband had had a dream. And because she loved her husband she had helped him fulfill his dream. They had worked hard to buy him the chance to be what he wanted most in the world to be; a farmer. They had sold their house at the beach and moved to a farming community in the Mid West. They had three children. One of their son’s was a very good friend of my son. That is how she and I became good friends. We met at a time when both of us were finding our world turned upside down. Both of us were being thrown into worlds that we didn’t understand and in an odd way we were envious of what the other one’s world had to offer.

Making the transition to farmer’s wife was one of the hardest things that she had ever done. Making the transition to a single woman with a child to support was one of the hardest things that I had ever done. We were drawn to one another like a moth is drawn to a flame.

She had invited my son and I to spend a week with her family on their new farm. So we had gotten on a plane and left my single/mother/corporate world behind and had entered her world of wife/mother/farmer. When we hugged at the airport I smelled the earth, the animals, the fresh air, and the vegetable garden. She whispered in my ear that she could smell the beach, the sand, and the freedom.

Her husband had grown and flourished in this new environment. He had left the flabbiness and pallor behind and had blossomed into a handsome, muscled, eternally smiling man. He also had fallen in love with her all over again. His new love for her was one of the realities that was wearing her away. She was pregnant again. She wanted to fly away and her wings were being clipped closer and closer with every breath that she took. We spent hours walking the farm, picking vegetables from the garden, cleaning the muck from the barn, and feeding the chickens. I would wake up in the morning when the cows were coming in to be milked and I would watch the sun coming over the red barn and my heart would soar.

She would get up and hear the cows coming in and for a moment the exhaustion and depression would be visible in her face. She loved her husband and her family; could she find a way to love the farm? We would drink our coffee and she would beg me to tell her about my life at the beach. I longed for her loving husband, large family, white house, and red barn. She longed for my freedom to go to bed alone, my job that I could leave at 5:00 p.m., my option to come and go as I pleased, and the smell of the beach sand. She longed for my ‘freedom’. I longed for her ‘structure’ .

She took me into town one afternoon and introduced me to some of the people that she had begun to call friends. I had a tan, blonde hair, pink fingernails, and wore lipstick. When she said, “This is my friend from California” they would scowl and ask me if I was part of the sex and drugs that went on there. When I would laugh and answer, “I wish I was having that much fun!” she would whisper, “I wish I was too.” I felt her world held more promise for contentment and she felt my world contained more fulfillment. We were two young women on different courses that had very similar confused feelings.

She wanted my world. I wanted her world.

We wrote to each other for years, but we never again visited. The last time I heard from her she wrote glowingly about the farm, her husbands achievements, and the quilts she had made. I wrote back and told her of the promotion I had gotten, my son’s skills as a pitcher in Little League, and the man that I had met at a dance.

Years later one of the retired Air Force Captains that I worked with said to me, “You don’t belong in this cold environment. You should have married a Mid-Westerner. You have all the requirements to make a wonderful farmer’s wife.”

I laughed, but I suddenly thought of my far away friend. Had anyone recently said to her, "You have all the requirements to make a successful career in the corporate world."

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