Best Friends Mom …

I was five, I think when we moved into the house that I eventually grew up in..

I knew there were some other kids in the neighborhood .. and my brother and I were excited to explore.  The neighborhood.  New friends.  The woods behind our house.  The rope swing over the pond.  The sewer treatment plant (that at the time, didn’t have a fence around it).  Disgusting, I know.  But at that age, the dirtier, tougher and grosser we could be it seemed, the better.

We had a blast.  It was small town living at its best.

Growing up, I would almost always choose hanging out with the boys versus just about                                                                                                                                    any girls.  I don’t ever remember anything different.  In part, because there were just fewer girls.  But I wanted to play football or baseball, golf, run and jump and build forts and climb trees, bike everywhere I could and go into that one old house we all thought was haunted and our parents told us never to approach.  Not just walk by and wonder.  There was no playing dolls.  In fact I still remember having to apologize to a girl in the neighborhood we first lived in because I ripped the head off one of her dolls.  I’m not sure I meant to, it just happened.  I think.  I had little interest to sit around and watch tv.  Or be giggly and put on make up and talk about boys.  No thank you.  Not at that time.

And the one girl who lived just a few doors up the street, closest to my age, felt exactly the same.

In getting to be fast, best of friends with Amy ..

I also became very close to her family.

Even her brother who used to site me in the eye of his slingshot, chase me home, hide in the woods knowing I was heading home to scare the bajeezus out of me, lock me out of their house if he knew I was coming or once I got in, not let me leave.  And then find a way to put his underwear over my head.

Perhaps I got close to their mom, Peggy, because she felt terrible for me and it was out of pity over all of that.

But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.  Peggy was just kind of, like some of the others I have mentioned the past couple days .. mom to all who knew her.  The door was always open.  Food or a meal to be shared.  Drinks in the cooler.  There was always time for a late night chat.  A hug.  A phone call.  A walk around the block.  An invitation to join whatever it was the family was doing.  Always.  I loved her and still do so much that at times, I believe my own mother felt very slighted.  Because Peggy was in many ways to me a resource I wasn’t sure how to completely find in my own mom.  Someone I could talk to about anything.  Not feel I was revealing too much or be judged.  Or who would ground me for any of it.  There was just always sage advice.  A kleenex.  Understanding.  Empathy.  Love.  Laughter.

And Cheetos.  There was always great junk food in the cupboard up the street .. stuff we rarely had at home.  (A tradition much to my daughter’s dismay I now carry on.  Very little junk food ever in house.)

I would usually stay to a point where – we knew the phone would ring.  And when it did, we would all look at each other and say, ‘my mom’, and chuckle.  Sure enough, my mother would be on the other end of the line, when she could have shouted up the street, saying .. “Ten minutes, honey.  You need to be home in ten minutes.”

I hated leaving, always.  And still do.

Peggy and her beautiful family have always made me feel at home and been home to me as much as I have a home anywhere.

And because my parents sold our home years ago .. when I get back to my hometown, which isn’t often enough ..

Main Street in our small town

I find myself mindlessly, always pulling into their drive.

………………..

So much has happened recently I want to write more about but I don’t want to say too much.  What I do want you to know is the difference you have made in my life.  My time here.  That I am reminded everyday of the importance of time together and family and good health and paying forward so many blessings like time together and laughter, a door always open and so much love to be shared..

I love you dearly.  So many do.

I think I may go today and buy Cheetos for the neighborhood …

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Cowgirl Hall of Fame ..

I was assigned a story my first summer working as a reporter in Missoula, Montana:

Head to an area about 3 1/2  hours southeast of town, called the Big Hole Valley and catch up with a group of riders on that particular year’s leg of the Chief Joseph trail ride.

Courtesy:  West Yellowstone News

http://www.westyellowstonenews.com/news/article_2a8c9da8-cc3b-11e0-8016-001cc4c002e0.html  (Photo above courtesy:  West Yellowstone News)

And since I was going that far away, yet it was still in our viewing area, I was to come up with a couple additional stories to film while there.

…………………

“I’m looking for Sheila,” I called and asked for the woman I had been reading about was a famous hatter from that area.

http://montanahats.com/category/newsworthy/

“Hang on just a minute,” I remember a woman’s voice on the other end of the line.  I heard the woman call for her.

“This is Sheila,” I’ll never forget the deep, slow and deliberate, sweet yet strong voice that answered a few moments later.

“Sheila, my name is .. ” and I went on to explain who I was and that I was coming to her area to film another series of stories.  I knew she had made the Cowgirl Hall of Fame for her cowboy hat making.  Would she allow me to film a piece on her?  She happily obliged. We agreed on a time and day to meet.  And I believe from the moment I walked in the door to the hat shop that day, we have been friends.

Courtesy: Seattle Ray

Well, actually it was probably more over beer later that night and some dancing at the Antler Saloon..

But friends.

And then it somehow, quickly become more than that.  She and her husband at the time, and her daughters took me in, as family.  Not uncommon for Sheila.  The woman has wrapped her arms around many besides her own children, and made them feel like one of her own. We have visited as often as possible, since.  Spending a lot of weeks and weekends together, a few holidays, moves, weddings, deaths, a graduation, nights around the fire, new babies, a divorce, another wedding ..

You know what I mean, just life.

A lot of life.

And while I’m not sure what Sheila has ever gleaned from me ..  I have at times, besides just enjoying every single moment I’m able to spend with her, leaned on her hard.  Even lately.  She has always been there for me, usually giving me the straight shoot, calling me out on anything necessary, helping me set upright again and always move forward with a better perspective for having spent any time with her.  Teaching me new things.  And some old things I need to be reminded of, like, sometimes it’s important to slow down and appreciate this life.  I tell her, usually in-between laughs, I try and appreciate it too much, which is why I’m always so busy.

She also let’s me know when she thinks I’m doing a few things right. And she’s been telling me since meeting him last fall when we were in town for a visit and the 4H Rodeo ..

.. that the Cowboy in our lives is one of those things.  And, she mentioned she’s been saving up for a trip she hopes (and now knows), is coming soon.

Even when my own mother was still alive, I was so incredibly grateful for Sheila in our lives… but over the years, I have grown to appreciate the woman she is, the examples she sets and the time and love extended us all the more.

Missoula ..

I’m pretty sure I met her one of the first few days I was in Missoula, having just landed the first job of my career.

I didn’t know anyone out there, which was fine.  I rather enjoy being an anonymous soul at times.

But for some reason .. this wonderful woman, a woman I know others (at least in the role I was in) felt could be gruff, easily agitated and not someone you could get too close to .. took me under her wing.

Chari is her name ..

And every year when we return to Montana to see friends, who are like family ..

 

She is always one of our stops.

Chari was behind the counter at the police station the first time we met.  Every time I would go over for a beat check on the crime scene, we would end up talking about one topic more often than not, but usually there was a little bit of everything under the sun.

Chatting over the counter quickly turned into coffee every Sunday night after we would get off of work.  We would pack up and head over to a little 24 hour restaurant that sits over one of the creeks that flows through town.  It was quiet, out of the way .. and the staff let us sit for hours ordering maybe only toast and refills, while we talked about life.

It was something we did for over at the very least, a two year stretch.

If I were ever heading in any way astray, she would and still does quickly put me back in my place, with a lot of love .. or if I were troubled about so many of the life decisions one has to make at the tender age of 25 about life and love and career and where to live and all that stuff .. she would offer perspective and allow me gracious room to make my own (mistakes) decisions.  And she has supported me however any of them have turned out.

We still get together for dinner or coffee.

Not as often as I’d like, though.

Not nearly as often as I would like.

Although we only talk a few times a year outside of any in-person visits, I think of her always and love her dearly.