Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Friendship in a Bottle

When I was a kid, we didn't go on vacations. Don't get me wrong - we took trips every year. My grandma lived in Manitoba, so we went to visit her once or twice a year. And when I got older, we went out of town to dance competitions for me, band competitions for my sister and occasionally accompanied my mom on work trips. There's only one time I can think of that we went on a trip that had no purpose other than just to relax. I was about five. We went to Arkansas, and the hotel we checked into had bed bugs and our car broke down on a Sunday (back when NOTHING was open on Sundays). So when one of my best friends asked me if I wanted to go skiing with her family over spring break my junior year of high school, I was freaking ecstatic to go on a REAL vacation!

Another of our best friends, E, was headed to California for spring break. She was originally from there and was headed back to visit family and friends. She and I made a deal that I would bring back some snow for her, and she would bring back some sand for me. A silly idea, but one we both followed through on. I carefully kept my cup of snow from spilling on the ten-hour drive from Keystone to Kansas City, though it had melted long before we had passed the "Leaving Colorful Colorado" sign.

Back home, E and I got together to talk about about our trips and trade souvenirs. I clearly got the better end of the deal since the sand didn't melt. For awhile, I just kept the beige crystals in the Ziploc bag she'd used to transport it home on the plane. Then I found an old, empty liquor bottle my parents, who rarely drink, had kept because the glass was cut in a beautiful pattern. I filled it up with the sand and put it on my vanity in my bedroom.

It stayed there, or on my chest of drawers, for the next 3.5 years until I moved away to college. (That spring break trip to go skiing? Made me fall in love with the Rocky Mountains. I ended up going to Colorado State. And not skiing once while I was there since I was a poor college kid. But I digress...)

On moving day, I had to cram everything I needed for 9 months into my blue '88 Oldsmobile Cutlass and leave room for Dad and me in the front. Only the necessities could come with me. I hemmed and hawed, changing my mind about what could stay and what could go many times. I expected some homesickness so I wanted to take photos and memorabilia, as well as stationery to write letters (I didn't know what email was quite yet). The bottle of sand made the cut. I used it as a door-stopper in the dorms, and later, hung leis and beads on it in the sorority house.

By now, E had decided to move back to California. We still talked on the phone whenever we had extra minutes on our phone cards, and wrote letters and emails to each other, though the frequency lessened with time.

When I left Ft. Collins and came back to Kansas City for a job, the sand bottle traveled back with me. It returned to it's original home on the vanity in my old bedroom while I stayed with my parents for a few months until I could afford to move into an apartment. There, it was useful again as a doorstop. The next year, I moved into a duplex, and it managed to survive my single life in a house with two boys and lots of parties.

A month or two before DH and I got married, we moved my stuff into his house. By then the bottle of sand was a part of me. I didn't even think about it anymore; it was just always there. We had a tiny house; the space on shelves and dressers was limited, so I defaulted to using the bottle as a doorstop again. DH tripped on it repeatedly, and finally asked me to move it. I put it in the basement with the majority of our belongings for decorating the bigger house we would move into "someday."

Someday came almost two years ago. We unpacked, and I saw that bottle of sand. Like E, though I hadn't seen it in a long time, I hadn't forgotten about it. It returned to my life as any old friend does, as though it had never left.
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