Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about history lately. I'm not really sure what got me on this line of thinking, but it's lasted a couple months now. My sister, Laura, and I have been having an ongoing converation about it. There's been opportunity to reconnect with a few different people that I've known most of my life. We aren't necessarily in touch with each other frequently, but even after years have passed, we just KNOW each other. That's so valuable.

Many of the people I've reconnected with have been through Facebook, but certainly not all. One of the ones that's been the most entertaining is my friend Beth from high school. She and I had so much fun together when we could see each other every day. She's pointed out that being in touch every day again online feels like home. I couldn't agree more. Most of our senior year, we spent every evening together as well. She hurt her back in tennis, and couldn't go to school for at least a month. I became the "tutor". I don't know that I was much help, but it was lots of fun. As a result, her family became my second family. I don't get to see them very often, but I still think back with a smile at the fun times at the Critz house.

My cousin Katrina and I are only a month and a half apart. Due to our close age, the fact that she doesn't have other siblings, and my next sibling waited 5 years to show up, she and I have always been a bit like sisters. The last few years we've had fun shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Here's a secret. I really don't like to shop much. I also don't like crowds a whole lot. Even so I love going shopping with her on that day because it's something we always do together. This year her daughter came along. We had so much fun talking about crazy things we did together as kids and the fun we had listening to Katrina's Chipmunks tape. I'm sure Ashley thought we were nuts, but we still enjoyed it. There are few things about each other that we haven't known over the years. Having someone to share that with is a little like a favorite pair of jeans. It's just right. I've often thought about the fact that as a young girl I was blessed with so many great cousins that I didn't understand or feel the need for other friends. I know people who have no cousins. I'm convinced I get to the better end of the deal.

In contrast, Laura and I are 7 years apart. There is just something that sisters share that you can't really explain. We have very different memories about our growing up years because of the age gap. There were many phases to our relationship. She's been a cute baby, bratty little sister, high schooler that I visited when I came home from college, and now dear friend. Even though our memories don't all match, we still have so much in common. There are the obvious things. There are also the parts of us that are ingrained, but can't necessarily be explained. At one point we had 5 pairs of shoes that were identical. We had only bought one of the pairs with the knowledge that the other had some like them. Usually I can shop for gifts for her and know what she'll like. She also tends to make jewelry for me that is just the piece I needed or wanted. We have some opinions that differ, but sometimes when we talk it's surprising, even to us, that we each have some values that may differ some from the mainstream, but we just happen to agree with and understand each other completely. A friend and I were talking lately about the fact that we feel sorry for girls who don't have a sister and guys who don't have a brother. it just is what it is. There's just a bond that is stronger than DNA.

Despite the things I said about the bond sisters have, I also love the history I share with my brother. Matty and I both inherited this ridiculous ability to store useless trivia in our gray matter. We got it from our Dad. We can spend a long time one talking about old episodes of Cheers or Seinfeld. We're also both big baseball fans, so we also have fun discussing the Tigers. As we've gotten older, I enjoy our conversations about faith, the Bible, church, and how a person's history helps shape their feelings on those topics.

There is a couple that go to church with my parents at the church where I grew up, Locust Grove. Jim was the pastor when I was young. He and his wife Faith spent quite a few years in Alaska, and are now back in Sturgis. They have spent a lot of time at Locust Grove again, and are also working with the IN/MI Mennonite conference, networking with other churches in Michigan. They are the most technologically advanced pair of their generation that I know. I think Jim assists a lot of people with their tech questions/issues. Both are very active on Facebook, connecting with new people, relatives, and many that grew up knowing them as the pastor and wife when we were just children. Their gift of hospitality, compassion, and joy is so special. I don't get the benefit of spending a lot of time with them, but just love hearing about their adventures and seeing their pictures online. I think a lot of people have had a sense of homecoming since Jim and Faith came home to Michigan. Jim always thanks people for being his friend on Facebook. I don't know anyone that wouldn't want to be his friend.

My sister and her husband attend North Main Mennonite church in Nappanee. Their pastor, Ruben, and his wife Idella are another example of people I don't remember ever not knowing. We always went to church with them. In the 5th grade our family and theirs built houses just down the road from each other. We went to school with their kids. I can't tell you how many times we rode our bikes to Nottawa for ice cream. (Anyone that doesn't know about ice cream in Nottawa is definitely missing out!) They moved away to Kansas and then Iowa, but our families stayed in touch. Kevin, their son, and I even graduated from college together. Who would have thought when they moved away from Michigan to far away Kansas, that Ruben would one day be my sister's pastor in Nappanee? Their friendship has always been such a comfortable one. When I go to church with Laura, it feels like I'm visiting an aunt and uncle. They know us. We know them. Even if we tried, we can't get past that fact and the closeness that it brings.

I looked up the word history. It means ~ a past notable for its important, unusual, or interesting events. That definition certainly applies. I would suggest, though, that it also has to do with the unimportant, mundane, day-to-day, simple bits of life. While there are so many noteworthy memories in a person's life, there are far more days that are just ordinary. The people that we share them with are forever woven into the fabric that becomes pieces of a quilt. It's full of color, texture, symmetry, assymetry, mistakes, and beauty. In the grand scheme of things I'm really not that old. As I've been thinking, though, over the last few months, the history that we share with those we know is a thing to be treasured. Sure. There are parts of our history that we remember vividly and love. There are other parts that we would like to forget. At the same time, we share the threads of our lives with the threads of theirs. I have a picture in my head of a series of afghans that are each their own, but also have parts that are woven into other blankets around them. All of those people and memories help make us who we are.

A couple weeks ago Beth and I were IMing. It was late. She pointed out that I've always been able to stay up late. I honestly thought that was a disease born of too many 3am nights in college and then working nights for 3 years after college. Turns out, I've been staying up late since way before college. I needed someone who knew me 20 years ago to remind me of that. As a friend once told me, I'm glad I have someone who knows me. New friends can be fun. Getting to know someone and what makes them who they are is often an interesting process. There's something to be said, though, for the people that just know you. I so value quality time with those I love. Looking back over a cumulative sum of history that you share is a gift I'm happy to have.


Mary said...

Having a history with someone is so interesting. There are people who I can call after having been away from them for 5 years or more and still have a very intimate conversation with them because we have a meaningful history. I have also noticed that seeing an old friend after a long time, even if it's just a picture, can bring so many emotions to the surface. I think impactful relationships put a dent in our brain that never really goes away. Some dents are beautifully carved impressions and some or scars. Another reason it's so important to choose your friends well...or have lots of great cousins.

Very insightful post. Thanks for sharing.

Rosetta said...

Happy Birthday, Cheryl,
I tried to post on facebook but couldn't...sometimes that happens for me. I LOVE this post! So very interesting and so much truth in it. I enjoy free-lance writing and have started writing about some of my friends, past and present, compiling memories; what they have meant to me and what I have learned from them-the good and the bad. You have a way with words and it's fun to read your blog!

heather said...

Oh Cheryl, I'm so sad...You've been posting, and I haven't been checking! I missed a give away and everything. :(

What a great post. How fun to read. Mostly because every person you wrote about I know. Because we have history together too. :) Great thoughts. I have the same feelings for my sister as you do for your sister. It's pretty cool to have that relationship. We are different in many ways, but over the last year we have grown into good friends.

Happy belated birthday. And have a Merry Christmas!