There are all kinds of friends. People you think will be around forever who slowly disappear, those who do so not so slowly. People you meet and suddenly, years later you can't imagine them not being there - who's friendship surprises and astounds you, who you realize were never "friends" at all, just family you hadn't met yet.
I've been lucky to have a few of these in my lifetime. Friends who just walked in from the strangest of places and made themselves home in my life. Friends who slowly begin to define "home" in my life. And I count myself thrice blessed because of their presence in my life. Even, as is often the case, when their presence exists thousands of miles and often a time zone or two away.
Jamie Johnson is one of those friends. I try to tell her, but I'm bad at such things. I don't pick up the phone like I should, and even emails are hard to craft as of late. It feels, at times, that the distance miles and time has wedged between us grows in a insurmountable way . . . and then I see her, or speak to her, and it's like no time has passed. And all my worries are waylaid. All my fears of losing such a wonderful and dear person in my life dissipate easily.
And, you know, it is something worth celebrating. She's an amazing woman, always has been. I met her at a mutual friend's house, one night when she stopped by Melissa Vignery's. Somehow I lost touch with Melissa, but from that night on I counted Jamie as a dear friend. She and I double dated and planned double weddings at Bo Lings. (Was it BolIng's? All I remember is the flaming bananas. So sad.) She offered to do an ice sculpture for my someday-wedding in that very restaurant. (I should have taken her up on it.) She even braved Bell family vacations - riding in the back of the Explorer as my dad let us out at gas stations "to stretch the legs and grab some dinner." She was there when I went to visit Ringling the first time, and wrote me letters and sent me taffy in the mail when I was homesick. She has listened to many a late night problem, and patiently sat at the other end of the phone when I cried after my first broken heart. Jamie once drove me to a cast party, but was late enough picking me up I had already finished the gin and juice I had brought. She was kind enough to take me anyway, and endure the ridiculousness. She has continued to do so for years now for reasons I'll never understand.
We started out as friends in high school. We painfully witnessed each other go through rough time after rough time. And then were lucky enough to be around when the good stuff happened. There aren't words enough to explain how my life would be different and less, well, every thing I'd hoped - if Jamie weren't around. She has always been to me more than just a friend, but someone I wanted to be. Someone I admired and respected. Not just for her talents, but for her self. I haven’t said that out loud enough, either. But it doesn't make it less true.
Jamie, I wish we were closer. I wish I could say thank you for being in my life every single day. I wish I called more, I wish I could visit more. I keep thinking someday we'll be closer. Til then i guess this will have to do. Happy birthday, my dear, dear friend. I know the year ahead holds greatness for you. Happiness. Loveliness. Joy. My wish is that all the years ahead hold as much. If they're half the love and fun and joy you've brought to my life so far, they'll be spectacular ones.
7 years ago