God Gave Me Her

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“For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.”
Luke 2:10

This is one of my favorite Christmas phrases and while I love this time of year for the oozing thankfulness, goodwill toward men and my love, Jesus, the good tidings of great joy I am speaking of here, is when God gave me her.

But let’s start at the beginning.

The year was 2004 and I was entering college, the brisk tundra that is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I came to NMU pretty unsure of myself, yet at the same time pretty sure I needed to be the person I’d been too scared to be before: my true self.

While a part of me thought my natural coolness (I distinctly lack natural coolness, so I was doomed from the start) would just effervesce to the surface with minimal effort, turns out I was still just as uncool as I was in high school. But the difference was I had begun to accept the fact.

Fate has a way of intervening in these things and did so on Halloween night. Don’t misunderstand, fate could care less about my social stature, but it did have a hand in making sure I found my person, who would in fact always help honor the best in me.

I went to a church Halloween party in a local gym, where I did walk-abouts in my 70’s disco costume: an adult dance leotard with flared legs that I’d found thrifting. I put on a black afro of Diana Ross proportions and popped a handful of candy or Cool Ranch Doritos in my mouth every opportunity I got. I was back in my dorm and in my pajamas by 9 p.m. I purchased a package of brownies on the way home, because, obviously.

I popped in a VHS of, It’s a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and began to do my laundry. That is when I heard a ruckus in the dorm hall. I peeked out to see a group of girls—the cool girls—bedecked in their costumes, a tinker-bell, sexy cat, the like. While my night was winding down, theirs was only just beginning. They spotted me and yelled hellos.

The sexy cat was Ashley—sure I knew her. She lived in my hall, we were supposed to start a dorm newsletter which we had Pulitzer Prize winning hopes for and then never wrote a single article and most importantly she was funny—her infamous costume for years would be some sexified variation of a sweet woodland animal.

I gleaned that they were about to walk in the frigid Marquette air to a Halloween party. Being painfully maternal, I insisted on being their driver. They politely asked if I wanted to come along, but I had already had my fun and was comfortable being the designated driver.

I am not sure what did it. Why this group of terribly cool girls—they listened to The Smiths, had insatiable wit and knew everything wonderful about pop culture—would later want to be my friend because, in my mind I had already indicated what I was about. Staying in as a freshman to watch, It’s a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown on Halloween should have by all rights said it all.

It did say it all. These were my people, for they adored my maternal ways, my propensity to do deeply nerdy things, and after all was said and done I was just being myself.

They loved me anyway. Best of all Ashley loved me anyway.

It is appropriate that our love started on a holiday, sure not Christmas, but with that one holiday, we’ve celebrated everything together: Christmases, babies being born—all hers, because I am wild and free and can barely keep track of my coffee mug collection—marriage—again her—boys, boys and boys.

The most important thing I can say about my best is that while every celebration has mattered with her by my side championing me, she’s been there through the antithesis to celebration, which let’s be honest, happens a lot more in life.

Like all the times we didn’t celebrate boys. One would break her heart and I would see red, making a show of storming outside in my pajamas in ten inches of snow, threatening to slit the ol’ bum’s tires, while Ash howled from a window for me to stop. One would break my heart and she’d get on a plane just to hold my hair and force feed me dinner because I refused to find solace in food—the only time I don’t enjoy eating.

We would diet together, power walking and eating gobs of low-fat string cheese and Luigi’s Italian Ice for dessert, but then when we gained 10-35 pounds back, we’d say ah f– it, buy frozen pizzas and cuddle each other in bed watching rom coms.

Every time I have packed up my car and moved cross-country, felt uncertain, misunderstood or scared, the times when life is the farthest thing from a glossy celebration, but is instead the underbelly, the bowels, the deep bogs of cow pies, she reminds me that she has my back.

To illustrate:
One night in our junior year of college while of course snuggling in my bed, we heard something ominous downstairs. We looked at each other and after a brief exchange decided to investigate.

I grabbed a heavy clay angel with a chipped wing that I always had on my nightstand. Ashley grabbed an enormous can of hair spray and down the stairs we crept, ready to bash in an intruder’s head with a clay angel while doubly ruining his eyesight with Big Sexy Hairspray.

Turns out it was nothing and we went back to snuggling.

But here’s the point. For all the times I have called her and cried, about, well nothing, she has had my back. When I have cried about colossal non-nothings, she’s been armed and ready to take on my battles, hairspray in hand. Except not really with hairspray, but you get the metaphor.

I wish I had time to tell you every story about her, but it would fill a novel and not a 1,000 word blog; she gave me a limit because she’s sort of bossy like that. I went over it anyway, because I am a real renegade.

At any rate. In my large list of thankfuls this holiday season, Ash makes the top of the list. For not deigning to touch on my un-coolness and befriending me one Halloween anyway, for having my back always, for the cuddles, the gut-wrenching laughter and the years of celebrations and un-celebrations alike.

Cheers, to you my dear. Always.



Christmas with Cassandcastle

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Guest Blog by Mrs. Mommy Mack

Back before we were adults. Before she stood next to me on my wedding day. Before babies, live-in boyfriends and big girl jobs, there was us. We were our family. We lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the small college town of Marquette. The one holiday that Marquette outshines any other with its blizzards, arctic temps and icy Lake Superior views is Christmas.

Funny thing is, the only person’s birthday Cassandra likes to celebrate more than her own is Jesus’s birthday. I learned this 12 years ago when we met on campus. We were both journalism majors with no clue of the future. We knew we wanted to write. I knew I needed to be her friend. I loved her excitement, her laugh and the way she told a story.

Something you might have realized about Cassandra, she doesn’t give a flying shit what other people think about her. She was absolutely the only college student I knew who brought Christmas decorations to college. Not just lights to string around your dingy dorm. I’m talking ornaments, dishes, candles, the works. Every time after Halloween you entered her rattling Ford Taurus you could hear the faint jingle of Christmas music and her rosy cheeks beamed with excitement over her annual Christmas party. While other college students were at a kegger in someone’s smoke-filled basement, Cassandra was digging through her scrapbooking box for just the right stationary to send invites on.

No, we weren’t on campus for December 25th. In fact, in college you’re out for the holidays for an entire month. That never stopped Cassandra. As soon as December rolled around, she invited all our friends far and wide. She spent every last penny (probably more than her last penny, let’s be honest) on food, gifts and Christmas cheer. We invited our annual crushes and lost our minds in anticipation. We’d hang mistletoe in hopes for a rehearsed smooch. We’d be ready. She: planning every course, dessert and Secret Santa. Me: buying too much alcohol and eating most of the food before guests arrived.

The thing is, we were all very lucky to have her. She was the glue that held our hodge podge of a college family together. She was the mom of our group. Some of the guys even referred to her as Mama Cass. Even though she constantly despised the name and wanted to be revered as a hip, young college student. She was always our caregiver. For Pete’s sake, while I was honing my Chef Boyardee skills, she was crusting chicken breasts and three course meals for all our starving mouths. She was the one that kept us all together. While I forced shots down her throat, she made me homemade cookies from scratch and held my hair back when I inevitably puked up Christmas dinner. We all missed our homes in states all over the Midwest. Cassandra was home. She comforted our hearts.

For four years, we celebrated the holidays together. Her taking care of all of us. Me making her drink too much. It always seemed to end in the same fashion, too. We would all fling off our bras, flop on the couch, dig into the baked goods we were too abashed to eat in front of our crushes and discuss the utter disappointment in our choice of men. We’d eat way too much. More than likely cry a little as we pined for our soulmates. Then, we’d end up snuggled together in her tiny bed, sleeping under her twinkling icicle lights completely content in our friendship and newfound sisterhood.

But, it didn’t matter. At the time, it seemed like were cursed in a hamster wheel of hideous love interests, we were really blessed with each other. If you haven’t had the pleasure of spending a holiday season with Cassandra, I encourage you to bask in the glow of her Christmas cheer. We are now thousands of miles apart and she has an actual soulmate to snuggle her under the blinding glow of her Christmas tree. But, one thing will never change. She will be my sister for the rest of my Christmases.

Every December, I think about our years together during the holidays. I also thank God in the month of his birth for blessing the world with someone as unique as Cassandra. She will always be my favorite Christmas present.


About Mrs. Mommy Mack

Where did she come from? Where did she go? Mrs. Mommy Mack is an impulsive writer for the past decade or so. She started out professionally and couldn’t handle the ghastly amount of money she was paid, so now she does it for free! As a self-proclaimed Expert of Nothing, Mrs. Mommy Mack uses her blog as cathartic word vomit she hopes will make you smile. There’s really no theme. She just so happens to be a mom who’s been on a diet since puberty and curses much too much.