“For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.”
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.
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.