Tag Archives: Soulmate

Mila

Some of you may not know this, but I actually have two sisters.  Of course there is my baby sister, Jess, and we all know my love for her runs deep.  But there is another sister in my life, and her name is Mindy.  Her name is Mindy, but I haven’t called her that for years.  To me, she is Mila (the name she chose for herself in a college Spanish class), or occasionally Minders.  She has been a part of my life for a long, long time…by my calculations, about 89% of my years on this earth.  Believe me when I tell you, there is some history there. Some of it I am about to share, and some of it I just can’t.  There are promises involved, promises to take things to the grave.  That is what sister friends sometimes have to do.

It all started in the most innocent of times, Mrs. Esbaum’s Lowden Elementary School kindergarten class in 1974.  I don’t remember much about those years, I suppose, but I do remember this:  I hated nap time. Which is weird, because now I love naps more than just about anything.  But back then, napping was not my thing and according to Mindy, I allegedly spent most of nap time laying on a mat and playing with the zipper on her coat.  This got our relationship off to a rocky start, and there are reports this may have led to Mindy’s open hatred of me for some years.  I, of course, deny all allegations. I have no idea what she is talking about.

From there our lives were intertwined in this small Iowa town because, let’s face it, there were only 31 people in our class.  In 4th grade, Mindy was the chosen one:  the one who got to come along with me and my family for my birthday dinner at Happy Joe’s Pizza.  At the end of dinner, true to tradition, my mom said we could both pick out a piece of candy from the well-stocked candy counter.  I picked a licorice rope.  Mindy picked a glass antique car filled with gumballs.  She had a lot of nerve, that girl, but even then she had a convincing spirit when she knew what she wanted.  She went home with that glass car, and I went home with my stupid ass licorice rope.  Life isn’t always fair, my mother reminded me.  On my birthday.

The friendship waxed and waned over the next few years, but really solidified junior year of high school after my mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  I call that my “bipolar” year because I never cried so hard, nor laughed so much, as I did in that year.  It was a year of losses and gains, a year of ups and downs. But the revitalized friendship with Mindy brought me a good dose of distraction that I really needed.  I am telling you, there is no one who can make me laugh like my Minders, even in the face of grief. No one.

And she can make me laugh about the stupidest things.  Like the time I picked her up for school in my sporty little orange Chevette and upon entry into the car, she slid her foot across the carpet with a big smear of dog poop.  Never fear!  Mindy quickly sprang into action, ran back in the house, and upon return sprayed some of her mom’s perfume on it.  (Author’s note:  This did not put even the slightest dent in the problem, we discovered, upon return to the car at the end of a hot, sweltering Iowa day.)  The remainder of high school was filled with all kinds of bad choices and debauchery that I won’t share in such a public forum.  Or, as I like to say, years filled with learning to make the right choices by making all the wrong ones first.  Luckily, and quite amazingly, we survived.

College rolled around and Mindy and I both selected Cornell College –  a small liberal arts school just 30 minutes or so from our hometown.  Did I follow her there?  Maybe.  I don’t really know, but I do know that I found comfort in continuing our path together.  At the outset, everyone at Cornell got the two of us confused.  Not because we look alike – we really don’t – but because that freshman year of college we were together all the time.  But by that first year’s end, things had changed.  It was pretty clear we needed to each find our own way and develop our own sense of self.  We drifted, slowly, and eventually severed ties pretty much completely.  In the days that followed, my heart was sometimes broken about it, and I’m sure she had her days like that too.  But we had some growing to do, and it turned out the separation was just going to have to be part of that.

In the summer between our sophomore and junior year of college, however, there was a reconciliation.  I really can’t even recall what brought it about.  But by that time we had both done what we needed to do, and it turned out we still needed each other.  From that day forward, the friendship has been unbreakable, even when miles upon miles have separated us.  We have had a million more laughs since that time, and more than once the laughter has resulted in me peeing my pants.  I’m not proud of this, but I’m not kidding.  (One time this involved Mindy doing a Russian dance in an elevator in Minneapolis; another time it involved a suggestion that our hotel housekeepers might benefit from the use of a Hazmat suit.)  There have been times I could not stop laughing.  Times I could not breathe.  Times my face hurt and my stomach hurt and I needed it to stop or something bad might happen.  That’s what happens when you can say anything – and I do mean anything – to another human being.  It’s a freedom you just don’t enjoy in life very often.

After college, Mindy stayed in Iowa and I moved far away.  It’s been that way ever since.  But that hasn’t stopped us from seeing each other a couple times a year and always picking right up where we left off.  We’ve taken a number of trips together – Memphis, Washington D.C., Costa Rica, Philadelphia and San Antonio.  We left our mark in every city, and each time we’ve made memories that last – and even a few memories we wish wouldn’t last, but do.  That’s all part of the fun.

Today I love my Minders more than ever.  I love her because she can still make me laugh like no other, and we can still tell each other anything.  But in addition to that love I have for her, I’ve developed a deep admiration and respect.  She is an incredible teacher, inspiring high school students every day with her passion for education, her wit and her charm.  Even more so, she’s an incredible mom. The kind of mom that loves her boys fearlessly and advocates for them tirelessly.  She’s shown me what unconditional love looks like, and I have to tell you, it’s a beautiful thing.

So there you have it – some of the story of Mila.  And perhaps, the only part of the story I shall ever dare to tell.  Happy Birthday to my friend, my confidant, my personal comedienne and one of the best people I know.  Happy Birthday to my other sister.

Peanuts

I met my first soulmate when I was four.
The preceding 18 months had taken a toll on my family. My dad had been diagnosed with kidney failure, and in a matter of days my mom had packed up our life and moved us to Iowa. It was a chaotic time, a time of uncertainty and fear and disbelief. It’s hard to self-actualize and find your inner peace when everything that matters is at stake. Suffice it to say, we didn’t.
And so, after Dad’s health stabilized thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, my parents decided it was time our life got stabilized too. When we lived in New Mexico, my dad had two horses and this has evoked a passion in him he didn’t previously know existed. With their dreams of more horses in tow, they searched for some land in the country and decided on a 20 acre lot just outside of Lowden, Iowa. (For those of you who don’t know, Lowden is a thriving metropolis of about 700 people, with zero stoplights and a cop that is shared with the next town over. Kid you not.)
Shortly after we moved, my parents realized that young Jenny was going to need a playmate or she may well drive them nuts. I am told – and I can hardly believe this to be true – that I was quite a talker in my early days. My dad always told the story that one day, out of sheer exhaustion from the sound of my voice, he suggested I go outside and talk to the bush in the front yard. I did.
So one day, my mom woke me up and told me that this day was going to be a very special day. I couldn’t imagine what was in store, but in no time we headed up the road a ways to the home of our neighbor Annabelle. Something was a little off about Annabelle. She was dirty and disheveled and had really bad teeth. Rumor had it when her son came to visit, he had to sleep in the bathtub. So I can assure you, this day that we went to visit Annabelle would be our first and last visit to her home.
Rumors aside, what happened that day at Annabelle’s rickety old house changed my life. Annabelle was a talker (well, so I was I – but talking to a bush had more appeal than talking to Annabelle) and so it took seemingly forever to realize why we were there. We eventually went out back to the barn, and situated there was a momma dog and 6 furry little puppies – German Shepherd/Collie mixes. My mom told me I could pick which ever one I wanted. I looked at her in disblief, then surveyed the landscape. They were all cute in their own way, but there was one who was so fat and roly-poly she could hardly stand up. She was a fluffy fluffball of pure fluffy goodness. I picked her, or maybe she picked me, and in no time I had selected her name: Peanuts.
Peanuts was my first soulmate. On that farm, she was my best friend and my most reliable source of companionship and entertainment. She was an “outside” dog, because that’s what people on farms have. So every morning in the summer, as soon as I would get up I would bound outside, screen door slamming behind me, to find my pal who was always patiently awaiting my arrival. We would roam the acreage and get into all kinds of mischief together. In the fall, when I had to return to school, Peanuts would come running to the end of the lane to greet me when she heard the school bus pull up to drop me off at the end of the day. In the winter, I hated her “outside” status and would go make beds of hay and blankets to keep her warm. And in the spring, the best season of all on that farm, Peanuts and I would make the rounds together to check on all the new baby animals that had arrived on the scene.
I say that Peanuts was my first soulmate because she was all the things you would want from one. She was loyal beyond belief and fiercely protective. (For some reasons she really hated one of our neighbors and would snarl and growl at him and only him. I still wonder what she saw in that man that I never did.) She loved me in a way that I had never been loved: unconditionally. Ever present, she was there when I needed her most, relishing the good times and comforting me during the bad. She was sweet and gentle and affectionate, but not overbearingly so. But most of all, she shared my joy. There was literally no one else on the face of the earth that she would rather see than me. You could see it in her innocent brown eyes, and her tail, and I swear to you she could smile. She was the best.
Here is what I know for sure: soulmates are far and few between, but they come in a lot of forms. You never know when one will just pop up in your life. And rest assured, you don’t need to be on the lookout for a soulmate, you just need to be ready for them when they arrive.