Not long after Ron and I first started dating, my mother came for a visit so she could, ‘check this guy out.’
I was not looking forward to this.
I’m not very good at navigating social situations such as this at the best of times, and one party at the table being my divorce-disapproving, don’t-you-think-you’re-moving-on-a-bit-too-fast mother meant this dinner would not be the best of times. Not that I didn’t love my mother – but she could be a bit hard to take when she felt I wasn’t being properly ladylike.
Which was a lot.
Naturally, in the weeks leading up to my mother’s visit, I turned to my best friend Kerry for solace. And by ‘solace,’ I mean ‘sarcasm galore.’ Kerry and I are both pretty irreverent, and she was more than happy to join me in laughing speculation as to just how badly sideways the evening could go.
She was also more than happy to call me after the dinner to ask me how it went.
Except it wasn’t a simple, “How did it go?” Oh, no. See, she knew that both Ron and my mother would be at my apartment, and that my phone (a vintage rotary landline) was in the living room, so they’d be able to hear my end of the conversation.
I wish I could remember exactly what she said, but I don’t. What I do remember is my reaction. At first, I giggled. Then, as Kerry continued on, I laughed. Then, I laughed even harder. Eventually, unable to respond to the sarcasm streaming over the phone line for fear of giving away what we’d been discussing for the past weeks to the people we’d been discussing it about, I fell to my knees, clutching my stomach, with tears running down my face, I was laughing so hard.
And that’s when Ron and my mother shared the following exchange.
Ron: I take it that’s Kerry?
Mom: (rolling her eyes) Get used to it.
In the years since, Ron has mentioned that listening to Kerry and I talk to each other is like hearing a different language. Most of it’s silent, he says, and when we do speak, we leave out as many words as we say in a kind of personal shorthand that’s nearly impossible to follow.
It’s not something that I’d noticed we do. (Neither had Kerry.) But it may explain why today’s quote, from Robert M. Pirsig’s book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, resonated particularly hard.
When you live in the shadow of insanity, the appearance of another mind that thinks and talks as yours does is something close to a blessed event.
Kerry and I met in high school, and we instantly connected. I don’t remember meeting her. I don’t remember feeling out our friendship. I just remember that at one time in my life she wasn’t there, and then she was, and I wasn’t alone anymore. Neither of us had the best of home lives growing up – that was our own personal ‘shadow of insanity’ – and knowing that she understood was an integral part to my surviving it.
I get why my mother rolled her eyes. Kerry and I together were a whirlwind of teenage energy and giggles that exploded into her quiet little world. But the thing is, we never really outgrew that stage. My mother viewed that as simply another unladylike thing about me to add to the list.
But that’s not what it is at all. While it may seem strange to those on the outside, what it is, is my best friend having my back.
Just like she always has.
To see previous posts in my Quotes series, click here.