I first noticed Jenny in our dorm hallway, years and years ago, before I had wrinkles and she still had bangs. Those were the days before everyone had cell phones, so she would pull her dorm room phone cord into the hallway to talk to a boy from home. He was the classic "not my boyfriend" who called every day and made her cry. She cried a lot that fall, and I watched from afar. I'd never seen someone so okay with crying in front of others. She wore her heart on her sleeve. Eventually, she taught me how to do that too.
Chris lived downstairs, right below Jenny, right down the hall from Jonathan. He was easy to like, easy to spend time with, and always up for an adventure. He still is. He's the kind of guy that came into college with stories and adventures that none of us had experienced, like riding across the United States on a motorcycle, and he's the kind of guy who still does things like jumping in freezing cold glacier water to water ski. With a smile on his face.
When we were all freshman, a guy in our dorm invited a few of us to the mountains for a ski weekend. We were new friends at this point, and our weekend together is, in my mind, a solidifying marker of our relationships. When we reminisce about that ski weekend we tend to tell the same stories; like when someone left their ski boots on the open furnace and almost started a fire in the middle of the night, or how Mike put all the guys in one cabin, and himself and the girls in another. It was the first time I heard the Nelly song Ride Wit Me, and by the end of the weekend we had it memorized, because, hello 2001.
Last week we took our big kids to Alaska to visit Chris and Jenny and their three children, and on one of our many late nights spent cooking and eating together, the boys told us a story we hadn't heard before. It was that first night in the mountains, all those years ago, when Chris confessed to Jonathan that he liked Jenny, and Jonathan immediately confessed to Chris that he liked me.
Within the year we were all dating, and then four years later, unbeknownst to them, the boys planned proposals in New York City, just a few weeks apart. The next summer we all got married, just a few weeks apart. And years later, we would welcome our third babies...you guessed it.. just a few weeks apart.
When people ask me about our Alaskan trip, I've been telling them the highlights: like the boat rides and the float plane and delicious fish dinners and how for the very first time traveling with children, it actually felt like a vacation. But while the fish were indeed biting, and the whales were jumping, and the mountains were taller and more majestic than I remembered them to be, it was more than that.
It was the wonder of seeing their son shoot a tiny bird and catch a huge fish with his dad cheering him on. It was the delight of seeing my friend's beautiful face mirrored in her six year old, and it was watching our kids laugh hysterically in the back of a minivan while we shared our hearts in the front seats. It was the glow of a solstice sun over icy calm waters while our children fell asleep to our laughter on the boat deck. It was sweet little Kate, smiling every time I came out of our room in the morning. It was memorizing the contents of Jenny's kitchen drawers and pantry as we did life together. It was talking about baby names and school choices and theology. It was catching up on each other's families and dreaming about our futures and feeling 100% okay not having makeup on. It was being with people that knew us before we were us, and who helped us become us. It is watching our friends be exactly how we have always known them to be, but better. More responsible. More adventurous. More in love. It is understanding that we, Jonathan and I, are those things too.
It is being kids together, and raising kids together, and realizing that no matter how much time passes, they are always part of our story.