open arms

two truths and a lie. you’ll guess which is which. but no, no, no. can i just tell you a truth? i want to tell you the truth, a truth, a million truths. i want to tell you something that i need you to know.

when i came here, i was scared. scared more than i have ever been before. maybe even more scared than when i went to Panama. no, probably the same amount of scared. I remember leaving my 8 best friends in the driveway that summer night. i remember exactly what each and every one of them said to me. “it’s just all became real to me” “don’t cry sweetie. you’ll be okay” “see you in another life brother.” i got in the car. i drove for over 500 miles. there were fights and forced laughs. i remember the lunch at the rest stop in iowa, where the grass was too dry and the wind blew to hard. i remember it all. i remember every detail. i could spend hours telling you all of them but that’s not what is important. what is important is that what came after this…DSCN2498was this:

DSCN6007Let me explain. When I came here, so many miles from my home, I was terrified that I wouldn’t find people who understand me, people who love me for me and want to be my friend because they want to be around me and not for some other reason. I was so scared of this I couldn’t sleep at night for months before I came here. I couldn’t sleep at night for a few days, weeks after getting here either. Things were so different, things were so foreign and so incredibly strange to me. I missed my friends from home, my family, my own room, Iida. I miss it all and then I found you all. And you aren’t just my friends. You’re my family, my Cottey sisters, my everything when I am here and even when I am not. You might be wondering why I am writing this right now, on a Monday night in the middle of February. It’s because I was looking at all my pictures from this year and that horrible stone fell into my stomach. The one that reminds me that I have to leave all of this in less than a year and a half. How is that even fair? But in some ways, it has made all of this and all that will come that much more special. Every moment we spend together laughing, riding around in Ellen’s car, going to Walmart, going to Finding Nemo, celebrating each other’s birthdays and holidays, every single moment is that much more special because it is so limited, it isn’t going to last forever and we all know that.

But what I want to say more than how special each and every moment–even when I don’t act like it, even when things aren’t perfect or even when we don’t even really like each other in that moment of time-we spent together is how thankful I am for you all. You were the answer to my unthought prayers and more than anything, you have been and will be over the next year my first family away from home. Now let me explain. I am a firm believer that there is more to family than blood and I am a firm believer that some members of your family have to be found. Some might look at me and tell me that my church family is the first family besides my blood family that I had. Some might point out Panama and while both of these are true let me explain something even more. My church family I did not find on my own, not entirely. I went to that church with my parents and my siblings. I found Abby, Rob, Katie and Zoe with my family’s help. As much as i love them and need them and am thankful for them and wouldn’t be me without them, they are not my true first, at least not my true on my own first. And neither is Panama because when I went there, I was expecting to find a family away from my blood family. Maybe not as strong of a family as the one I found but I was expecting it none the least and on top of that, I found them not on my own since Rachael was by my side the entire time. When I came to Cottey I wasn’t expecting friends, let alone sisters and family and that is why the five of you, despite the ups and downs, are my first true family outside of my blood family that I found for myself. We are there for each other–for the plays, the rebaptisms, the joinings of PTK, the tears, the heartaches, the hugs, the good grades, the bad grades, the smiles, the laughs. I have cried more and held more and been held more and been so many more things more with the five of you than I been in a long time–and it’s not that I hadn’t been those things before, that I hadn’t been held or held before you, it’s that this time, with you, we are all doing it for the first time, completely on our own. We are helping each other find out who we are, because we are each others friends here but we are also each others support groups and mothers and fathers and sisters and grandmas and aunts and cousins and everything. I owe you so much, the five of you. You know I would do anything and everything for each and every one of you. There is no way I could ever repay you for this gift that you have given me–the gift of love, of family, of sisterhood. And there is no way that I could ever or will ever forget you, since you were and always will be the first family I found on my own.

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