There is a restaurant near the shipping store I use that makes Cajun dishes. From time to time I go in. The prices are too high for portions that are much too small for anyone who knows that kind of cooking. When I am desperate for a "like-home" fix I always seem to head in and order a shrimp poboy and slowly savor the all of six shrimp between the not-crisp-enough french bread. I eat my poboy with just melted butter and shrimp. Call me crazy. It's the way I like 'em. While part of it brings a comfort, much of that restaurant brings back the homesickness in full force. It is never enough.
But no matter what, every time I open my car door in that parking lot, I can smell beignets.
I would put money on that smell. The frying oil, the dough, the powdery goodness that melts when you eat it. Every time I open that door I nearly lose my footing.
Today when I ran into the grocery store beside it, I found myself in tears. Yes, I miss my city. There are no words to explain that. You have to know such a place. If ever I cease to love ...
I had only met a handful of spouses since we had been at Benning. My neighbors whose husbands were in the same class, a friend of a friend who was often at our complex. That was just about it. I nearly didn't take the course being offered for the spouses. Pregnancy had not been easy and the thought of committing myself to almost a week of classes seemed beyond sensible. I had made it here for the first day. We'd see about tomorrow.
There was that awkward feeling as ladies shuffled in, some knew others, some clearly didn't. Our seats had been assigned and I quickly found my place with the large binder on the table. The three people that I knew weren't at my table. I didn't know a single soul. Not-a-one.
And then someone across the table asked where I was from and her entire face smiled when I said, "New Orleans" and my whole face smiled when she said, "Lafayette." She didn't say it the way we say it. Not, "LAH-fi-ette," but "LAUGH-fai-ette." She was authentic.
We were put at that same table for a reason and I thank God for it.
For four days we laughed at each other's jokes, we debated king cakes, we spoke each other's language. Well, most of it. She is from Lafayette.
And that was that. I missed graduation because I started having much-too-early contractions right before the ceremony. We spent four days together.
I didn't see her again until after Eli was born. When C was deployed, while she was preggers with number three, she came to New Orleans to spend the day with me.
We shopped, we ate, I introduced her to Randazzo's king cake, and I won our long-standing debate over whose was better.
Five days. We had spent five days together since the time we had met.
May seem crazy.
Last week her and her family - husband, three kids, and two dogs - stopped over in Colorado during their PCS from Hood to Washington and stayed for a day and a half. I miss her already.
She had a child walking who I had never met. She had a husband that I had only met twice before.
And she is one of my closest and dearest friends in this life.
Seven days. We have spent a total of seven days, spread over (nearly) three years, physically together.
She has seen my highs, my lows, my struggles. She knows the fear I am holding onto right now. She understands why I am battling certain decisions. I have heard her weak moments through a phone line. I have contemplated putting kiddos in a car and driving to Texas if she gave the slightest hint that she needed me to. She understands what I miss. She understands the mistakes I have made, and do make, and will make. She makes me laugh and she has seen my tears.
God gives you who you need, when you need them. He opens your heart to those who bring you closer to Him. There is no timestamp on what makes a friendship. There is no benchmark for when things become real.
Sometimes they are instant. Sometimes they are true from the start. Sometimes distance doesn't matter. Pain can be shared across borders. Heartache can be understood in a phone call. We can carry each other duty stations apart.
There is a beauty in this sisterhood. Bonds formed in the strangest of circumstances. Unbroken. Unwavering. Always understood.
She is my bit of Southern comfort when I need a recipe for a good shrimp dish. She's that needed Southern comfort when I need someone to let me be a little-less strong.