I cannot imagine a greater blessing in life than to have a friend with whom you can totally be yourself, all the time, and who understands exactly what you need when you don’t have the words to ask.
I’ve had a friend like this for 25 years, ever since we were wide-eyed freshmen starting the new adventure of college. Ok, I may have been more wide-eyed than she, who had just spent her senior year of high school in another hemisphere, while I was making my first major venture away from home. I don’t know when we went from being roommates to the closest of friends, but I have always known, even through the inevitable bumps in the road that come with growing up and figuring out who we wanted to be, that our friendship was bigger than all night study sessions or trips to get nail polish and pancakes in the middle of the night.
So, when my plans for the final weeks of my road trip changed suddenly and I headed back toward Maine, heavy-hearted, I could imagine no better rest stop along the way than my friend Kia’s home, the laughter and mostly-happy chaos of four kids, and the warm hug of a place that feels like home to me.
It’s also fitting to wind down my trip here because this is where I started off, back in May, with an all too brief stop. All those weeks ago, I really felt like Kia’s represented the edge of my world…being here always grounds me, and is as familiar as a favorite pair of jeans. My stop here in May was my deep breath before jumping into the unknown. As always, my biggest cheerleader, the person who believes in me in ways I sometimes don’t even comprehend, was there to give me the encouragement I needed before I set off.
Coming back here a few days ago, I took another deep breath, knowing I had made it. As much as I’ve loved the feedback and enthusiasm of everyone who’s followed me along on my journey, it finally felt real when I was able to share it with her, in person. And the pain in my heart was, blessedly, muffled by the sounds of laughter and life in a place I love even more than I realized.
I have just a couple more days on this crazy adventure, a few more special friends to visit and maybe even a couple more fun tourist stops to make before I arrive home into the arms of my anxiously-waiting family. I know that, when all is said and done, these past few days will be one of my most cherished memories of this incredible summer.