I have barely scratched the surface on all the fantastic things about my mom, but I'm changing gears a bit on the theme today. I just (literally) got off the phone with a dear friend, Lauren, who has been an inspiring and amazing - if physically distant - friend to me. So, in honor of our talk, for today I'm going to write a bit about her and why she's so important to me.
I met Lauren when I was a high school senior. She was a social studies teacher and the brand new track coach. She was OLD (like 31!) but completely awesome. She saw through adolescent bullshit and melodrama but managed to balance her "suck it up" with thoughtful empathy every time. Among other fun facts that made me go "huh" and "wow" were:
1. She was a world traveler; TOTALLY had a passport. WHAT?!
2. She had worked in toilet paper sales (for real) and had other corporate sales jobs before going to grad school for teaching.
3. She had a great husband who at the time was at Cornell Business School.
4. Her great husband showed up to track meets to support her and a bunch of kids he'd never met: major points there!
5. She could run. (Like, really run!)
6. She ran the Boston Marathon (Okay, as a bandit, but she did all 26.2) I'd never met anyone who'd run a marathon before.
7. She told great stories on our long runs to help pass the miles. I wish I could remember specifics, but most of them involved her and her college friends doing things that were utterly hilarious/ill-conceived/involving cheap amber beverages.
8. She read and recommended interesting books to me.
9. She was, as I said, OLD and married for about 10 years but had no kids yet. You can DO that???
10. She, like, really thought I was smart and funny and interesting and... get this... I was the FIRST VANSCOY she had ever met!
Now, this last one may sound dumb, but if you're Contestant #6, so to speak, in a large family that's had its roots in a town for generations... And if your mom is a teacher in the school district.... And your dad is on the school board... And your next oldest sister is the valedictorian and all star athlete... And the legacy of your siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents is around every corner you turn.... Well, meeting someone FIRST and having them LIKE you without knowing anything at all about your family is just.... honestly? Life changing. I remember half jokingly telling her at one point how happy I was that she met and liked me before meeting my sister Heidi because I always felt like Heidi smoothed the path for me in life. She DID meet Heidi before too long and she DID like Heidi, of course, but she promised that she liked me better. Possibly just telling me what I wanted and needed to hear, but I clung to it in a weird way anyway.
I had a tough spring that year. My heart was aching from the typical things that make a teenage girl's heart ache and, of course, I couldn't see my way out of it. I only halfheartedly signed up for track that year. My times had been getting slower and slower every year since 7th grade. Running was HARD. I really could better use my time wallowing in sorrow over a boy who ought to have adored me more, couldn't I? There's nothing more attractive than being pathetic, right?? But, I showed up for practice that March day and met Lauren. And while it may be exaggerating to say that it saved my life, I'm absolutely certain that it MADE my life. Because who would I right now without that gift of running that she gave me?
There's more to this story, of course. Exceptional silliness on bus rides. Motivating talks to keep me reaching for new goals. Literal lightning strikes that knocked her and another runner to the ground - in full view of the rest of us - on a hot spring day. A "Like A Mother" Mother's Day card I bought her that spring because she truly was. Real-live letters from all over the globe. And eventually, having her as my matron of honor at my wedding.
It was great to talk to her tonight. She's staying at their cottage in Maine for the summer. She and her husband and their two kids (yeah, she had a boy and a girl eventually!) have lived all over creation (Singapore, London, Beijing) and will be back to London in August. It's been about 3 years since we've managed to see each other during her summer visits but THIS year it's happening. We're committed.
And I can't wait.
(While it probably isn't TECHNICALLY a crime against humanity that I cannot conjure up a digitized photo of Lauren and I, it's pretty close. I'm embarrassed that I don't have one to post with this. May the blogging gods forgive me this trespass.)