A year ago I wrote about how much my heart longed to wrap up moments, tie ribbons on the uncontainable joy and the challenges and the laughing fits and the trips to the expensive grocery store on Pennsylvania and the cupcakes and the almost-tattoos. And this year, I want to give those gifts again. Because in the sea of wrapping paper and Michael Bublé Christmas music, when you mangle the tape and trip over the boxes and burn the cookies and forget where you hid things... I want to remember these things.
So I imagine.
I imagine placing those four Whole Foods cupcakes (the ones without identifiable flavors) in a box for you. Next to them I put all the seasons of 30 Rock that we watched on your bed when the days stretched out in front of us and the city sidewalks were sprinkled with leaves. I give you laughing uncontrollably about my initial reaction to Melancholia, and our hands flying around our faces as we talked about Kirsten Dunst and our final years of college and where in this world we imagined going. I give you the moments when you looked at me with the comprehension of someone who first met me in 10th grade, and has been there ever since. And I whisper as I hand it over to you, as small and shy as it is, always the years, always the years between us. Always the love. Always the hours.
I imagine wrapping up the gold and red books in their smooth case - The Complete Works of Jane Austen - and tying it with a bow. I give you the gift and watch you unwrap it as the pie bakes in the oven and the wine sits expectantly by the fire. When you open it I know that you're remembering all the years of conversations, of imagining ourselves in the stories. First Jane, and Lizzy, and then occasionally Marianne and Elinor, and always Emma, and I've gone out of my way to insist that Anne of Green Gables and Jo March find their way inside our memories too. And you know how long and difficult these stories are, but that we write ourselves inside them. And that we tell our stories best through the characters we love. I've hidden Joe Pug and Ben Knox Miller in there, too, for a later day by the fire. And as we take the pie out of the oven I laughingly tell you, that I would not trade one single moment of sharing our uncertainty and our love. That with us, it's never less than kindred spirits.
I imagine holding out a night at Chianti and then another at Gulu-Gulu and maybe a few scattered chai and cappuccino mornings at the Atomic, and spreading them out our floor. In each of them I point to the moment we laughed, leaned in to tell a joke or roll our eyes at something ridiculous. And then I point to the moment next to it, when we looked at each other with so much understanding and so much respect. I give you the promise of a semester full of small escapes, and a map of the DC metro system, and Rilke's words, which have become our own, crinkled in letters and in inboxes and text messages. I give you the words that I wish I could say, a whole dictionary of our friendship. And I pull you into a hug and whisper, "Thank you." Some days our solitudes protect and touch and greet each other. And this is love.
I imagine hiding a huge box in our apartment for the three of you to open when you come back. It's full of the strange motley crew of us: family dinners of sweet potato gnocchi and picnics with the fire alarm going off in the background and baking zucchini bread and talking in strange accents (oh, my, gawwwwwd) and laughing. I keep the Love Wins discussions and the Florence + the Machine blasting, and the dance lessons (we still don't know how "everyday I'm shufflin'" yet). But I tie it with a bow and hide it so that when you find it, it surprises you to remember. How this semester we have carried each other, and made each other laugh and yell and be better friends and better versions of ourselves. I tuck in a promise of Alchemy girl's nights and more family dinners and trips back to my house next semester. Because you make our apartment home. Because you three are home.
And I imagine sending you something direct to Jackson, packaged in brown paper with my messy scrawl smudged from the travel. I send you the ache of distance and departure, the homesickness and the blog posts where I tried to capture just what it is you mean to me. I send you a recording of me sighing loudly and exasperatedly in the office, and a mug for tea, and a cupcake with eggnog buttercream and sweet mocha filling (or something equally amazing from our favorite place). I send you the stories I've been saving up to tell you, and the hugs, and the smile of the quiet place. I give them to you so that in the midst of learning how to be far apart we also learn how to stay close. I give them to you because you teach me the long obedience and because I miss you. Very much. I give you a big hug and a knowing look - and a bit of heartache because I love you.
There are too many to name, too many gifts to wrap and moments to cherish, but I leave you, dear readers, with a hug and a smile. With a Starbucks toffee nut latte and a long laugh about how much we worry and how good He is. With the promise that you are a treasured gift to me this Christmas. And I treasure each of you in my heart.