Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's A Wonderful Life, Little Merry Sunshine!

I remember at one point in August as I was in full-mourning for Nana, my stress level was sky-high, I couldn't figure out how to deal with the weight of the world on my shoulders, and famous people who had an impact on my life were dropping like flies, I turned to a friend and said, "I just can't wait for the Summer to be over and Fall to arrive." I honestly believed that with the change of seasons, my life would get better, the joy I usually feel would return, and fun would pop up here and there. I even wrote about it.

Boy, was I right!

This weekend was all about trips down memory lane. I had expected this given that it was Homecoming & Reunion Weekend at Lake Forest College and the Class of 1994 was celebrating their 15th reunion (I was a RA in the freshman dorm that year and I had quite a few friends in that class) and it was my own 20th high school reunion. What I did not expect was that I would also reunite with one of my dearest friends from Washington DC, Karen Hardwick.

Karen emailed me through Facebook on Friday morning saying she knew it was the last second, but she and her boyfriend were coming to Chicago for 24 hours and wanted to know if I could have coffee. Without even knowing when or where she wanted to meet, I replied, "YES! YES! YES!" All I knew was that I'd drive any distance at any time to see Karen. 9 1/2 years since I'd last seen her were 9 1/2 years too many.

The weekend was a whirlwind of activity taking me from Arlington Heights to Lake Forest to Palatine to Chicago, with very little sleep. I saw friends I've known since Kindergarten; the first boy I ever had a crush on; my first husband; my debate partner; friends I sang in the church choir with; friends who had the misfortune good fortune to have me as their freshman year RA in Deerpath; friends I experienced Washington DC with for the first time in 1985; and a mentor and friend who found Betsey and Ross for me, never let me settle for less than perfect, gave me a West Wing tour, and will always be connected to me because of all that we survived in the wee hours of the morning at Hogan that no one else will ever understand (I don't think it was physically possible to work more hours than we did).

The last few months have been Hell. I actually had moments where I wondered it if was all worth it and if the gut-wrenching emotional and physical pain I felt would ever end. I couldn't see any light in the tunnel, but this weekend, in less than 72 hours, I found the light shining brightly as I revisited just about each of my 38 years. I was reminded just how blessed I am and how much my life has had an impact on others. I learned how I have far more fans of Little Merry Sunshine than I ever imagined. In each friend, I saw moments that shaped my life, made me the woman I am today, and heard stories I never knew about. In short, I lived my own Frank Capra movie.

As the wise angel Clarence wrote to George Bailey, "no man is a failure who has friends." And I've got friends in spades.

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