This week, my dear friend Shanna will pack up her car and head to Atlanta, to begin a Ph.D. in Irish literature. We’ve been friends since our undergrad days, when we took an Irish lit class (and several others) together. I enjoyed the class, especially the poetry of Seamus Heaney, but where I got fed up with the absurdist dialogue (Beckett) and strange spiritualism (Yeats) and seesawing from clarity to utter confusion (Joyce), Shanna was fascinated. This is now her literary niche. (I salute her for this. You’ve got to be made of strong stuff, and have a stalwart sense of humor, to balance all the tragedy in Ireland’s history.)
We had a few friends over on Friday to wish her bon voyage. And because Shanna is into superheroes, and because she is a superhero, Abi bought superhero paper goods:
We often joke that it was Shanna’s idea to move to Boston, because she was the first of our Abilene crew to apply to graduate school here, get accepted and decide to make the move. Then Nate also got accepted to graduate school and J got a job offer, so the four of us (and a few other Abilene folks) made the journey. For two years, we have sung on Sundays, gathered weekly for coffee and chitchat, explored various tourist attractions, and navigated the joys and frustrations of life in Boston together.
We had known each other a long time, but not very well, before we came to Boston. There were many hellos and brief conversations on campus, hugs on Sundays at church, and one memorable afternoon watching Sunset Boulevard at her apartment for a film class (and being utterly freaked out by Norma Desmond. Those eyes!). But since moving here, Shanna has become one of the people I call first, to celebrate or mourn or simply talk through all the layers of building a life from scratch in a beautiful, maddening, complicated city far from home.
We are West Texas girls, she and I, lovers of wide-open skies and blazing sunsets and salsa so hot it burns your mouth even while you long for more. We share a wide circle of loved ones back in Abilene, and when Boston has felt cold and unfamiliar, we have reminisced about the warmth of West Texas and found that same warmth in each other’s company. We are unabashed lovers of young adult literature who can spend hours discussing Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. We love potlucks and board games and hours at a coffee shop, nursing hot drinks (or cold, depending on the season), and we always find rest and grace and laughter when we are together.
She has been a part of every celebration here, every birthday and Turkeypalooza and that rain-soaked Fourth of July we had recently. But she is also one of those friends who fill in the cracks, someone you can count on, any time, to rejoice or mourn or sympathize with you. She is wise and empathetic and funny and loving, and oh my, I’m going to miss her.
When Shanna’s mom, Pam, heard we were moving to Boston, she grabbed me in a hug at church one morning, exclaiming, “Y’all are the answer to my prayers!” She was so glad, she said, that Shanna would have some ready-made friends in Boston, some people who knew her already, as she ventured into the great unknown.
I smiled and nodded, but I didn’t tell Pam that it was actually the other way around. Shanna, whose idea it was to embark on this Northeastern adventure, was the answer to my prayers.
I can’t go with her this time. But I’m hoping she finds some friends in Atlanta who will be for her what she has been for me.
Godspeed, friend. Come back and visit – we’ll take you to Mike’s for a cannoli.