A Match Made in Heaven

A Match Made in Heaven

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

A Match Made in Heaven

No friendship is an accident.

~O. Henry

When my copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms arrived in the mail I tore open the wrapper and hugged it tight as if it were my mother in the flesh. I knew it was as close as I was going to get. Mom was gone four years by 2008 when this particular Chicken Soup for the Soul book was published. Having one of my favorite stories about her, “The Autumn Leaves of Summer,” nestled between the front and back covers rated pretty high on my threshold for thrills.

That afternoon I settled down in a comfy chair with a pot of tea and a few ginger snaps at my side. Then I set about the delicious task of devouring every story. I’d hardly gotten started when I came across a tale entitled “Tea for Two,” by Terri Elders. At age six, a case of chicken pox prevented Terri from cavorting about the neighborhood with her siblings and other assorted ghosts and goblins on Halloween. The prospect of Terri having any Halloween fun at all seemed grim indeed. Terri’s lovely and kindhearted mother, who understood all too well the disappointment of a sick little girl on the second most popular kid holiday of the year, came to the rescue. With a few props and a little imagination, Terri’s mother turned a spoiled Halloween into an enchanting tea party for two, creating a treasured memory for Terri.

I related to Terri’s story in a big way. For me the culprit was a case of measles that left me banished to bed on my seventh birthday, and far away from my first grade classroom where cupcakes and schoolyard games had been planned to celebrate my big day. I passed the hours alternating between naps and intense bouts of disappointment. All the while my resourceful and sympathetic mother, using a few props and a little imagination, created the most astonishing hobbyhorse carousel birthday cake you could ever imagine. It was quite a delightful surprise for a feverish forlorn kid and to this day remains a cherished memory.

By the time I’d finished Terri’s story I felt compelled to contact her. The portrait of her mother that Terri had painted with words was exquisite and so vividly reminded me of my own sweet mother that I wanted to meet Terri, even if only via e-mail. So I flipped to the back of the book and found Terri’s biography notes, which included her e-mail address. And so it began.

I sent my first e-mail to Terri Elders in January 2008 explaining who I was and how much I appreciated her story. Terri responded the same day. We chatted about the similarities our mothers shared and how much we revered and missed them. I told Terri that even though her mother and mine had never met I suspected that somewhere in heaven they’d become good friends.

That was five years ago. We’ve been corresponding almost daily since. Though our shared passion for writing is a big part of our relationship, and brought us together from the start, it is not the core of our friendship. Somewhere along the way we found other common ground — the love of a tasty yet undeniably simple recipe, a properly made dry martini, a well written novel, a common dislike for household chores, all things penned by Lennon and McCartney, chocolate-covered . . . anything, and any project whatsoever that Johnny Depp has seen fit to make his own. The ties that bind Terri and I stretch across three thousand miles and almost twenty years difference between her age and mine.

It’s not all fun and games though. When Terri’s late husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that progressed quickly, we communicated several times a day. I shared her anguish and sorrow at seeing Ken suffer and rapidly slip away. And likewise when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, Terri was there every day to listen to my fears, support me and share our joy when my sister emerged victorious over cancer.

Still we are not without our differences. Terri is outgoing and always on the move. I am a self-proclaimed recluse. Sometimes just reading her schedule exhausts me. Terri is a world traveler. I am always happiest in my own back yard. I am into crafts in a big way. Terri — well I’ve explained a hot glue gun to her three times now and she still doesn’t get it. Terri will be taking classes until she draws her last breath. I can’t even think of the word “school” without breaking out in a sweat. Yes, we differ to a great degree but that is part of what keeps things interesting between us.

Terri, a lifelong fan of Charles Dickens came east last year to Philadelphia where she celebrated the 200th anniversary of his birth with the Philadelphia chapter of the Charles Dickens Fellowship. After all the e-mails, greeting cards, and Christmas surprises that have crossed between us, Terri and I finally met in February of 2012. It was a grand event celebrated with good food, good wine and plenty of laughter.

The story “Tea for Two” has made a remarkable impact on my life because it led to a wonderful and lasting friendship. I’d like to think Terri’s mother and mine had a hand in drawing us together and who’s to say they didn’t? However it came about, I’m awfully glad I opened the book and found “Tea for Two,” the story that brought me my dear friend and writing companion Terri Elders. It is truly a match made in heaven.

~Annmarie B. Tait

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