33: You Goof

33: You Goof

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

You Goof

No friendship is an accident.

~O. Henry, Heart of the West

We met the day I drove my family two hours north to look at their house. We were planning on moving the next summer and this house had just shown up “For Sale by Owner.” It was a few days before Christmas, and Marion and her family were about to decorate their tree. With enthusiasm like the Energizer Bunny, Marion buzzed around setting all our kids up with a game. She was great with my shy children, and her two girls were friendly and kind.

The old Vermont Cape was awesome, but Marion was even more awesome. We stayed and visited as if we were old friends and my kids even helped decorate the tree. Even though the house was beautiful, it wasn’t right for us. But that’s not why I was disappointed. I was sad that Marion and her family were moving away to another state. I was so comfortable with her that I just came right out and said, “Hey, why do you have to move anyway?”

In her Marion way she smacked me on my arm (my first smack from Marion!) and said, “Oh, you goof.”

By the time we found a house and moved, Marion’s family had long since left. So imagine my surprise when I saw Marion and her children swimming at the local pond that summer. She told me that they were moving again, this time back to Vermont, but still hours away. And even though we barely knew each other, we chatted like old friends.

Over the next couple of years, Marion would show up here and there as her family came back to visit. I ran into her at a few parties and she always gave me that same quirky smile, and the now famous smack on the arm. One time we met at a mutual friend’s house for an all-women’s clothing swap. The dining room table was piled high with our clothes to trade, and we tried on all kinds of treasures. Everyone ooohed and ahhhhed when I showed off a skin-tight black suede skirt. “It’s so you!” they said. “You look great!” I wasn’t so sure. “It’s kinda tight,” I said, but my words were quickly covered up with, “No it’s not! It’s perfect! It’s you!” I searched the crowded room until I met Marion’s eyes. With the slightest, tiniest movement she shook her head and gave me The Look. I could almost hear her saying, “It’s not you, it’s not perfect, you look like a sausage in that thing. Take it off right now.” Later she tossed me a skirt that was perfect. When I tried it on and showed her she smacked me on the arm and said, “You goof, listen to me from now on.”

When her family decided to move back to the area, I was thrilled; Marion and I could finally have a real friendship. Never did I realize how strong this friendship would be. My twelve-year-old daughter had gotten very sick and the recovery was extremely difficult. On her own, Marion thought of something that she could do to help. With a pixie-like twinkle in her eye, she showed up at our house one Saturday with a gallon of paint and a handful of wallpaper scrapers. Painting has never been my thing, and I had not even noticed that my daughter’s walls were covered with wallpaper more suited for a nursing home than a preteen. But Marion noticed, and she knew that for my daughter’s recovery, a purple room was going to make a difference. And it did.

It took many Saturdays to peel off the layers of wallpaper; the bottom one must have been there since the 1800s, when the house was built! Through the weeks, Marion and I peeled and painted and laughed, our children played together, and the color returned to my daughter’s cheeks. As her room took on new life, so did she, reemerging healthy and beautiful.

Even through our laughter and joking, Marion knew how much I had been hurting during my daughter’s illness. She listened to me when I needed to talk, and held me when I needed to cry. But she’s not one to let sadness rule. She always had a funny story to tell, usually about her own childhood — talk about a wacky family!

Even now when I try to thank her, and tell her how much it means to me that she was there during such a difficult period, she just gives me her quirky smile, smacks me on the arm and says, “Oh, you goof.”

~Lava Mueller

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