This letter finds me in Jakarta, waiting for my friend Ashley’s baby to be born. She got here on September 11, I came on September 29, her husband came October 5, her due date was October 11, and I don’t yet have a return ticket.
Ashley and I met four years ago at the beginning of our process with MAF, and we arrived in Indonesia two years ago within the same month. We then spent a year on the island of Java as neighbors and makeshift teammates, learning everything from scratch and culture shocking together. Once she came over to watch a movie and found me crying into a bowl of popcorn; she gave me a hug and told me I wasn’t crazy, which was exactly what I needed. Once I went to her house and found her lip three times its normal size as the result of a freak allergic reaction; I laughed while she laugh-cried, and then we looked up remedies online. One of my favorite memories from that time was when we had a sleepover while our husbands were out of town, like we were in seventh grade or something. We stayed up talking until four in the morning while drinking caffeinated beverages and laughing at how much we’d be kicking ourselves when our two-year-olds woke up. The next morning we agreed: worth it.
You know those friendships where you meet and click? The connection is strong and the conversation is immediately deep and easy? You just “get” each other? (I would say that’s true of you and me, would you? Our lives have never been interdependent in any real way, but there’s always a connection.)
That wasn’t Ashley and me. We were always friendly, absolutely. But it wasn’t until we really needed each other that we took the time to understand each other and create a friendship. We learned each other’s stories. We offered help and asked for it. We met for coffee, over and over. We apologized and forgave. We stopped issuing advance invitations for dinner and started texting each other in the late afternoon. “Plans tonight? Our place at 6?” Somewhere along the line the conversation became easy and deep. And somewhere along the line—I think as we were tearfully parting ways to different islands—we promised to be there for each other when we had babies in Indonesia.
So here we are in Jakarta. Despite her amazing attitude, I can tell Ash is getting a little impatient. Isn’t every woman in those last days? Even the ones who haven’t been displaced from home for five weeks, who aren’t on the other side of the world from their family, and who aren’t paying a nightly rate for each day the baby doesn’t come? But whenever I sense that her impatience might be a little tied up in the fact that I’m here and waiting too, I do my best to remind her that I’m exactly where I want to be. In Jakarta. With her. Parenting side-by-side in close quarters, night swimming at a resort, taking taxis to Starbucks, staying up late talking, apologizing after getting a little tired and grumpy, and asking, “What’s the plan for dinner tonight?” so many times that we’re getting annoyed at the decision. This is the kind of thing you’d only do with a very good friend. But it’s also exactly the kind of stuff that good friendships are made of.
(You know what good long-distance friendships are made of? Letters. Loving this. Love you.)
P.S. Your new weekly ritual sounds incredible. I would SO take a ballet class with you. I’ll bet you look just smashing in a leotard.