So our overseas friends became family. They were who we celebrated holidays and birthdays with, who we turned to for support, who we called in emergencies.
You already know Jane, Jane who was in my wedding and took credit for telling me to marry the man with the boat.
You don't know Sarah, but you might meet her sometime when she breezes through town. She lives in Cape Town and has been absolutely everywhere, and every once in a while I get a text asking if she can stay with us (of course) and she's on a bus down from NYC that very moment.
She's come to stay when I've been gone, and friends of mine have dropped in and had tea with her and then when I come home they're all best friends already.
Everyone loves Sarah. People who've met her once reminisce about times with Sarah.
We've known their family since the 80s in Delhi. Candy and my mom became instant friends. I have vivid memories of them giggling in the living room.
Jane and I lived together in San Diego. I'd only been driving a year when she arrived, and she said every since she gives directions like, "In one mile, you're going to need to be in the right lane..."
The photo above is of Jon and my dad at the Pushkar Camel Fair.
I don't know how it is now, because it seems like you can get everything everywhere, but when we were growing up, every time someone returned from the US or Europe, they were always laden with things you couldn't get in whatever country we lived in.
Peanut butter, deodorant, face cream. I think the weirdest thing my dad ever asked for was a tennis ball shooter machine. Or maybe car tires.
In any case, I grew up used to taking requests and carting weird and heavy things. It was just what you did for friends.
The beginning of January, Betty and I spent a few days visiting friends on a tiny, glorious little island in the Bahamas.
Was it as magical as it sounds? It was.
They live in South Africa, so when they said they'd be in the Bahamas for a bit, we jumped on the chance to visit them much closer to home.
We bought tickets last minute. I organized after school care for the kids. My friend Andrea, who happened to be in town and who I'd just had coffee with, offered to walk Wanda.
I asked Sarah if there was anything we could bring. Because I'd heard the stories of the things they cart to Spanish Wells when they go. Everything has to be brought by ship, so it's very expensive, and brands are limited.
Their only request was walnuts, cheese, and nice crackers.
By now it was Thursday night. We were leaving for the airport at 5:00 the next morning. We searched the house.
Walnuts, we had. And a nice Manchego, almost two pounds. But no other cheese! And no lovely crackers!
I was home fixing the kids dinner, so Betty immediately headed out to the shops around the corner. The one that would definitely have the nicest cheese was closed. But she managed a brie and a couple blocks of cheddar and scads of crackers.
Lest a cheese enthusiast decide to snack on one, I put them all in a ziploc bag in the fridge with a note that said: TAKING TO BAHAMAS. DO NOT OPEN.
Nick came home during dinner and opened the fridge. He saw the sign. And then he said, "Are you allowed to take cheese to the Bahamas?"
Allowed to take cheese? What kind of question was that?
He looked it up and said, "No dairy products."
I said, "Cheese isn't really dairy dairy. It's packaged."
"Lisa. You could get in trouble. What if you wind up in Bahamian jail?"
"We'll just pretend we had a snack for the plane and forgot to take it out."
"You've got like 5 pounds."
My mom said, "It'll be fine."
So I messaged Sarah and told her Nick was nervous and she said to tell him it would be fine. So I told him it would be fine but he remained unconvinced.
I think of Nick as much bolder than me, but he's also a lawyer and gets all liability focused and rulesy which is often very helpful like when I was trying to pick a fight with the police but then other times seems more like a nuisance.
We arrived. Nobody asked anything.
We got in a van that drove us to the water, whereupon the driver pulled all the bags out of the van and loaded them onto his boat and off we went.
As we neared the dock at Spanish Wells, people in the boat started pointing and asking what was going on.
At us! Our friends were waving at us!
We laughed and waved and waved, all the way to shore.
As it turns out, there are cars but people mainly get around by golf cart, so we rented a golf cart. It was great fun, once I got past my twitchiness about a) driving a golf cart and b) driving on the left side.
We did almost lurch into the side of the house one day when I forgot to put it in reverse.
The visit was perfect. I wished I could stay a month.
We went for walks in the soft, soft sand. We watched a sea star scootch along the bottom.
Jane and her son and I went exploring and wound up at an outdoor beach bar, where they played in the hammock and tossed coconuts and we enjoyed cocktails with our toes in the sand.
Since I don't tend to hashtag my FB photos, I wrote out the word "hashtag" instead of using a #. Later Jane very sweetly said, "Um, Lis, I don't know if you know about hashtags, but you use the # rather than the word..."
Then Sarah accused Jane of using dumb hashtags.
And then, just like that, it was time to go.
Three days is not so long, after all.
We had a grand goodbye at the dock, and their golf carts followed the boat and waved and waved. We giggled through tears.
And then my mom asked her if she was a Democrat.
Why, Betty, why? Hashtag why?
The kids sure were glad to have us back.
Nick has been calling us cheese mules ever since.