I was in New Jersey so long I went through three full cycles of friends that left me and then, finally, it was my turn to leave. Although, I left behind a wonderful sweet friend (Karyn) that I miss dearly- I can only hope that the Air Force will bring us back together one day too.
I met Claudia when her husband was deployed with mine and we were both pregnant with our first children. We soon formed a friendship and our boys were born only six weeks apart and were each others' first best friends. My son was cranky, cried all the time and never slept. Her son was happy, slept and a dream. She was concerned I had post partum depression and finally talked me into going to a playgroup on base when Noah was almost a year old. That is where I also met Amber, Catherine, Lucy, Jennifer, Becca, Sarah Jane and Marlana. They had also just had their first children who were about a year younger than mine and Claudia's boys. I only saw these ladies weekly at playgroup but remained close to Claudia, having playdates at the house with the boys and getting the whole families together at each others' houses for dinner, barbecues and just hanging out.
So, when Claudia's husband got orders the summer our boys were turning three, I was devastated. The rest of my first cycle of friends had just left and Claudia was all I had left. Claudia was neighbors with Amber and Amber was having a scrapbooking party. I had no interest in scrapbooking but Claudia insisted I go to the party- she was trying to take care of me and insert me into a new friend group. What a great friend- she was worried about me and didn't want to leave me friendless. I started hanging out with the other ladies and gradually started scrapbooking.
Over the next few years, these ladies became my best friends. We spent many late nights at each other's houses scrapbooking, bouncing advice, fears and concerns about things like breastfeeding, potty training, biting, and other parenting issues as well as deployment frustrations off of each other. We relied on each other doing simple mundane things- like meeting each other at the post office so one could babysit the minivans in the parking lot while the other ran in to mail packages without kids, strollers and diaper bags. These were the ladies that surprised me with a baby shower when I was pregnant with Zoe because I wasn't going home to Texas to have one. These were also the ladies that quietly prayed after Zoe had her stroke and got together to make a "Welcome Home Zoe" sign and put it on my front door with balloons the day Zoe was released from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Lucy left first, then Marlana, then Jennifer followed by Catherine and finally Amber. Sarah Jane's husband separated from the military and was still in the area, but we saw less and less of her as she adapted to civilian life and lived an hour away from the base. Becca and I were left behind but Becca completed her schooling and got a full time job and we lost touch.
When we received orders last spring to England, I was ecstatic. Catherine is in England, Jennifer is in Germany and Amber is in Italy. We decided we MUST have a "Jersey Girl Reunion". Alas, Jennifer's husband's job does not allow a lot of flexibility, so she was not able to participate. Amber is leaving for her next assignment in June, so Catherine and I got together one cold, dreary day in February and booked plane tickets to Italy! Our trip was this past weekend.
It was absolutely beautiful in northern Italy! The weather was great, the scenery beautiful but the friendship was phenomenal. It seemed as if time had never passed and was great to be together again. That very same weekend, Becca (who has now moved on to another assignment somewhat close to Marlana- whose husband separated a few years ago and has moved to their forever home) and Marlana got together as well back in the US.
So, without further ado, here are some pictures of our fabulous Italian weekend. Don't worry, Jennifer, Catherine and I were already discussing tentative plans for Germany next year to see you!
We hosted Flat Stanley for a family in Texas and I took him to Italy with me. Here are my friend's boys holding Stanley at the Italian market.
Pasta with curry sauce- oh my goodness, it was SO GOOD!
Gorgazzo underwater cave
Stanley holding British money (a £5 note and a £1 coin)
Stanley holding Euro (for his Italian shopping needs- a 20 Euro note and a 1 Euro coin)
Stanley on the train to Venice
Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square)- it is not uncommon for this square to be ankle-deep in water. They even have floating sidewalks they put out when the water floods the square. This past fall, though, there were pictures circulating of the square waist-deep in water.
The flooded square (this image is not mine- I got it from the internet- here)
Bridge of Sighs
This is my favorite photo I took all weekend:
my lunch: gnocchi- yum!
Stanley visiting the American base in Italy- I took a picture because look at the beautiful mountains towering over the base!
The church in Amber's town
The view out the window of our plane as we taxied away from the Venice airport, England-bound.
Zoe's souvenir- a Carnivale mask (she loves cats) made in Italy
I feel so fortunate to have friends literally all over the world! It is somewhat comforting to know that wherever we may go next, chances are high, I will see a familiar face there! I love my Air Force family!
Oh- and Claudia (whom I mentioned earlier in this post) has just messaged me in the past few weeks to tell me they will arrive in England this fall!