True friends never owe each other anything. (from Bear Circus by William Pene du Bois)
Let me start this by saying that my husband and I have never really moved in the traditional sense of the term. When we got married, I was living with my parents and he was living in a dorm. Several months before our wedding, we decided we would rent a house from his parents once we were married. That house was vacant at the time and they gave us unlimited access to it, so every time we had a wedding shower we would just take the gifts over to the house and put them away in their places. At some point we took a couch in, at another point other furniture, stretching out the process of moving our pieced together hand-me-down furniture over about five months. It was so easy. A day or two before the wedding we moved the bulk of our clothes over to the rent house and the last of the things we hadn’t yet moved. We got married, we started living there, and we lived there for nine years.
Until a couple of weeks ago when we moved into the home we have been saving up for. It was a completely different experience. First of all, before moving in we set aside two weeks to peel wall paper, paint, change light switches and outlets, and do other general repairs to our new home. Jon has a full time job now, we’re nine years older (read nine years less energetic) than when we married, and we have two small children. This made working on the house every day for two weeks a bit trickier than that time I unloaded brand new plates from wedding gift boxes and took a minute to hang up curtains in the rent house with no children to chase. This time we were arranging for Jon’s mom to watch the kids, making daily trips to Lowe’s, working as fast as we could in the two hours we had between Jon leaving work and the kids’ bed time, and basically living off of fast food. It was fun and exhausting and would have been absolutely impossible without the incredible help of a few great friends.
What can you say about the kind of friend who also works for a feverish two or five hours painting your living room paneling? What do you say about the moms who take your children every single day and don’t roll their eyes once when you come an hour past their bed time (again!) to pick them up, paint splattered and exhausted? Or the friends who bring a meal and plastic ware and paper plates to a house with no table in it so you can enjoy a picnic of NON-fast food in your future dining room? And there’s the one who kept us all filled up with the perfection that is ice cold Sonic beverages. The friend who came early in the morning on his actual birthday to help load our moving truck blew me away, as did my husband’s boss who came and both loaded and unloaded on a hot Saturday. A friend from MOPS cleaned my kitchen counters and drawers so I could unload my dishes and she helped unpack my closet and has now seen my lingerie. This is how she spent a rare afternoon of freedom from her own two small children. I was just humbled and amazed by their help. I was exhausted from this work and I know they had to be exhausted too, and they didn’t have to do it!
Towards the end of the day, my friend (who had arranged childcare for her three children for the whole day so she and her husband could be there packing, loading, unloading, and unpacking) had to call it quits because her nursing baby needed her (do you know how exhausting that stage of motherhood is? Do you?). I looked at her and thought about how tired she must be and what a sacrifice it was for her to do this with a Saturday and I just couldn’t even think of what to say. I said something about being beyond all gratitude and owing them big time. And she said, “We will always be even.” And another friend said something similar after he worked probably more on our house than I did over that two week span (during which time he also started a new job!). He painted and peeled wall paper and ate fast food and wrapped quilts around my antique chairs so they wouldn’t scratch in the back of his truck and we could never in a hundred years say thank you enough but he is okay with that. And we can rest in the knowledge that we haven’t just racked up a whole lot of friendship debt because there is no such thing. We would do the same for them and I hope we get to, but it is not repaying a debt. It is just friendship. And there is this great form of love where a man lays down his Saturday for his friends and I am not going to say anything else here because I am literally weeping with gratitude and fullness of heart and friendship and I just can’t.