Ain’t No Hackberry Long Enough

I’ve been rolling these words around in my head for some time now, almost battling their release. They would surface and I would move them around, and then push them away. “It’s not time yet,” I’d convince myself. “We still have time.” And we do: We have the rest of our lives. But this—the way we are at this very moment, the way we’ve been for the past years, the way we’ll be for but a few weeks longer—this is changing. So it’s time to talk about it.

We’ve been us for a long time now. In fact, it’s hard to remember a time when we weren’t, though I know that’s simply the power of the past few years, the way they burst with these brilliant souls I’ve called friends and then some: roommates, counselors, sisters. See, I’d already met the three of them by my third morning in Tuscaloosa; I like to think that the Lord gave me no choice but to get wrapped up in this family so perfect for me. We found each other just like that: we just happened to intertwine, and our lives are so interwoven now, three years later, that my heart can’t comprehend life without them. And for now, it doesn’t have to. But the times, they are a changin’.

Our Janie—our smiling girl of joy—is moving back to campus to become a resident adviser in the fall; these next two weeks, though, are the last ones where we’ll all be here as residents of 1906, before Joanna and Gracie fly away in May and Janie leaves in July. She’s only moving ten minutes away, a short drive down Hackberry Drive, but people, Hackberry has never seemed so long. It’s not that we’re not okay with her going; we are. It’s not that we don’t understand why she’s leaving; we do. It’s not that we won’t ever see her; you’d better believe we will. It’s not that she won’t be a part of us anymore; we wouldn’t know how to let that happen even if we wanted to. It’s that things might change, somehow, and change is scary. It’s that we like her here, a hallway away instead of a gosh darn Hackberry, and giving that up seems hard. It’s that we’ll miss her. I will miss you, Jane.

It’s like this: the four of us do this thing well. We’ve created this household intentionally, the kind that hugs and holds and dusts off whomever needs it most at the moment. The kind that listens and encourages and supports and sometimes calls you out when you’re not doing the dishes or making your thoughts obedient to Christ. The kind that runs on Jesus and coffee and Friday Night Lights reruns; it’s my bad jokes, Joanna’s poignant moments, Gracie’s funny quips, Janie’s sunny spirit. And we work. We do this well.

“Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another.” —Romans 12:10

I can tell you that I’ve learned the ins and outs of this verse living with these girls. I can tell you that I’ve pitched fits, cried rivers, stomped around, ran and hidden, and pretended not to notice. And they have calmed my fears, wiped my snot, taken deep breaths, looked until they found me, and called my name until I heard. They’ve poured into me, and I’ve been so filled that I could leave and pour out on other people. And girls, I only hope that you’ve received some of this back from me.

See, each girl is so her own, so obviously made by a God who so obviously wanted us to walk through this time together. Joanna is our sentimental songbird, sometimes off on a flight, but always happy to land back home. She reminds us when we’re too busy to notice that even the seemingly insignificant fragments, the ones where we’re painting fingernails or eating dinner or just sitting together, are Moments with capital M’s because moments that are Moments matter. Gracie is the salty sweetheart, and she may raise an eyebrow to that, and that is Gracie Belle. She’s our people-pleasing love who never wants anyone to feel unloved or left out. And yet, there are so many moments when she says just the thing to make us laugh, just the thing that we weren’t expecting. At first, this quality is so surprising, and we used to joke that she was our onion, always revealing new depths of her personality to us, always keeping us on our toes. If she’s that onion, I’ve gotten to the core, and it’s sweet, people. She’s a chocolate onion. I mean that, Sparky, in the absolute best way possible. Janie is our spunky sunshine, breezing in with a grin and a brilliant idea. She’s our wise lady, making peace and speaking truth and taking any one of us from Freaking Out to Everything’s Going to Be OK in 5.7 seconds. It’s into Janie’s bed that I tiptoe to have a “spendie.” It’s Janie who’s walked with me, hand-in-hand, spiritually as I confessed fears and hopes and hurts. It’s Janie who had a hand in my healing, in my believing, in my embracing all that I have about who I am as a child of God.

Of course, we’ve had lots of talks about what’s to come. Intentionality is name of our game, and I see a brilliant year ahead: there’s coffee dates, sleepovers, the 15th national football championship,  another roommate Christmas, bow-tying, internships, stage-crossing, bridesmaid—and bride—being. I know that we’ve been knit together; I know that it’s only a Hackberry Drive drive; I know that it’s the beginning of saying goodbye in a great big giant way, that it’s a baby step, that we can ease into it before we find ourselves in a place where goodbye may be for real, understanding it may be months before we’re together again. This isn’t a farewell letter, and it’s not announcing that things are over. That’s not what I’m thinking about here; I’m just thinking it’s the end of an era, and it deserved my words. They deserve to be honored for who they are. They had to know how much I’ve adored the way it’s been, and how much I am looking forward to what will be.

Here’s to two more weeks, girls, and then here’s to a new thing. It will be beauty full. And of course, here’s to you, Pooh—you’ll always be a part of us, even when you feel far away. And you can always come home.

“’We’ll be Friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.
‘Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”

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