I met Leah in 7th grade at Buford Middle School. She sat next to me in Mrs. Evans "Language Arts" class. I don't exactly remember how it came up (except for the fact that it was ALL 12 year old girls talked about), but we shared a love for Duran Duran. Music, buttons, posters...it was a competition. Who had what D2 merchandise no one had ever seen before? Who had stuff no one else could get? I remember thinking Leah had won because she went to freakin' Ireland and scored some stuff. But she brought some back for me as well, which I treasured with all my heart and still have in my parents attic.
Her mom is Irish and I was so fascinated by her accent. I thought Leah was so lucky to have a connection to a foreign country. Her dad was part of the JAG School at UVA and I had no experience around anyone from the military (in other words, he scared me). I guess we had a typical middle school friendship, talking too much in class, disagreements where you'd hang up on each other (what could these fights have been about? I have no idea), sleepovers and movies. The strongest memory, besides her laugh, was the day in 8th grade homeroom when she said: "Well, Celeste isn't the only one moving this summer." I cried. I think some kids stared at me and Leah probably told me to stop crying. Her and Celeste disappeared and I went off to Charlottesville High School a very shy, buck-toothed girl (braces in 9th grade, thank God). Luckily I was in the band, so I wasn't completely isolated!
We wrote to each other through high school and some of college. Her life was way more fun than mine. I actually told her recently I still have her letters & threatened to show them to her teenage daughter (heh heh). At some point, we lost touch. Who knows exactly how that happens, it may have been when she was in the Air Force, in Germany, probably. She appeared in Charlottesville in the late 90s , divorced and with a sweet curly blonde named Deirdre, who was 4. I was working at Barnes & Noble, living with Ethan, unmarried, no kids. It was a strange visit -- she was about to move near Boston (hotel management?). She was a mom, and I couldn't relate. I didn't think I even liked kids, Deirdre watched Barney on our tv, which I could barely stomach. Recently Leah said she was in a bad place during that visit, and we talked about how weird it was. Different places, different people.
AHH, but the miracle of Facebook! And then to find Leah in Crozet, VA of all places when we moved back east in 2007. The funny thing is, I always said we'd get together, but we never did, just did the Facebook comment thing. How lame! I found all sorts of old friends and then never really even tried to see them. I just always have had this complex (since a 5th grade drama) about whether or not people really liked me. Mark Cornick, of all people (some of you know him) was the one who told me I needed to let it go, and I pretty much took his advice.
So, when this whole tumor thing happened, Leah was right there. I was so comforted by her, and I wanted to hear what her story was, after all these years. She was with me the morning of the embolization, holding my hand during a seizure at Hotcakes. She told me she had ordered me a plush brain for me to play with in the hospital (ewww, but it's actually kind of adorable). She waited through the NICU nurses shift change (nearly an hour of the leaving nurses updating the arriving nurses) and saw me, bringing a bunch of gauze for a "turban party". We never got to that, damn it -- but I had mine on! She brought me an Irish Claddagh, which I've always wanted. She came with her teenage daughter Deirdre a few times, who is such a bright spirit and has Leah's humor. They were crackin' me up and it really helped my spirits, so much. To be apart for so long, and to have someone just show up to take care of you and to make sure you are okay, that's what I've been experiencing through all of this. I love you Leah!