We were living in a typical California neighborhood where everyone extended a greeting to newcomers. Making friends here was quick and easy. Yet this was a culture shock for life-long New Englanders who traditionally live more private lives. The house across the street had been newly sold. Now someone else was completely renovating it. We watched piles of flooring and building materials being added daily to the dumpster outside. As someone who loved to design and build houses, this intrigued me as I silently watched the invisible interior renovation from my window, amazed at how much of the house was being rebuilt.
Suddenly, one day the place was quiet and the workers gone. If someone had moved in, I had certainly missed it. The following week, I noticed a beautiful young woman kneeling and working at a flowerbed in her front yard. Putting my New England privacy aside and pretending to be California-friendly, I strolled across the street and wandered up the front walk behind her. My one word greeting, “Hi” seemed to startle her and she looked up at me. I awkwardly introduced myself. I may have also welcomed her to the neighborhood, but I really don’t remember the details, except that I was feeling like an intruder.
Her name was Shannon and we exchanged pleasantries for a short time. I offered assistance. She nodded, and then I walked back home feeling like a fish out of water. Typically, old New Englanders don’t impose themselves on anyone (we have a reputation for being cold), but if circumstances are right we can become life-long friends. I hoped that I hadn’t offended her.
Luckily, Shannon is not easily insulted, and we eventually became buddies, chatting over coffee. I treasured those moments when she and I shared a serious discussion. Even though we had distinctly different lives and we were a generation apart, we easily bonded. Her husband, Tim, was a super sweet guy who planted an avocado tree in our yard and took us (and my visiting niece and family) on an adventurous tour of their nearby ranch.
Shannon’s two young and very polite boys were a joy to watch skateboarding on our street. The younger, Cody was learning fast and keeping up with his big brother. Cole loved to rummage through my boxes of electronic gadgets and asked surprisingly intelligent questions for his age. He also took a copy of the computer program that I wrote (it kept track of what was where), called “Bit Bucket,” and applied it to his own world.
Shannon and I also became friends with our elderly neighbor, Madeline. The three of us would celebrate our birthdays together, representing three generations of women. After three years, Shannon and her family moved away. I missed having them nearby even though they had moved just across town. Gratefully, we still kept in touch. And then a few years later, my husband Ajay and I moved to Georgia. Our communications continued via e-mail and texts, as well as occasionally on Facebook. We could always pick up where we left off without skipping a beat.
One day out of the blue, she contacted me about her Warrior Woman project and asked if I would agree to an interview for her book. We spent a couple days at the Cliff House, an ocean side resort in Maine, chatting like old pals and sharing secrets. Her warmth, curiosity, compassion and intelligent queries helped me to recall my many years of life experiences. Shannon created the story’s theme and the rest, as they say, is soon to be published.
I will always be grateful for this remarkable woman’s friendship, her presence in my life, and her interest in me. I am especially grateful that she created S.H.E., gathering women of various ages, from diverse parts of the world, who are supportive of each other even if they don’t know one another. May SHE create an atmosphere that transcends cultures and superficial differences.
Thank you, Shannon, dear fellow Wacky Woman. May you succeed beyond your wildest dreams.