Wednesday, April 11, 2007

April 1992

I met Soccer Mom 15 years ago this month, when we were both volunteering at a display of the Names Project AIDS Quilt in New Orleans. We were both relatively new to the city (especially by local standards...you can live here 50 years and still be an outsider to some), and young and adorable. Our jobs as volunteers was to help visitors find specific panels of loved ones, pass out tissues and listen. Sounds simple enough, right?

It was in my second day of volunteering that I bonded with SMID, and we started tag-teaming the visitors. There may have been fewer visitors to The Quilt that day, but they stayed longer...and many of them were moms. Having tested HIV positive less than a year prior to that weekend, they all started to look like my mom. And she didn't know yet.

Then we met Caledonia, still one of the most beautiful women I think I've ever seen. She talked on and on about her son, and I can't remember if his panel was even at this exhibition. As she talked, a few tears trickled down here face--but she wasn't so devestatingly sad...she was radiant. How she loved him, and how tenderly she spoke of his life and their wonderful relationship. I thought to myself, "When I grieve, please let it be like this." (At this point, I hadn't begun to think about my status in terms of mortality. Some parts shock, some parts denial.)

A little way off from us was a woman, clearly on a mission but unable to locate her son's panel. So, the four of us now set off to find it - a sensationally fabulous panel, gaudy - lovely - sparkly - and very personal, as they all are. I confess that I don't remember her name (or his), perhaps because little else registered after she started talking about managing her son's adult film career. SMID and I were a bit speechless (if you can imagine that of either of us), but Caledonia took over and started asking the mom questions - when was he born, what his favorite foods were, was he a gardener...and soon they were chatting like old friends. Soccer Mom and I backed away and let the moment spin.

I remember so much from that day...the hugs and the tears, and yes, the laughter too. I made a new friend in SMID...and walked away from the weekend knowing that when it was time to tell my mother that her worst fears were true, that it would be OK.

And it was...and I'm still here, 15 years later.

2 comment(s):

Jenn Taylor

I am moved by your story and a friendship that spans the years. Congratulations on both having made a deep lasting connection with a friend, and still being here 15 years later.
Hurrah for that!

jenn in holland

Anonymous

SMID -

=sniff= I cannot believe it has been 15 years. How empty my life was before you came. I am the richer woman for having a friend like you.

But I beg to differ on one point. I am still adorable!

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