On Valentine’s Day, Natalie, Haley & Tommy

So…I’ll lay it out there. For 2009, there’s no Valentine for me in the traditional sense of the word. Moving on…why does that mean Valentine’s (in the elementary school sense) shouldn’t abound? I have been blessed with many wonderful friends, and recently there have been a few, specifically, that have come to mind. In lieu of little cardboard Care Bears notes, I’ve decided to dedicate a few posts this week to a couple of my wonderful friends; the people who help me “do life.”

Tonight I had coffee with Haley and Natalie, which was generally great but resulting in two things:

1. Having recently gone back to being “caffeine-free,” I’m still awake at 4am. I don’t think sleep will be coming anytime soon, unfortunately.

2. After I got home, I started thinking about “the good ‘ol days.” Cue the Boss.

I think everybody has several times in their life that live in romanticized memories–memories that are brought back by a song, a place, a story or even just a word. A couple of words about a previous job for one of us (and I’m leaving it as vague as that) reminded me of the four months that made up my last semester of college in the Fall of 2004.

On the surface (and honestly, kinda below) it was one of the suckiest times of my life – I was graduating a semester late, my mentor (who was also the professor of my one “fun” class) left Samford, I lost my job and along with it a big social outlet, AND I was living in a craphole of an apartment. (Which was awesome at the time but, in hindsight, really was a craphole. I mean, seriously. The people were awesome but the apartment itself gets more disgusting in my memory. No romanticizing there.) During this time I made some awful decisions, awful grades and sank into a drab routine of going to work – my two new jobs – and going to Barnes and Noble. While I loved my roommates, I started to pull away because there were three, sometimes four, people at home and I didn’t have a moment to myself. The effects of living in such close quarters, while great for the pocketbook, definitely put me on the path to introversion (where I currently reside and burrow down).

Even with all of this, I count these four months as some of the best times because it solidified two of the strongest friendships I have today as well as gave me a friend who helped me more than I think I can even realize now. The lineup:

1. Natalie Stone: Natalie and I met through a common roommate, Amy Harlan. Amy’d been my roommate during our sophomore year at Samford and at the time Natalie and I met (in the Spring of 2004), Amy and Natalie were currently roommates. I’m not sure if we’d met before this, but the first time I remember hanging out with Natalie was when we, along with Amy, planned dinner at Surin West…but Amy wasn’t able to make it. By the time summer rolled around, we knew each other enough to converse easily for a few minutes whenever our Student Life teams rolled through the same town.

After the summer we were both back at Samford…with no one else our age really left around. A last minute road trip to Atlanta in nearly December – complete with a mall-meal with Geoff and Sam and coffee with a member of a certain band (which hadn’t invoked my disgust, as of yet) – secured our friendship. It secured it so tightly that the trip ended with a 2am handshake: we were moving to Nashville. The next weekend we were in Nashville looking for apartments and a few more trips to job and apartment hunt, plus graduation, Christmas and New Year’s, we moved in late January 2005.

Having the first month sans jobs made us even closer friends and I still think of that “unit” of Natalie, Haley and I as “the roommates.” When Natalie and I worked together at PSB, it was one of the easiest jobs ever. Somehow, even though we were around each other 95% of the waking-day, we didn’t want to kill each other.** I think the reason it this: Natalie is my friend who hears me out – really listens – but also works with me through the process of figuring things out. She doesn’t discourage me from new ideas or opportunities, but she remembers my past experiences and reminds me of them. She helps me see before-hand what I’m getting into, which always makes life easier.

The same characteristics are, coincidentally, what make her a top-notch drinking buddy, too.

2. Haley Bragg: Haley and I met through Student Life, which sometimes bugs me and sometimes makes me grateful because I know I wouldn’t have met her otherwise. We became fantastic friends over the summer but like most friendships founded shared experiences of EXACT nature, I wasn’t sure if I’d actually be able to keep in touch with someone when they weren’t within twenty feet of me at all times. After the summer, Haley went home to Jackson while I went back to Samford.

Almost immediately, the phone calls began. I can honestly say that in my entire life, I’ve never talked to anyone on the phone as much as I’ve talked to Haley Bragg. Our living situations were pretty much only similar in that they’d changed drastically from the same time of the previous year, and I just hope that I was as good a person to help her deal with that change as she was with me. Every night when I’d take “my drive” (Homewood –> 280 –> 119 –> 31 –> Homewood) the first call I’d make would be to Haley, where we’d deconstruct the day in all its excitement or mundanity. I remember laughing for minutes on the phone without saying anything, hanging up only to have forgotten something funny and call back. Compared to my roommates (pretty much my core group of friends at the time) Haley was my outside-observer friend and I think she was the key player in not making me totally despondent. When Natalie and I decided to move to Nashville, it only took Haley saying she might be interested to have me start looking at three bedroom apartments.

Haley went from being my outside-observer to being in my inner-circle. I’ve continued to value her as someone who will let me talk about anything, no matter how small. Haley reminds me, without doing anything in particular, of how exciting it is to be alive. I’d like to imagine that if we ever move to separate cities, we’d still have frequent phone calls.

3. Tommy Kinnaird: On the nightly drives I described earlier, and even on into my drives in Tennessee (Cool Springs –> Old Hickory –> Hillsboro –> Franklin –> Cool Springs), Tommy was the second call. Sometimes even a middle of the day, this day blows, call. I also met Tommy during the summer of ’04; I’m not saying this to upset anyone or seem ungrateful, but Tommy is the first friend I had that discussed God and Jesus as related to my life in a way that didn’t make me roll my eyes. This isn’t to say that no one had ever pointed out the work of God in my life, or that I’d never noticed it myself, but only that Tommy had a sincerity and focus that I hadn’t always experienced. Even though we only hung out randomly – either on trips to Kentucky where we both ended up in the same town, or on his work trips through Nashville – we could still talk about anything. Jobs, family, relationships and the abstracts: stress, belief…we talked about things that I don’t even open up with people about now. Tommy offered perspective and insight and, best of all, a good listening ear.

Unlike Haley and Natalie, I haven’t talked to Tommy in two, maybe three years, which is very unfortunate. This should be a resolution of mine…

I know that it’s easy to gloss things over…still, these were really great times and they resulted in friendships that remain meaningful.

Love these guys.

*If, when initially reading this line, you sang it in the same cadence as Warrant’s Cherry Pie, you win!



One thought on “On Valentine’s Day, Natalie, Haley & Tommy

  1. Pingback: The Brooke-line « The Unreliable Narrator

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