On my 41st birthday, she made me dinner, got a beautiful cake with buttercream frosting, and gathered people around to sing to me. My husband was working out of town and I had a new baby and an almost four-year-old. There were gifts too, sweet and unexpected, a book I might find time to read, a pretty dish, a piece of Japanese cloth.
“See what I have to put up with?” I joked to one of her friends, there for me. “For over twenty years, it’s been nothing but give give give.” She smiled and kept moving, clearing up, corralling people into the living room, but it was really the dining room, a low chandelier with no table under it, we kept hitting our heads. My family and I were in her living room, futons filling up the floor, our stuff overflowing from duffels on the couches around the edge of the room, homeless.
It was temporary. I had a job lined up, and Scott was working two hours away. Liza was six weeks old and Lena liked all the people in the house distracting her from losing me to her baby sister. We were looking for a place to live, and would move soon. Meanwhile we were in her loving orbit.
This friend, Big Lena, all five feet one and three quarters inches of her, gave herself so generously to us, her house, the people that gathered wherever she was because they knew too what she was and they felt so loved in her presence.
I still am in wonder that I get to call her best friend.