We have known each other for more than two decades. (I wonder when I will get used to using this type of reference. Anything with a decade included makes me feel old or like I am becoming my parents-- but I digress.) I met her because she was dating a friend of my cousin. I had dropped out of college when my pre-med studies were not going as planned and moved to Europe to sort out my life. We enjoyed getting to know each other. But I am not sure I would have guessed then how our connection would root and grow. She was a few years younger than me and still in high school. We bonded over the joy of being together and issues common to your late teens and early twenties.
The kids play like cousins – also completely at ease with each other despite their limited physical contact and language challenges. We laugh because her blond children look like they should be mine and my dark haired ones more resemble her. Given her abiding love of Africa, we enjoy the irony that I am the one to have a child who was born there. My kids must have picked up on our relationship because my three year old asked if she was, “Auntie Cindy?” And separately, my then ten year old son asked if Cindy was my sister. I love both questions because they reflect what I feel in my being. The answer to both is a resounding “Yes, in all the ways that count.”
We spent the week in a duplicated row house across from Cindy’s family home with the spiral staircases that uniquely challenged my 6'2' husband. Seven kids and four adults was just too much for one small three story Dutch abode. We shared amazing home cooked meals Cindy prepared which reflected the diversity of her experience in Africa, India and Indonesia. And we found so many reasons to laugh, from the accented words spoken by all in tongues unfamiliar to them, to inside jokes and memories that seems to naturally await to surprise and delight around each turn. We revisited a small restaurant on the canals where Cindy and I share one of our most memorable experiences. Cindy and my eldest are pictured enjoying a more relaxing experience this time.
Then I was visiting with my 18 month old Damian. Cindy’s eldest was about one year. We were sharing a morning coffee with babies in strollers, completely engrossed in our conversation. The waiter approached with a worried look and asked if I was missing anything because a man had been bending down behind my son’s stroller. I checked and sure enough my wallet was gone. Cindy sprung into action and ran in the direction the waiter indicated for the fleeing pick pocket. Amazingly within moments, that seemed an eternity at that time, she returned proudly waving my black purse in her hand wearing a satisfied grin.
I asked her what transpired. She said she caught up to the man and yelled, “Give me back the wallet or I’ll kill you.” She surmised that the fact that she was still speaking English to the Dutch thief in addition to the threat was too much. He hurled my precious belonging directly at her and sped off the opposite way. One thing you must know about Cindy to fully appreciate this story is that she is almost always well put together in a dress and heels. This day was no exception. She sprinted like a heroine in an action movie -- the one where you think, "No one dressed like that could or would be moving that quickly or easily."