I was standing just inside the school doors on Sunday, my purse overflowing with necessary snacks and unnecessary books and all of it cutting into my shoulder. When I saw her.
Both of us here for church.
A year had passed since we’d patted each other’s shoulders, and before that, maybe seven more. But there she was, barely in the doors and already wiping a tear as she came. It made me wipe one, too.
Ten years ago, she had approached my teacher desk, her portfolio in hand, and while I’d sat legs apart and wearing my blouse like a circus tent, she had stood and bravely agreed to take over my high school classes while I left to have a baby. She was qualified. And kind. And yet I did not know if her qualifications and her kindness would survive the ravenous appetite of the teen boys in my classes. They would hear her speak. Her slight difficulty in pronouncing certain sounds. A horse accident. But they wouldn’t care. And they would pounce.
She was brave then.
And as I saw her on Sunday, I could tell. She is still brave.
Only. As I neared her with my opening arms and as our eyes flashed, connecting past with present, her name was far from me. Or it was close. I only knew that I could not grab it and wrap her in it.
And so I let my hands speak. And my eyes. And my understanding nods.
Until she stepped back and we held each other at arm’s length, in the building where we first met, and I said finally, “it’s so good to see you again, Barbara.”
And my spirit sighed with gratitude.
Yes, God. Barbara.
Her name is Barbara.