Last Sunday I ripped my closet to pieces, looking for a scarf.
I was getting ready for a farewell lunch with my friend Nancy and was determined to wear the gift she gave me at Christmas. I had finally bought a colorful blouse to match it because I haven’t worn anything but black and white for years. I thought wearing her gift would be a significant statement about our accidental friendship–how she’d gotten me out of my shell, how she’d gotten me to wear something bright.
Because we’re both children’s authors, we were seated several years ago at a long table with our books at a kindergarten teachers’ convention. I’d recently moved to Minnesota and knew almost no one. Wallflower that I am, I was frozen in my chair.
Then Nancy walked down to my end and introduced herself, the kind of risk with a stranger that paralyzes me. We chatted tenuously at first, but I was smiling by the end. Our quiet personalities breathed easily with each other, as if we were always an intentional discovery, safe and understood in the way of true friends.
Back to the scarf. I looked everywhere, getting more desperate. Because we move next week, I knew it would likely be our last lunch for a long time. Maybe forever. You never know. That scarf was nowhere. So I reached for my standard black and white clothing, feeling guilty, worried that she’d think I didn’t appreciate her thoughtful gift.
We had a long lunch, catching up on the good and bad things we’d been through during the past months. Several hours passed, and still we hadn’t covered everything. We returned to my house and exchanged hugs and promises at the front door. She got in her car and delayed, rummaging in her purse or whatever.
I stood on the step, waiting to wave goodbye. I waited and waited while she searched.
Then a tiger swallowtail butterfly flew up out of our lilies. Its beautiful yellow wings shimmered in the sunlight as it zoomed toward her car and zipped up and down the length of it in a spontaneous blessing.
There was more.
From the other garden, a monarch darted over the lawn toward the first one. I know butterflies are becoming rare so seeing two at once made a breathtaking moment. The swallowtail backed away. The monarch circled closer until they flew in arcs, crisscrosssing each other’s paths. I believe it was an orange and yellow ballet about unexpected friendship.
Later that day, I found the scarf behind a pile of shoes, but it didn’t matter anymore. Now I understood the gift was not the scarf. It was Nancy.
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