We crossed over cobblestone sidewalks on King Street, arm in arm, with warm chocolate covered praline samples melting in our mouths. We toasted our near thirty years of friendship over dinners of seafood, grits, and fried green tomatoes. We marveled at Rainbow Row and smooshed up against each other in a horse drawn carriage traveling through the historic streets of Charleston. We shopped through the city market and found necklaces depicting the South Carolina Angel Oak that we soon thereafter adopted as a symbol of our friendship and bought for treasured twin tokens.
Traci and I hadn’t seen each other in a smidge shy of six years and yet from the moment of our first hello hug, all time and distance between vanished. Genelle is my constant. She calls on the majority of days for a ten-minute chat and next to my mother has soothed more tears and incited more smiles than any person in my life.
Traci, Genelle, and I have known each other since age 12. This past year marked our fortieth birthdays and so we celebrated with a trip to Charleston. Over the course of four days we laughed until tears streamed down our faces reliving our junior high, high school, and college days. And with each story remembered I felt myself centering and pulling back to a place of pure authenticity. To a place where all of those robes of different roles and responsibility – mother, lawyer, boss, building owner – fell away.
I know I am lucky to have had them beside me for each and every of my fleeting triumphs and glorious failures. I could draw out the metaphor of their support like the sturdy trunk and complex branches of the angel oak and how their shelter similar to the safe haven of angels – but you knew already they are my Angel Oak.
We all have those people in our lives. Those people that in their presence you are reminded with ease of who you are despite your mistakes and flaws. Those people who know you may be messy, but focus on the fact that you are kind. Those people who surround you with faithful friendship and unconditional support. Those people with whom you ignore all urges to pretend to be someone you simply are not and are free to be genuine.
Whether it be a former teacher, a colleague, a favorite neighbor, or your junior high best friend, you know someone in your life who in their presence you feel like the best version of yourself. Someone you feel safe in their presence to say the words “I am scared” or “I am so tired and sad I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning” or “I cannot remember what happiness feels like.” In your divorce days – or any of the hardest days you encounter – seek out your angel oak. They will fly you back to yourself and ground you in what’s important, and be that strength you so need.