What Happened?

I was sitting with friends tonight, friends we’ve known for the past few years. They’re much the same as G and I, a team effort, several countries, a family, away from home.

“So what’s your biggest strength?” I asked her after a couple of glasses of wine.

She thought. Silence.

“No I shouldn’t ask you, I’ll ask him” I turned to her husband.

“What’s her biggest strength?”

He thought for a moment.

“It’s her. It’s who she is. She’s so adaptable.”

And then she said it – the thing we don’t ever give ourselves credit for.

“My biggest strength is my strength. I spent my 20’s being so concerned about people liking me, my 30’s have been about not caring if they do. I’m okay. Travelling has taught me that I’m really strong. When I worked that out, that was my biggest strength.”

When they left I packed the dishwasher, took the garbage out and sat down at my computer. A friend from my Jakarta days who I’d met 14 years ago had posted this shot. My first baby with hers. Our first babies, our first baby group.

jakarta

I thought about how I’d perched her (second from right) carefully on the seat please don’t cry please don’t cry, how terrified I was of breaking her, how fiercely protective I was. Apart from one we were all first time mothers, all of us away from home, unsure, uncertain. Amateurs who talked a good game.

Over time we became professionals: sleep patterns, food allergies, plane flights. We all moved, changed locations, kept in contact, more babies. Growing stronger, building strength, we found it – our strength.

What’s your biggest strength?

It’s inside, deep, that’s my strength.

This week two of the boys turn 14. “What happened to my baby?” my girlfriend asked.

He grew. What happened to you?

You did too.

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