Friend #30: Kendra

From Billings, I drove allllllllll the way across North Dakota to Glyndon, Minnesota where Kendra was steam-cleaning the carpet in her newly acquired house.  Along the way, I had a delightful lunch stop in Glendive, Montana at The Coffee Den, a definite small-town cafe, which offers one sandwich, one salad, two soups, and a dessert each day.  But they had wifi!  Western North Dakota boasts Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which had a series of many mounds made of striped rock with red tips.  Joe from Billings said that the landforms were made by bursts of burning coal underground.  I missed taking a picture because I was on the phone with my roommate back in LA.  She said, “It’s probably grassland there.”  And wouldn’t you know, I immediately passed a sign for the “Little Missouri National Grassland.”  That roommate of mine knows her geography and geology!

About when the landscape of North Dakota started to get boring, the skies started to get exciting with a series of thunderstorms.  Unfortunately, North Dakota does NOT need the rain.  Even the southern part of the state, where I was traveling, was experiencing flooding.  Two different parts of I-94 were almost shut down.  It was down to one lane in each direction with large barriers holding back water, which probably would have reached about 2 feet deep.  Still, I was fascinated by the clouds in the sky.

The barrier holding water off of Interstate 94, so it was still passable.

Clouds over central North Dakota

When I got in touch with Kendra about visiting, she mentioned that she would be in the midst of moving, which I thought was perfect timing.  I lived in a Ann Arbor, a quintessential college town, for 8 years.  My busiest August, I helped 17 or 18 people move in 30 days.  Moving was a fact of life, and so I got really good at it, and I was excited to be able to help Kendra move into her new home.

I met Kendra my first night in Los Angeles.  She was a fellow intern in the program that brought me to LA.  It was actually Kendra who I spoke to before I even got into town, who helped me with logistics and getting settled in.  At the time, she was only 20, but she was wise beyond her years.  She’d also done the same internship the previous summer, so she was the veteran of the crew, a good person to have around to show you the ropes.  There were a lot of laughs that summer.  She was borrowing a car from a local family that summer that we dubbed “The Humblemobile” because it was so old.  Our accommodations were excruciatingly hot, and then one of the feet of the box fan broke, making it dance around in a circle repeatedly.

Kendra stuck around for a little while after that summer, but eventually moved back to North Dakota where she was from.  Then she moved to Chicago for a bit, and she and I met up when I was visiting there one summer.  We sat down to coffee, and pretty soon she told me some life-changing news: “I’m pregnant.”  It was early enough along that she was still swimming in a lot of confusion.  But I remember her expressing excitement at the prospect of parenting: choosing how to form and shape a human being.  It was cloudy that summer day in Chicago with the kind of midwestern pre-storm suffocation when the pavement radiates heat the the sky weighs heavy with the threat of rain.  But the rain eventually does come and cools the air, sweetens the breeze, and makes the pavement glisten as the sun breaks through the clouds.  On the best of days, there might even be a rainbow.  And it was clear to me even that day in Chicago, that Kendra would persevere and become a fantastic mom, that there would be eventually be some cool relief from the presently stifling pressure.

Kendra and I connected again when she came to Los Angeles for a wedding of our mutual friends.  I got to meet beautiful little Hadley.  And Kendra was glowing.  Much of the storm had passed, and while she still had her struggles, she was much stronger, much steadier, and carried with her even more wisdom than she had before.

A few months ago, I found out through Facebook that Kendra had gotten married.  Her husband Jordan seemed to be great for her and great with Hadley, as much as you can tell that sort of thing from Facebook.  But I remember being so touched by the beauty of it all, the power of their redemptive story.  So I was thrilled to get to see Kendra and Hadley again, meet Jordan, and be a part of getting them all settled into their new life.  Jordan is steady and sure and so incredibly amazing with Hadley.  And he adopted Hadley and it just became final last week.  He’s an engineer, which perfectly counters Kendra’s creativity (she runs a very successful photography business).  And Hadley is verbal and charming.  After the long day of moving, she was a little cranky.  We were getting out of the car and she looked at me and said,”I’m a little bit tired, but I sang a song and that made me happy.”  Awesome.

Hadley being a little bit shy.

And thankfully, in the midst of moving, Kendra and I did get some time to catch up.  I can’t even describe what my connection with her is like.  I even brought it up to her to try to find words, but I couldn’t.  It’s easy and close and we pick up right where we left off and all of that.  But it’s more.  Kendra keeps it real, just about as much as anybody I know.  So we go deep in a heartbeat.  But it’s more.  And I just don’t have words for it.  And maybe that’s OK.  As the sun set over the fields adjacent to their new house, I was bursting with hope and joy for this new family’s new life together.  And knowing what this family trekked through, it’s beautiful.  I think U2 sums up my time in North Dakota best: After the flood, all the colors came out.

Kendra and Hadley on the front porch of their new house (Jordan was at the old place supervising the movers)

Close-up

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One Response

  1. Nice U2 reference 😀 Now if we all can just see a bird with a leaf in her mouth

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