Lost and Found Friend
I reconnected with an old friend today. Lisa and I worked together for Satan in hell – um, the SC DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice) – for almost a year. Neither one of us lasted a full year. I guess we were too much for even Satan to handle.
Lisa was young, idealistic, and full of energy, ideas, and courage. Right out of college she moved to the South from New York for a job teaching in a girls’ prison, not knowing anyone or even anything about grits. (“How do you eat a grit anyway?” Sorry, Lisa, I’ve never forgotten that one. I’m also glad to say that I’m the one who introduced you to the Southern delicacy!) I was 9 years older, going through a bitter divorce, and was bargaining with God to try to find a way to get out of finishing seminary. (“Ok, God. I’ll do ministry here with the kids in prison. Let’s do it my way, ok?”) We had adventures together, some really good times. Unfortunately, we got sucker punched – more often by the staff than by the prisoners – with more frequency than we had fun.
Oh, the stories we could tell! I have mostly blocked those stories from my readily-accessible memory. These were very dark, very difficult days, both professionally and personally. But the stories are there, buried just beneath the surface. They boil up from time to time – in dreams, or when I run across old pictures, or when I drive near a DJJ facility. When I do allow myself to remember, I know for certain that the only reason I survived was because Lisa was there with me. She was my kid sister, my friend, and my partner in crime. (How’s that for an interesting turn of phrase under the circumstances?!)
We stayed in touch for awhile after we both got kicked out of hell. Then, as too often happens, we lost contact. As best I can remember, it’s probably been 11 or 12 years since we last spoke. Memories resurfaced a few days ago and Anna and I reminisced about those DJJ days. “You ought to google Lisa, Mom.” Today I did. Thanks to the wonders of Google, the popularity of Facebook, and her not-too-common maiden name, I found her in seconds. I’ve now seen pictures of her beautiful family and her beautiful self. (The pictures remind me of why I called her my “kid” sister – geez, she’s a young thing!) I’ve read a few entries on her blog. I am thrilled to see that she seems to be living a very happy life now.
I look forward to the catch-up emails and the peeks into the windows of her life that Facebook and blogs will allow me. And now, after all these many years, I think I might even be ready to stare down the DJJ demons that I’ve held at bay for so long. They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well I’m still here and so is she. It might not have been pretty, but look at us now!