I'm writing this blog post three months after saying goodbye to Gaby, one of my dearest friends in Japan. It's taken me a while to find the words, and I'm not sure I can adequately express my feelings about the White family in a blog, but here goes.
The Whites were one of my most frequent clients. Gaby booked me for a birthday session before she even arrived in Nagoya.
We met shortly after they arrived, and we hit it off as friends, with mommy playdates to keep us sane before our littlest ones started preschool. We connected over our shared struggles with being Stay-At-Home-Mothers and adjusting to life in Japan. I tried to offer advice and support as I had arrived 7 or 8 months prior to Gaby, and to assure her that it gets easier, and that we would help each other through it, together with our newly founded Nagoya mama tribe.
We explored Japan together with the kids and without. When Brian left town for work we had many dinners together. When she came home one night to find that robbers had just fled, I arrived five minutes later on my bike, and we cried together over the shock of the loss of her feeling of safety in her home. She stayed in my home, her kids wore my kids' pajamas, slept in my kids' beds.
While I struggled through the most massive and life-altering spiritual and philosophical change of my life, she (along with our other Mama tribe members) held my hand, listened to me whine about the hard times, celebrated the good times, let me cry on her shoulder, supported and encouraged me throughout the process. She told me repeatedly, "You are strong; you're doing great; you can get through this; this will get easier." As I adjust to a new life in Italy now, I think of her voice in my head telling me these mantras.
There is nothing in this world like a friend who will listen to every complaint you have and commiserate with you and somehow at the same moment encourage you to keep trying your best and look at the world with hopeful eyes. There is nothing like a friend who will ride their bike to your house right after you send a desperate text for help, ready to offer whatever support you need. There is nothing like a friend who is experiencing a new expat life right along side you, who needs you as much as you need her, who can read your expression from across a crowded room and know exactly what you're thinking. There is nothing like knowing and loving your friend's children so much that they cry when you leave.
There is no one like Gaby, and there is no one like Braxton, and there is no one like Giuliana, and there is no one like Brian.
Every time I shoot a Day In The Life I am amazed by all the ways the parents show their love, and how different every parent is, but that the love is always there. With the Whites, I already knew how amazing they are with their children, but experiencing a Day In The Life with them just reminded me all the things I can learn from them.
Gaby is incredibly patient and fun-loving and caring, truly the heart of the family. When the kids wear her down, she takes a deep breath and puts on a happy face and muscles through it, singing funny songs and jumping around with them. I can hear her laugh now, as she tries to save G from a meltdown and they both end up in a puddle on the floor, laugh-crying together.
Brian is calm and steady, the rock of the family. He sets a calm tone and he patiently endures the tantrums and shares plenty of laughs with them.
Giuliana is incredibly brave and athletic for her age, and her independence may drive her parents crazy but it will take her to amazing heights one day.
Braxton is a sweetheart, and he called me "pwetty lady" for the first year I knew him. He sometimes begged me not to leave and cried, "But I LOVE you! I NEED you!" as I rode away reluctantly on my bike.
It's an understatement to say I miss Gaby and her family, but I can't find the words to say how I feel. They became family to us. And I'll cross my fingers that we will someday end up in the same town again, but until then, we'll be facetime-ing and texting and visiting each other to ease the pain of the loss and help each other though the next chapter of our lives.
You can watch their DITL slideshow here.