December 12, 2008

Twenty Something / Christina Capecchi

Solving problems with Maria: The power of friendship

Growing up six miles from a cousin who is six weeks your junior provides fertile foundation for friendship. Ours didn’t disappoint.

Maria and I attached quickly, and we broadcast that bond with matching attire. Identical shirts. Duplicate necklaces. And twin magenta visors that Grandma decorated with puff paint. Even our names had a similar ring: Maria Louise, Christina Marie.

In spite of those saintly selections, we wanted to be wild. We saved coins to buy candy cigarettes, flicking them in slow, dramatic puffs.

We wanted to be brave, but when we camped out in a backyard tent, a strange sound paralyzed us in fright and we screamed bloody murder.

Above all, we wanted to be together.

We loved having sleepovers. Our parents forbade Grease, but we adored The Sound of Music, and our viewing habits were in sync: We fast forwarded through “Climb Every Mountain,” not relating to the slow-motion scene, and rewound “Sixteen, Going on Seventeen.”

Our cousins were all younger, which gave us license to be bossy. Under our expert tutelage, the Capecchi cousins re-enacted “So Long, Farewell” in basements at birthday parties. As co-directors, Maria and I enjoyed the prerogative of casting ourselves in the prime roles, which meant we alternated as Leisel, yearning for champagne.



Over the years, our interests and appetites advanced along a similar arc. We played soccer against each other. We carpooled and contributed to the same teen newspaper.

And then, before we knew it, we were both packing up and moving off to college to be noble English majors: Maria north, me south.

We stayed in close touch. Frequent e-mails. Some letters. And occasional visits, when we whispered in our dorms until someone nodded off. More than ever, it seemed, there was so much to discuss. We were trying to uncover God’s will for our lives, untangling it from others’ expectations and our doubts.

We were still joyful, but life had become more complicated. It was so helpful to talk it through, knowing, for once, there was no need to mask raw emotion or censor half-formed thoughts. I knew that I could solve any problem with Maria.

She began graduate school right after college and then got a job. I started with a job, then moved on to graduate school. When she sensed my exhaustion there, she validated it. If she had survived to tell her own horror stories, I would, too. It gave me new energy to keep climbing my mountain.

And that was the other thing: We were noticing tell-tale signs of getting older, which, experienced together, made them a little less freaky. Like that never-ending nun song—it had become meaningful—inspiring, even.

Maria and I have searched “high and low” for the dreams we are meant to pursue. And today, we are kneeling at their entrance, inhaling deeply and thanking God.

When Maria told me she was engaged to John, we rejoiced. It was, like so many moments before, a Visitation of our own, joy shared so swiftly and fully it causes the Christ within to leap, sparked by an electric current of the Holy Spirit.

“For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,” (Lk 1:44) Elizabeth told Mary, her heart leapt for joy.

This month, when we remember Mary’s life-changing news, we celebrate friendship, the bonds that keep us warm when it is cold outside.

I will stand beside Maria, the bride, and smile. We may not be wild, but we are two for three: brave and together.

(Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She can be reached at

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