Because I knew You – Guest Post by Natalie Soldano

Today it is my great pleasure to introduce you to Natalie Soldano.  Natalie and I met through our husbands, and we share an interesting commonality: Natalie and I are both English majors who married engineers.  Her husband and my husband are close friends, and inevitably Natalie and I found plenty to talk, laugh, and cry about (all quite normal in the life of writers!).

I love stories about family that comes from unexpected places.  A broken relationship among blood relatives doesn’t mean that nothing will ever mend the break or replace what was lost, and I see that redemptive transcendence in Natalie’s story.  Natalie is a heartfelt and graceful writer.  I’ll let you see the rest with your own eyes. **********************************************************************************************************************************************

At the zoo.

BECAUSE I KNEW YOU

by Natalie Soldano

It all started with a fraternity, as most good stories do.

But this story is not about pranks or dirty boy smell. No, this fraternity was the setting for romance: a brother in love and a God who gave me a sister-in-law in my life who helped me fit in my own family.

See, my family fractured early.  By the ages of 17 and 12, my brother and I were navigating the tremors and change of divorce, drifting more apart than together to the point where our five-year age difference could feel more like 50.   When he was off to college, it was hard to know where I fit.  My nomadic lifestyle between parents could be isolating. I was figuring out who I was as a daughter, a sister, and out in the world.  Peacemaker? Drama queen? Wavemaker? Wallflower? Meanwhile, my brother was living his story and help was on its way.

Now when he could be bothered to date, I didn’t like any of my brother’s girlfriends.  They were too loud.  They were too flirty.  They were too everything.

Then came the summer of 1999. We were at the drive-in and my big brother sat slumped down in his seat, announcing that he had met someone. My dad and I looked at each other. This was different. I remember it clearly: Mystery Men was about to start, we were chewing Starburst, and my brother was very serious.  He looked over at me and pathetically said that if I didn’t like her, then “It would be a big problem.” Worry creased his forehead.

The first time I met her, I was sitting on his top bunk at his fraternity when she walked in, completely lovely in a simple pair of overalls.  She had been in the other room “writing letters.”  She was sweet, super mellow, soft-spoken.  She laughed.  She didn’t take up all the air in the room.  She talked to me, made eye contact, listened to what this little sister had to say.

She could relate.

She softened my brother.  And as Depeche Mode played in the background, I watched them and it was clear: they just worked.

Sold.

When they broke up for a time, I could have killed him.  When my serious boyfriend broke up with me from another country, my brother called with some of her words.  She sent me cards.

She could relate.

At my wedding.

Did I ever picture my brother married? No. Becoming president? Yes, but not married.  I don’t think any sister can picture someone who spent years making them cry “uncle” and throwing their cat down the stairs having a wife and a mortgage. But married they were and it was official–the sister I’d always wanted. Who would leave my cat alone.

We ended up at the University of Washington at the same time, me working on an undergrad while she got her Master’s in Teaching.  We hit up the gym.  She was the first familiar face I saw on my 20th birthday.  We were staring at each other when we got the call that my grandmother had passed away. We mixed bad drinks to help blur my bad breakup.

She could relate.

Whenever there was a storm in the family, I knew there was Amber.  No sides, just Amber. Calm. Curing problems with ice cream. Always encouraging and interested in my life.  “You can do it, Nat” she would say when I felt like a failure or was trying something new.  She never made me feel like less or doubtful, just uplifted and seen.

It has now been nine years of camping trips, Christmas baking, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and family dance parties in the kitchen.  Veteran in-law Amber has helped my rookie husband learn the ropes of coming into the family fold.  She is the mother to my super-cool niece and nephew, two of my favorite people in the world.  We share shoes.  She was in my wedding because I couldn’t imagine it any other way. She asks my opinion. I need her advice.

Ms. Amber, because I know you, our family feels complete. It’s as if you have always been a part of my life. I have observed your gentle spirit and have admired your faith, infinite patience, and mothering.  You are an example to me in grace, diligence, and creativity. You are humble. You are family and a friend.

You are also the bravest woman on earth, first agreeing to marry my brother and then to be forever bound to my family.  You deserve a medal, but we’ll have to settle for words and your next pint of ice cream on me.  Cookie dough or mint chocolate chip?

__________________________________________________________________

Natalie Soldano is a writer whose first story followed the life of tiny twin sisters on stilts.  She’s hopefully come a long way since that typewritten tale.  Now she lets God lead the way with her words while trying not to fear what He might have her say.  She can usually be found on the hunt for a great cup of coffee or her pen and trying not to burn dinner. Musicals and milk are her love language. She muses on all of the above at This Chickadee and endures the rain with her husband, elderly cat, and five chickens in Seattle, WA.

About Elise

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015), a finalist for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year. She lives in Seattle with her family. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Author Elise Stephens on Facebook.

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