There was a blond woman in an oversized down jacket and muddy trekking boots with a black dog on the leash approaching the tiny golf club reception I was hanging around at. The girl working there said “Oh, Jessy is coming to visit. You know, xy’s (a local member of the golf club) dog. He lives up at Harry K.’s house with all the other tennis trainers.” The secretary didn’t know the womans name, but it must be xy’s girlfriend, as she was seen walking Jessy regularly. Thus, I was introduced to the woman known by a dog and its owners name.
At that time, I lived and worked in Graz, but had recently met my husband-to-be, a golf professional working in a very remote, but touristy area some 80 km south-east of Graz. So I spent my weekends at this golf club, mainly hanging around at the reception, bored, waiting, as, of course, weekends were busy working times for my boyfriend. In turn, his Mondays off, he would spend bored at my place in Graz, waiting for me to finish my work.
Having all this time at hand, I was happy to meet Mrs. walking-someones-dog. Turned out, she is American, does have a name and works in Graz, too. Teaching English at the university. So we arranged to meet in Theatercafe in Graz for a beer and a chat. Away from the sports-obsessed guys in our lives, we never stopped talking for hours. Thus, a friendship started some 24 years ago, that has enriched my life to an extend I can’t begin to describe.
A couple of months after meeting this woman, I moved to the little village, giving up my job to live with my boy-friend. My new friend welcomed me and my few worldly belongings into a spare room in her basement, as my boyfriend just had one room in an old farmhouse he shared with all sorts of sports trainers working at the big spa or the golf course in the village. I knew nothing about golf, back then. But I was young, in love and adventurous enough, to just go ahead and give it a try. Not for long and I had wiggled myself into a part time job at the golf reception. A year later, we rented our own house until we left for Germany start of 1995. All this time, my friend and I with our men and their buddies were like one big family. The guys enjoying their various sports activities together, we two taking long walks with Jessy, talking. Hanging out on my friends beautiful porch overlooking the hills, smoking. All the while discussing work, life, the men, books. Swopping gardening expertise. Playing Scrabble. Everybody gathering in the evenings either at their or our house for a barbecue or cooked dinner, blissfully reviewing the days events.
Later – my friend had talked me into signing up for a course at her university – she also became my English teacher. Again, endless fuelling for exchange. It was kind of weird, taking a class with your closest friend being your teacher. But even allowing for the bias, our friendship might have had on my opinion, to this day I insist, she is the best teacher I have had, ever.
On hindsight, the few years in this village were the happiest in my life. And this is not, because I was always so happy, back then. I had to come to terms with a new profession, had to get used to live with a man and a relationship, run a bigger house than I was used to (tiny, one-room appartements only, so far), find my way with two different societies (the golf crowd, our customers, and the rural, local crowd) and so on. But to get to know this woman and share my life, thoughts and feelings made it all so easy. Her and her husband’s hospitality and open-mindedness were as heartwarming as it were unknown to me, before. I grew to trust this woman with every problem, fear or thought bugging me.
Twenty years ago, my path of life steered me northwards and away from this lively, colourful community in southern Austria. But 1.000 km geographical distance never left the slightest dent in the bond connecting me to what I consider to be my real home of the heart by now. There is no going back home visiting Austria without also visiting my friend and her family.
Whenever there is chaos in my head or any sort of trouble, she would be there, listening. Asking questions. Giving her honest opinion. Her mind seems to work so different from mine. I often get blurred within. Whenever there is major conflict between what my intellect says versus what my emotions dictate, the fuzz just bubbles up. In crucial situations, I usually just shut down, if this happens, pushing everything aside. Stashing all away in a corner of myself, unable to solve the problem. There it simmers for a while, at times even for years, until a similar occasion arises and everything floats back up once again. If I am lucky, this second time over I am wiser, have learned some and might be able to cope. Chances are, I am not. But with my friend around, new light is shed on most everything presenting itself. Her structured way of thinking, her logic and intellect, paired with her noble heart, have always helped me. Without my friend, I would be at a loss, I know. I dearly love this woman. Despite her beating me at Scrabble every single time.