13 years

It was really the closing of a chapter when I pulled out of her driveway the last time.  Possibly several chapters.  The first time I pulled in that drive I was a freshmen in high school.  The first time I pulled in driving my own fabulous vehicle came just a year or so later.  See ya later parents.  I don’t need your rides anymore.

Chapter 1:  The High School Years

I would come over in trashy outfits that at the time I didn’t realize were trashy.  We’d share hideous make-up and go out with all of our other friends who looked similar to us and dance to songs that would make your momma blush. Unfortunately.

We’d put our hair in rollers and slap on dance team uniforms and dance at pep rallies and travel to other cities together to compete.  One time we went to compete in St. Louis and of the few things I remember, I recall that we all put on our letter jackets and walked around a mall connected to our hotel and took pictures.  The letter jackets may have been modest but they are equally as embarassing looking as the trashy clothes.  I think the only time letter jackets should’ve been accepted as a fashion trend was in the 50’s at a little diner sharing milkshakes with your steady guy.  Luckily, that’s the only time I remember wearing my letter jacket.  Some mistakes take years to realize.  Then there are other things like catching the reflection of your sailor collar in the window and realizing that something on your body has gone terribly wrong.

Also, in this chapter we have to include boys.  Boys.  And also, boys.  Heartbreak, embarrassing choices, and dramatic responses to the above aforementioned heartbreak and embarrassments. 

End chapter one.

Chapter 2:  College Years

Here we find ourselves in the middle of a time where our friendship was strained and we both separately went in similar directions but at different paces and with other people by our side.  We grew closer to the Lord.  Figured ourselves out in light of these things and we changed as people.  I missed her and her friendship painfully through these years.  There are 5 or 6 things I’ve prayed fervently for in the past 10 years of so of my life.  She was one of them.  Specifically, for the healing of our friendship.  Thankfully there was another chapter to this story.  Also thankfully, she got braces during these years.  Not because her smile was bad but more because the older you get, the more awkward it is to get braces so might as well strap them on as soon as the urge hits you.  Smile on pretty lady, smile on.

Chapter 3:  We Are Getting Old/A friendship healed and then some

Now we find ourselves adults.  This still includes making music videos which is a practice that must never die.  I got a video camera this year and I suppose I will make them alone if nothing else.   

During this chapter, I get married at the very beginning.  I spend years talking to her about marriage and I can’t wait for her to meet someone so I’ll have someone else to talk to about this marital business. 

Also in this chapter, I see her cry a handful of times over a relationship that, eventually, comes to it’s end.  Seeing her cry is not a common practice unless we refer back to chapter one where she sowed her oats and became the worst drunk ever to be drunken.  When I saw her cry during these years it was a real sincere cry which to this day, I’ve still  only seen a handful of times.  During this time, we became closer and closer and she would drive to Louisville to see me and spend weekends with Lance and I.  I got to know her more than ever before which came in handy when I met this guy at seminary with a funny name because I knew her well enough to know that she’d like this boy.  I would introduce them and neither would be interested.  Fast forward a year or so later, I try again.  Boom, married.  Your welcome guys.  This brings us up to current times.

I sat in her in parent’s house a few weeks ago, two best friends, the authors of many chapters, side by side with our round bellies sticking up in the air.  Both pregnant with little girls, our first children, that will be born only 6 weeks apart.  Our kids will almost be as close in age as she and I are but we are even closer in age; only 2 weeks apart.  I’m older so of course I win.  Then again, I tried to have a baby for 2 years and she tilled the fertile garden of her womb in about 12 weeks of marriage.  So in a way, she wins.  Okay, okay, we are all winners. 

Later that night, I had dinner with her family and made them laugh until my friend peed her pants.  Seriously, she peed her pants.  Then again, her baby made her do it so it was sort of a joint effort that was brought forth by my humor. Also, I should clarify that weren’t actually her pants.  Technically, she peed her mom’s pants but anyways….

It’s crazy to me that we went from two teenagers passing notes to two pregnant women sharing dinner with her parents and her husband.  Where does time go?

A few days after that dinner with her family, she and her husband moved away to Virgina.  About 10 ridiculous hours away from me.  But, so goes life.  People get married.  They have children.  They move. 

Our last night with things as we have known it for the past 6 years was that night.  I’m sentimental and feel a great amount of love for my friends so moments like that are hard for me.  Saying goodbye to friends and life phases is really hard for me so this goodbye was no exception.  I had to make it quick when it was time for me to go.  I just said ,

“Well, the next I see you, we’ll be mothers.”

“The next time I see you, all of this (pointing to her tight pregnant belly), is going to be big fat rolls.”  I said with a smile.  Or maybe I didn’t smile.  That’s the neat thing about knowing someone though: they always know when you are joking.

I left something I needed to give her in the car so I ran out and ran back in for about 2.9 seconds.  I said, “I’m gonna make this quick.”  I hugged her and, in all seriousness, comically ran out of the door.  I like a good comedic effect but it was also absolutely necessary to my emotional survival to run out.

I open my car door and I sit.  Sit in the same driveway that I started out in 13 years ago.  Tears came to my eyes and I let it go. 

I backed out slowly and looked the house over and smiled to myself.  Chapters floated through my mind.  The weight of the history hung bittersweetly on my heart.  Would I see this house again?  Sure.  But you know when you come to the end of a chapter. 

Our lives would be different now.  We would have tiny little children who looked like us who demanded our time and attention.  Little blessings that would by their existence restrict our schedules.  We would have little time and little chances to see each other now that life had new demands and new paths that had taken us many, many hours away from each other.  It’s not that any of this was a bad change.  Change comes.  It’s just that it’s not how I’d known us to be. I loved those familiar years and they are hard to see go. 

I continued to inch my way out of the driveway and slowly away from their home.  I felt my baby kick inside of me and smiled.  My little girl is a reminder of how far I’ve come from the first time I’ve pulled into that drive.  How far we’ve become as friends since that day.  A tear of appreciation for what has been rolled down my cheek as a little life nudged me from within of what is to come.  I hope my daughter finds a friend like Audrey.

Her house became smaller in the distance. 

My car sped away and again, another chapter that I’m so glad was written, comes to it’s final line.  

(sigh)

I love a good ending.

Perverted Reindeer & Other Unforgetables

We don’t remember being born.  Fortunately.  We don’t remember being 1, 2, or 3 years old.  Usually.  At 4 or 5 you may have some faint memory about Christmas or some really important recollection about a cabbage patch doll.  I remember the things that were important to me at the time.  Exhibit A: Writing about feeling so strongly about Joey Mackentire from New Kids on the Block in my diary and fantasying about my hatred for Reba Mackentire because I thought they were married.  I now realize that would’ve been known as pedophilia. 

More seriously I remember Barbie Minnor. She was my first best friend and we met in my first year of first grade.  She moved to Germany at the end of that year but before she did, she gave me a German Santa Claus ornament wrapped in newspaper.  I still have it.

In the years following, you, like me, may recall going to the skating rink for some out of control birthday party or some little boyfriend you had. But in the next few years, things started to change.  You start middle school, then on to high school and college, and you find yourself in the years where you meet the people you’ll remember for the rest of your life. 

Rachael Renshaw.  Somewhere in everything I remember is this girl.  I think these friendships stand out because somewhere between Barbie dolls and graduating college, you experience those years of your life that have a way of mattering even though they were made-up of simple things that have no life changing effects.  For me and Rachael it was always being together with the “best song that was out” blaring from the speakers of a hail damaged Dodge Intrepid or from the speakers of a tinted-windowed, sticker-covered SUV.  She’s still one of the only people I know with the exact same taste of music as me and one of the only people who could be content just riding and listening to our greatest hits, never turning down the song at the best parts.  Those years of our lives had so many experiences that we can only do once: first kiss, first real dance, getting your first car, first love, first time you meet the cops…. I did all of this inseparable of this one girl….of this one friend.  She’s always mattered.

 

My freshmen year I met Audrey and Kristie.  They thought I was the weird, hyper girl auditioning for dance team.  They should really analyze this statement in hindsight because I am one of their best friends now and maybe, just maybe…somewhere they are known as the friends of the weird hyper girl.  Alls I’m sayin’ is there’s a chance.

For me and these girls it was riding our duffle bags down ice covered steps with one arm in the air in St. Louis at competition.  If I would’ve never talked to them after graduation, I would’ve remembered Kristie as the one who never forgets to remember and Audrey as the one who almost never ever said a negative word about someone else. (Also, I would remember Audrey as the girl who wore one of the ugliest prom dresses.  You couldn’t have known.  It was beautiful at the time. Maybe.)

When I went to college, I went through this transition where most of my friends had moved and I was starting to feel lonely.  Then, one night Katie Lee Dendy told me to come to Smokey Bones because a girl named Cristen Ballance who I went to high school with wanted to catch-up with me.  Turns out, she needed a friend too and just so happened to like listening to great music and driving around.  Even though we are friends today, she’ll always be the girl who came just when I needed everything she had to offer.

 

In the realm of friendships, everybody is one of these friends I have described to at least one person.  The one they’ll never forget.  The one that came at an unexpected time in an unexpected way but will expectedly be there forever.  The first friend you lost.  The one who listened.   The one who talked too much.  The one who knows that thing about you that you wished now they didn’t.  The first best friend.  The one that kissed your boyfriend…

That’s right I said it…the one that kissed your boyfriend!

When it’s all said and done, that’s how they remain in your memory.  No matter how much we know people change.

I still see Rachael putting someone’s reindeer lawn decor in a questionable position in the middle of the night one cold Christmas break.  I see us going back the next year and watching her pull on the reindeer only to realize that the homeowners have now chained them down.  I see Audrey coming over before a dance to let me do her make-up and I see myself putting glitter electric hot pink eyeshadow on her eyes and neither one of us thinking twice about it. And Lord have mercy, I see myself wearing huge chunky Payless boots, velour cheetah skin pants, fake henna tattoos and going out on a weekend with my girlfriends.  Oh my gosh, do we really have to be remembered as we were?  I take it back.

(sigh) I guess it can’t be avoided.  At any rate…I’m thankful for those years of nights in an old red van with fuzzy dice crammed with the girls that seasoned my life with the un-forgetable.  And by golly if it came at the price of me joining the crowd and wearing glitter stickers on the corners of my eyes in public then hey, small price.

 Some friends leave you with a twinge in your heart and become those friends you smile to yourself about as you rewind “that one time” in your head  over and over.  Others with a Santa ornament wrapped in crumpled newsprint.  But mostly, you are left in the end with the ones that you need.  The hiteous prom dresser, junky car driving,  good listening, didn’t kiss your boyfriend, always faithful, never forgetting, wild child who makes reindeer do the unthinkable.  And at the end of the day, that’s all I really ever needed.

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