Wednesday, July 12, 2006

That's what friends are for

When I was in 9th grade, the song That's What Friends Are For by Dionne and Friends came out. After my birthday slumber party that year, after everyone had gone home, the phone rang. It was my friend Chloe. She said, "Hang on a sec, okay? Don't hang up?" Then I heard thumping noises as she hauled her jambox over to the phone (because that was back before all phones were cordless) and pushed play on the cassette player (because that was before CDs). She had waited who knows how long until that song came on the radio, recorded it, then played it for me on my birthday. I sat there in the avacado green and gold rocking chair and bawled till I was hiccuping while I listened to her play me that song. My mom came in from the kitchen, wet tea towel in hand, wondering what in the world was making me cry like that. I held the receiver out to her and she heard the strains of Dionne singing that if she ever went away all we had to do was close our eyes and feel the way we do today. Then Mom was crying, too. When Chloe got back on the line, we were both hysterical bawling, but really nothing more was said. Nothing needed to be said. I said thank you, she said she loved me and we hung up.

It was at her house that I broke a dining room chair when I sat down to dinner. It was at my house that my dad scared the living daylights out of us by hollering through the open window in my room. We were partners in crime when we stole steak knives from a steak house on a band trip and all of the glasses and lightbulbs from the Marriott in Kansas City on our Senior band trip. I was one of the first ones she called when she was thinking of calling off her wedding. (Thank God she did) She braved icy roads to be at my wedding.

Now, I run into her and her three kids in Wal*Mart about every three months. We're both frustrated and flustered from taking three children to Wal*Mart, yet we stand in the aisle and do a quick run-down of what's going on our lives. And we usually make it to each others' various Pampered Chef or Home Interior parties. We usually have a few of our children in tow for that, too. But I know if I'm having a hard time or need to talk, I can call her and she'll listen.

My friend, Trishia, and I grew up a few miles down the road from each other. We are unlikely friends, seeing as how she used to torture the crap outta me on the school bus and I was scared to death of her. She is four years older than me and even though we were both nerds back then, she was the older nerd, therefore the more powerful nerd. Then when I was 14, in a desperate attempt to get out of PE and the pedophile teacher who always reeked of whiskey, I insisted on being tested for the Gifted program. By the skin of my nerdy teeth I made it in and 2nd hour from then on was spent in the computer room with three Juniors, messing around on the Commodore 64's. (Yes, Commodore 64's.) She was a whiz on that ol' Commodore. I thought she was so dang cool and she thought I was a junior high dork. We didn't become friends, we didn't forge a bond that year.

It was about 7 years later when she heard I was babysitting, that she called me up, shocking me to death. Why in the world was SuperCoolNerdGirl calling me? Oh wow, she wants me to help rear her child? I was flattered. Not only did I fall in love with her child, but I discovered a lifelong friend. I'll never forget the night she and I got all dressed up and went to see the Tulsa Light Opera perform exerpts from La Boheme at the Coleman Theatre. I'll also never forget the night that the two genius girls with high IQ's (well, at least her - I only got in by the skin of my teeth, remember) and their husbands ended up taking a bread knife and cutting a half-gallon of ice cream into slices through the carton because it was frozen so solid that we couldn't scoop it. It was several years later that she called me up out of the blue and said, "Why did it never occur to us to just put it in the microwave for a few seconds?" We laughed till we cried.

When we bought this house, one of the biggest perks was that I would be living a mere mile from my best friend. Talk about heaven. When I was sick she brought me soup. (Man, can she make soup.) When our men needed help with various manly tasks, they called each other. We ate many a meal at each other's house and spent many a day giving each other a break by taking the other's kids. Our kids were fast friends. Sam and her Annessa played on the same t-ball team, the team Trishia coached. Abby still wears one of Seth's camouflage shirts and gets this dreamy look in her eye when she puts it on. One winter when it snowed she and her crew loaded up in the truck, picked up me and my kids and we spent the entire day playing in the snow on the four-wheeler at their place. The baby we lost would be just a few months older than her son. The baby she lost would be the same age as Kady. We use each other's kids to keep track of what they might've been. We have laughed, cried, griped, ranted and during that one season of Average Joe, well, it was a good thing we had cell phones and unlimited nights and weekends.

Now, since they have moved, we talk on the phone maybe every couple of months. She came to my Pure Romance party last month and that was the first time I had seen her in nearly a year. Yet, when we start a phone conversation you can pretty well bet that it won't end for at least an hour. We pick up right where we left off and it was like there was never a two-month span of no talking. If I needed her, she'd be here as soon as she could get here and she knows the same thing about me.

As the two charter members of GLOA (Green Lovers of America), my friend Stacie and I share a unique friendship as well. Oh the slumber parties, the sleepovers, the nights uptown dragging Main, the boy-talk, the gosh, we knew everything there was to know about each other back then. It was at her house that I did my very first pregnancy test ever. She waited so patiently outside the bathroom door, then sat with me on the couch, neither of us talking while we waited the two minutes. I deeply mourned the loss of her first child. I remember her telling stories of her first kiss and being captivated and disgusted at the same time, yet she was a pioneer and we were enthralled. Our Junior year at my birthday slumber party we spoofed Wayne's World; she and I were the people being interviewed - she was a slutty cheerleader and I was a driftwood sculptor. And later in the night when we did a spoof of Sweating to the Oldies, she was the aerobics instructor and I was one of the fat chicks with an afghan stuffed up my shirt. Oh, the things we have done.

When we were both newlyweds we lived less than a mile from each other, yet we didn't take advantage of being that close. Now, it's a 30 minute drive to her house. Like Trishia, I haven't seen her in over a year. We chat on Yahoo any chance we get, though, and email like freaks. It's enough, though, because I still love her as much as I did back when we were spelling our names Krystin and Staci with hearts over the i's.

Who knows you better than someone who has been there when you crapped on the creek bed? Methinks pretty much no one. Twice we've camped with Christy and her husband and I'm talking primitive camping. I think we both nearly fell off the four-wheelers laughing the next day when we drove around the bend of the creek and there were two little piles of toilet paper mere feet from each other. (Note: we didn't crap AT the same time, we just found a good spot and took advantage of it) Christy was the one I wrote about in my Senior journal when the topic was "Why would you want to be the person sitting next to you?" Now, you might think that I wrote about her by default only what with her sitting next to me and all, but truthfully, there wasn't anyone I would've rather written about. She was so pretty and happy all the dang time and OH. MY. GOSH. her bangs were bigger than mine and that was pretty hard to accomplish. That right there was enough to win my adoration. She only came to one of my slumber parties in high school, but it was one of the best, it being the one where we swear we saw UFO's.

It wasn't until after I got the internet that we got in touch again after high school. That was in 1999, when our girls were 3. Now, our girls are 9 and in Girl Scouts together and Christy and I can spend more time chatting on the phone than should be allowed by law. I can call her when I need a pickmeup and I hope I can cheer her up like she does me. (If not, Christy, tell me and I'll work on that!) And you know you are a true friend when you take a casserole over after your friend has her breast reduction and you actually get to see her new boobs! That right there, folks, is friendship.

My Junior year I finally got in with the popular kids. Now, for the record, I wasn't a troll before that. I was always well-liked, but I was just never one of the really popular ones. But when The Cyndi and I went to Yearbook Camp together and struck up a friendship I felt I had accomplished something. Sadly, I abandoned the friends that had been with me since forever, the ones who were really friends, the ones I'm still friends with to this day. I didn't see that at the time, all I could focus on was being one of them. Fat lot of good it did me. Has popularity held me when I mourned the loss of my child or given me advice when my toddler started throwing temper tantrums? Has hanging with the popular kids when I was 17 helped me get through those few years when I wasn't sure my marriage was going to make it? Not once has being able to say I was best friends with the most popular girl in our class helped me in my adult life.

As it turned out, what I got from hanging out with the popular kids, was a hefty dose of reality. My Senior year I decided to run for Stu-Co President. I was well-liked by most of the students, the teachers were behind me.....then a really popular guy, Scott, decided to run against me. I wasn't worried, to be honest. If he won, he won. But it was when at the nominations, one of the guys who had proclaimed to be my friend, got up there with Scott and ran me down, bashed me and embarrassed me to death in front of the entire student body, that I got my first taste of how people can let you down. I can remember sitting there so shocked at the betrayal that I was even too stunned to cry while sitting there in front of the school. It was later, in Mrs. Sharbutt's room that I lost it and cried until I nearly threw up. Cap'n N's Mom was livid, as was Mrs. Sharbutt. Mrs. Sharbutt took my face in her hands and said, "Kristin, if you remember nothing else that I say to you, remember this - these people are not your future." At the time it made no sense to me. Now I completely understand.

After we lost our baby, one of the girls that The Cyndi and I hung around with in high school was back home on leave from the Navy. We planned a night out - the four of us girls from our Senior year unleashed on the city. I really looked forward to it. What happened was that every time I was asked what was going on in my life and I started to answer, the subject was changed. Navy Girl even commented that I shouldn't be so upset over a baby that hadn't been born anyway. Oh that hurt. If someone said that to me today, I'd punch 'em. As it was, though, I just sat in the backseat, crying, my soul crushed. And I didn't have money for the running around and partying that they still did, nor did I want to anymore. We didn't live the same kind of lives anymore. I was too busy growing up while they were still grasping for their youth. The girls that I had so longed to be friends with, the girls that I would've done anything to hang out with, were a huge disappointment when it came right down to it.

Looking back, it's a good thing that those girls weren't my future. I'm happy with the future I ended up with.

JustLinda and Hillbilly Mom are the ones that started me thinking about my friends. Ladies, I don't know why we adults are so wary to make new bonds, open ourselves up and involve someone new in our lives. Maybe it is schedules, family and sheer exhaustion. I know for me, I have so few spare moments, so little free time, that even though what I want more than anything else is a girls' night out, what happens in reality is me falling asleep in the recliner while the dishwasher finishes its cycle and I wait for the dyer to buzz.

And sometimes, I wonder if there will ever be friendships that can compare to those when I was 16.

I guess what I'm saying is.....the friendships that mean something start out meaning something and stay that way forever. You don't have to work to get them and you don't have to work that hard to keep them. Even if there are pauses and breaks along the way, the friendship survives and flourishes. I've learned not to worry about the fakers, the snots and the ones that will invariably drop you for someone else. Because when it comes down to it, a real friend will not only make you laugh until you pee your pants, but she'll loan you a pantyliner from her purse because she has the same problem, she ain't no spring chicken either. She'll not only sit with you at your grandmother's funeral, but she'll take a kleenex and hold it up to your nose and tell you to blow. She'll tell you honestly that your pants might just be a little too tight, but she'll say it kindly and then promise to do Weight Watchers with you when you vow to never eat again. She'll take your kids out for ice cream to give you a break even though she's had a really bad day herself and just wants to go home and cry herself to sleep.

A true friend is a precious gift and I know I am not always the best friend a person can have. I know I have let my friends down from time to time, but one of the qualities of true friendship is forgiving your friend when all you really want to do is strangle her.

And then you get into online friendships......and all I have to say about that is: Hillbilly Mom, when my crackerjack team of private investigators finally finds you, you'd better have that hot tub heated up because I'm bringing the Coors Light and all the stuff to make Chex Mix.


Hillbilly Mom said...

Having seen your bangs in that band-directing photo that you posted for me, I agree that bangs bigger than yours were quite an accomplishment.

Loved your friendship stories. Would you believe that I started a post kind of like this yesterday, and trimmed it down to just the getting friends stuff? We are on the same wavelength, methinks. By cracky, I even had the pants-peeing! Maybe in a few days I'll rework it.

Wayne's World, huh? My friend Bean and I spoofed 'Phil Donahue'. Because we are from another generation.

Rebecca says she has discovered my location. Don't bet the farm on it. I'll have the hot tub heated, because we love to heat it 24/7/365, according to Union Electric. I'll even throw a fresh hairwad in it for you, just before I fall asleep in the recliner.

One of these days I'll track you down. Branson, perhaps.

GERBEN said...

Wow. Honey that has to be one of the best posts I have read. Like EVER! I guess it really hit home with the funeral bit and all. Because this past Saturday I had to bury my grandma. And guess who was there? My bestest bud from high school. She cried with me, hugged me and gave me a tissue. Then afterward she took my kiddo to her house for a sleepover.

Thank you for this post. It was awesome.

Stacie said...

Love you, Babe.

Anonymous said...

Water is flowing freely from my eyes!! Geez what a great end to a long day!!!!! Thanks!
Christy "crap buddie"

Stacie said...

"crap buddie"
That's a riot!

RJ said...

Wow, loved this post! The friends I have were made in college. I moved so much as a kiddo, my friends were always left behind. I have some great ones now, but at 55 it is just not quite the same...lots of luggage and locks!
Keep those friends close...

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Oh, man, the Student Council election; I had blocked that from my memory. In the history of jerkwad moves, that ranks in the top 10, methinks.

Like RJ, most of the really close friends I have were from college, having lost touch with just about everyone I knew in high school after graduation . . .minus the occasional run-ins with Wyandottians who attended OSU, although outside of Delinda (who I had about 4 classes with and who was in the English club with me) most of those amounted to the usual surface "Hi, how's it going, that nice, gotta run" sort of conversations. It's only been in the past few years that I've reconnected with anyone from the high school years, and even then it's only been a handful, most of whom are online in some form or another.

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...