Friday, March 8, 2013

My Friends

A couple weeks ago I went out with some old friends.  These are people I almost never see, but who mean more to me than they know.

I haven't written too much about my past before, and there are reasons for that.  There is so much in me that I'd like to express.  Events I feel a desperate need to purge out, but they are not only mine, and so I'm just not sure if it would be the right thing to do.  Suffice it to say that I have been through some dark, dark times in my life.

One of the darkest chapters in my personal life was my senior year in high school.  A time that should be filled with fun, friends, college prep, and excitement, for me was filled with instability, fear, and grief.  We had just moved from almost 900 miles away.  Away from my friends, my band, my big brother.  The summer before my senior year.  My parents were in no way financially prepared to start us in a new place, and from what I could see we were running away from something.  We arrived here the first week of July and lived in our tent camper in front of my grandparents' trailer house.  It was 1988, and our new hometown was experiencing a record heat wave and a drought.  We were dead broke.  I would ride my bike to the convenience store just to walk through the air conditioning.  It was as if we had moved to hell, in my opinion.

Just before the first day of school we found a duplex to rent, and unbeknownst to me at the time it was in one of the most affluent suburbs in the state.  And off to school I went, once again the new kid.  Only this time I was starting as a senior.  Terrifying.  And with a bunch of rich kids.

I soon found out that these "rich kids" were absolutely some of the best people I had ever met.  And not all rich, by the way.  I was welcomed openly in every class.  I got lots of curious looks, but not one person was unkind.  I made fast, close friends, and felt almost instantly at home with them.  I was certainly the most, well, "economically challenged" of the bunch, but I never felt like less of person.

As the school year went on, things went dramatically downhill in my home life.  We even had to move back into the camper in the trailer court before graduation.  There was not a moment when I felt judged by any of my new friends.  I told only a few what was really happening in my life, but even the people I didn't tell, never asked questions.  I only know now, as I look back, how amazing that was.

Anyway, back to my old friends from a couple weeks ago.  I've been thinking about my evening with them ever since we went out, and I just had to write about it.  There is an annual Pops Concert at the school, one that I was involved in during my year there.  It's an amazing event, and I felt honored to be a part of it 24 years ago.  This was the 60th year, so it was a big celebration.  There was an alumni reception, and one of my good old friends from my senior year invited me and a handful of our little group to go.  I have seen her relatively recently, as we went on to the University of Minnesota and were in the Marching Band together.  But I ADORE her.  To me, she has always seemed sparkly.  I don't mean she wears a bunch of sequins.  Her personality sparkles.  She is always smiling.  She has a remarkable memory and she's so sentimental.  And back in high school and college, she was always in my corner.  She is forever one of my favorite people.  My boyfriend from my senior year was there, and he is a doll.  He is a good, good man.  He is pure good.  He was a soft place for me to fall in the darkest time in my life, and a piece of my heart will always be his, so it is always wonderful to see him. I love how silly he still is.  One of my first Minnesota friends was there, who I hadn't seen in almost two decades, probably since her wedding.  Back in high school I thought she was one of the smartest people I had ever known.  She was tiny, but tough.  I felt like she was somebody I wanted on my side.  This little thing that looked like a little garden fairy, but who you could tell you wouldn't want to cross. She was creative and articulate, but could swear like a sailor.  I loved her instantly.  She has not aged.  Which ticks me off, but I still love her.  We were also joined by a friend I'd not seen in equally as long who I loved to torment back in high school.  By torment, I mean I loved to shock her.  She was sweet and innocent, but with a fiery personality tucked way down, and it was fun to peel back the walls she had built up and see that heat that she didn't let out very often.  It was fun to make her blush, and pull her out of her shell, sometimes forcefully.  Unfortunately, she had to go home earlier and didn't join us for the beers afterward, where it would have been fun to yank her out of her shell again!

Sorry I'm babbling.  I'm just trying to paint the picture here.  It was a small group of us a couple weeks ago.  I'd have loved to see more of my old friends, but we'll try for more next time.  What struck me as so amazing about the night is the way I felt.

My brain can be a crazy place.  I get worked up over stupid, small stuff, sometimes so much that the big picture passes me by.  I hate that I do this.  A few years back I headed up to a reunion of some of my college buddies.  These are people with whom I spent much more than a year.  They are people who were my family in college.  They knew me, knew everything about me.  And I had seen all of them within a few years before that reunion.  But driving up there, my stomach was in knots.  I felt awkward.  Old and ugly.  As if I didn't have anything to offer.  They were all more accomplished that me.  More interesting.  More fun.  Just more.  I felt ridiculous and self conscious.  And I felt stupid for feeling that way.  This vicious circle played in my head over and over the whole time I was there.  As lovely as it was to be with them all, I never quite got out of my head.  Sometimes I'm like that, and it's infuriating.  Because sometimes I'm not, and then I can be sort of fun to be around!

But when I was getting ready to see my old high school buddies, there was none of that.  I got dressed without obsessing over whether I looked fat or frumpy.  I drove there with nothing but excitement over seeing them.  And seeing them felt just good.  Warm and comfortable, as if no time had passed.

I don't know what any of this means.  It could have just been that I happened to be in a good place emotionally for the night.  It could be that my (unbeknownst to me at the time) diseased uterus was sending out all kinds of wacky hormones when I was headed up to see my college buddies a couple years ago.  It could be that I was too young and innocent in high school to have anything to hide, and my college friends maybe saw TOO MUCH of me back then.  ahem.

I'd like to think that the reality is that this handful of people who came into my life that fall of 1988 were just special.  God put me in their hands.  I was in for a wild ride, and I needed people who would make at least part of my life sweet, safe, and normal.  They did that for me.  They were my heroes, and they didn't even know it.  And in a way they still are.  Because without their light during that dark time, I don't know where I would have ended up.  So they have never been anything to me but love and light, and I'll never be able to thank them enough for that.

I want to be that for someone.  I hope that maybe I have been, even if I didn't know it.  And I will tell my kids about this time in my life, when they are ready to hear about it.  And I will tell them the story of my friends.  And how they meant everything to me, and how easy it is to be that person for somebody.  I pray they get the chance.


  1. You are a beautiful person, my friend. :)

  2. Thanks you cutie. As are you. I wish we saw ourselves the way others seem to be able to see us sometimes. Wouldn't that be nice?