The year was 1979 when I met my first best friend, Becky, while sitting in Mrs. Mudrack’s second-grade classroom. She was an awful teacher; even as naive and impressionable little girls, we knew this. So the understood glances coupled with the simultaneous head nods were given, and off we went to play checkers. Competition. Of course we’d become fast friends.
Beck and I attended school together, church together, CCD together, and generally hung out and talked from phones attached to walls in our homes constantly. She was a country girl; I was not. So we each thoroughly enjoyed having sleep-overs at the other’s house every weekend. It was highly enjoyable for her to be able to walk to my house after school while sometimes (if I could talk her into it) first making a pit stop at the Library. We’d race out the front doors as soon as the bell rang, waving good-bye to those losers on the buses. Of course the following week, the losers were the ones walking home.
With or without the extra stop at my favorite building – the one where learning actually occurred – the walk to my house at 400 Adelaide Street consisted of cutting through the school playground, up and over the grassy hill to the cemetery, and down an alley on the other side until we reached my backyard which was marked by pine trees (and the basketball court in later years). Becky and I would walk, skip, run and laugh all the way there, betting each other who’d reach the trees first.
We were inseparable until the sixth grade. There was another Elementary School in the Minerva district back then – simply called “West,” so as not to infuse too many syllables into words the locals had to actually read and write – that fed into the one and only Middle school.
Chelsea and Beth attended West. And when they inseparably marched into that one and only Middle school, it was completely evident that they presumed the same level of we own this place as Beck and I did.
There was only one thing to do. But it took at least a month of scoping the other side out, watching interactions with one another and in particular, boys and teachers, before that one thing happened. Several notes were passed daily; multiple debriefing phone calls were conducted nightly before it was finally concluded.
Yet even after it was officially decided, nothing was announced. Nothing had to be, because nothing changed. We simply joined forces and this beautiful understanding as the female version of Al, Lucky, Bugsy and Frank was born. No questions asked.
It was 1987 when we rolled into High School. Chelsea’s Mom was a teacher in the Middle School, so we were quite used to working the politics by the time we encountered Beth’s Dad as the Vice Principal of the High School. It was not uncommon for us to wave to Mr. Michael at Hardy’s while he was there getting his morning brew, and we were in the drive-thru ordering those tasty little warm pastries. The ones with raisins and warm gooey icing that made your hands all sticky. Not exactly ideal for driving around town during the remainder of 2nd period…
We were all athletes, on the basketball team together. Becky and I ran cross country and track, while Beth and Chels played volleyball. When we were not running the court breaking the school record for most W’s our Senior Year, we would cheer loudly during games at the others’ respective sports.
We were all girls, in the game of life together. The fellowship which is required to understand, work, maneuver, cajole, avoid, stop, start, and fall in “love” with your first high school boyfriend by far supersedes all other activities we participated in together. From Rob to Ben to Todd 1 to Jamie to Jeff to Tony to Joe to Todd 2…wow did we have some doozies. So too, was that inseparable fellowship required when dealing with all the other catty girls in their respective gangs. More than once I found myself running my mouth and on the verge of taking a swing at some horrid know-it-all (“all” as in my boyfriend). That is, until one of the other three stopped me. Or finished selling tickets and collecting cash for the main event.
First dates, first kisses, and first heartbreaks – we went through them together. When one was down, the others grabbed her and raised her back up to proper position. Like an Olympian team, not only did we know where we would each be on the floor during fast breaks, give-and-go’s, or plays I called from the top of the key off the cuff, we also knew where we each were in terms of emotions, difficulties, struggles, and, of course, while sneaking out with a boy.
High School was pretty great for the four of us. Sure, we had mishaps, trouble, idiots we (fine, I) dated, but overall…I wouldn’t change a thing.
The year was 1991. After graduating in May, summer flew by quickly. Chels and I went to OSU; Beth and Beck went to OU. Around our freshman year of high school, it was also an understood that Chelsea and I were solid-ly tight, while Beck and Beth were closer to one another. There was no separation among the four of us, as any would do anything for the other three, it was just more of that kind of bond you have with someone that you know will be everlasting. Through thick and thin. An always friendship with a level of intimacy which cannot be, nor should be, explained.
Columbus and Athens Ohio had another thing coming when we’d visit each other. 20-30 pounds gained, but nothing lost between the four of us. More maneuvering, more decisions about life, more boys, (way) more partying. But, we worked through those times together, too, albeit inside of dorm rooms, frat houses, and bars instead of classrooms or houses in the village.
In fact, so well did we work through those seemingly much more adult-like times that we decided to go to Clearwater for Spring Break together our Sophomore year as a reward. (And since I’m uncertain about that statute of limitations thing in Florida…a story for another day…)
It was 10 days ago. Chels and her daughter, Schae, drove to Minerva from Columbus. I drove to Minerva with Liv. Beth drove to Minerva from Ashland, having just moved back from Colorado.
As I drove down that long country lane to Becky’s house – the one right next door to the house (and barn) in which she/we grew up – tears streamed down my cheek meeting the giant smile which had overtaken my face. Liv looked over at me and, already knowing the answer, asked anyway.
Why are you crying, Mom?
My mouth opened, but no words came out. For of course, no words could have done sufficient justice.
There’s something about the early formation of a group. Its beginnings, the inception of a forever camaraderie, the makings of a team. Of course, as it was occurring, I had no idea how special it was or would remain. I only knew, when I was little and it was new, that it was fun. Easy.
While certainly none of our lives have been easy and, at age (almost) 40 we are far from new – we love each other still. Nothing will ever change that irrefutable fact.
I’ve always been a sucker for that kind of bond. It invariably creates a visual to me like the opening scene from Reservoir Dogs. I can hear the music, I can see the faces, I can feel the peace. Twice in my lifetime have I experienced that kind of commitment, adoration, camaraderie and friendship. And I neither take anything for granted nor forget anything about it.
So what does this girl do any time she hears from Mr. (or Ms.) Blonde, Blue, Orange, or White out of no where after a period of silent darkness?
Why she thanks God, of course.