As 2010 came to an end, I told everyone in ear range that it was my best year in a long time and I was excited about celebrating New Years Eve. Then, on the first day of 2011, in succession: I became very ill with some kind of crossbred of the flu and strep throat, my period arrived extremely late, a water pipe burst under my house and worst of all, I found out that a friend from high school, D, had lost her battle with cancer.
It has been over twenty years since I last saw D but I cried for her and the terrible loss for her family. Instantly, I was transported back to high school and the girls that impacted my youth. We were all a big group of friends who cheered and marched together via the cheerleading squad and drill team. As time moved, so did we and things changed for all of us. Those youthful memories are becoming harder to recall.
Yet, my life has always been full of amazing moments with my girl friends and none more so than R, my best friend in high school.
Closing my eyes, I remembered how the cold, hard cement sidewalk was unforgiving as we tried our best to get comfortable for a few moments of sleep. Everyone around us had lawn chairs, blankets, food and drink.
Our supplies consisted of a stolen pack of Cambridge cigarettes that I had swiped from home. Apparently, nobody felt the need to tell us the proper etiquette for last-minute camping out at Sears for New Kids On The Block concert tickets. The cigarettes provided heat as we would light one and hold our hands over it – maybe take a puff to heat our lungs too.
That was how we rolled back then, ready for any adventure that came our way. Never mind that we didn’t have enough money for the tickets; nobody bothered to tell us about sales tax either.
Our friendship started in 1988, as we suffered through ninth grade Science class together with the appropriately named teacher, Mr Dull. Even though we marched side by side in our maroon and white Pantherette uniforms for all of the 8th grade, our friendship didn’t take off right away.
Nevertheless, once we were forced to sit through a terribly boring class together – Saturday school to make up for a rare snow day in Arkansas – we found how much our personalities matched. While it would take another year for us to become inseparable, she would become THAT teenage confidant to me; the one that I could be completely myself with and she loved me in spite of it.
She would be the one who willing said yes to whatever came our way.
We spent the tenth and eleventh grades of high school like small time mobsters. Together, we schemed and plotted our way through boys, parties, bottles of Strawberry Hill, poorly rolled joints and NWA cassette tapes. It was her idea to write two sets of plans for everything we did: one for our parents and one for what we actually set out to do. I might have been the smarter criminal but she was meticulous in the note keeping.
Imagine a white girl version of the DC Comic Wonder Twins: one had the power to lie, the other had the power to cover it up.
Despite being a formidable duo in our youth, we were naive to the point of thinking that nothing in our life would change. Any person who has ever experienced a close teenage friendship knows where this story goes; every woman out there has the friend that she let fall by the wayside.
As I think back on it, there was no way for our paths to do anything other than go separate ways. She settled down, becoming perfectly accustomed to her role as wife and mother. I took my love for discovery and exploited it, settling down as a mother in the last few years.
However, when we reconnected earlier last year, it was if we were still 16 and plotting our next escapade. Although, in reality all of our enjoyment is now centered around our families. Recently, she confided in me that she feels like she has lost herself somewhere along the way. It makes me wonder if that is something that all women with children go through as their children grow up and need them less.
It’s easy to make motherhood our sole identity and feel lost when our children leave us behind. The safety net of taking care of our family is ripped away and we have to swim in a pool that we built for others. The shock of D’s death sharply reminded me that we don’t have forever to start anew.
Where did those spirited, idealistic young girls go?
When did we lose the simplistic courage of exploration and the ability to take risks for ourselves?