I’ve been watching from afar over the past few months as someone I went to high school with has been fighting tirelessly to save her seven year old daughter from Neuroblastoma cancer. Recently, I watched in disbelief as she chronicled her daughter’s last days, and then on June 28th, her final breaths.
I say from afar because I mean just that. We are not close in our adult life. We had a tumultuous friendship in high school wrought with fights and manipulation, but sprinkled with some of the most fun I have ever had. She was a spirited, boisterous, irreverent young woman – just the type of personality I needed to pull me from my rough waters of mean girls and stupid boys. We clicked in chemistry class and I was immediately drawn to her no-nonsense style and her wicked sense of humor. One might call her a bad influence, but she was truly a good person and inspired me to relax a little and find more fun in my teenage life.
That year, we filled our days quoting the most recent Saturday Night Live skits and our weekends memorizing all of the lines to The Breakfast Club. We had inside jokes… “Cheese and Rice!” instead of “Jesus Christ!”… after all, you can’t be teenage friends if you don’t have some ridiculous joke to define your relationship. There was also a fair amount of inappropriate fun including skipping class, stealing a rubber chicken key chain from Spencer’s at the mall, and making a vodka Screwdriver and eating it with Captain Crunch in place of the milk.
Our friendship was exhilarating and I loved it. But the reason our short friendship will always stay with me is because of a road trip that we took together. I was allowed to go with her to visit her sister on the Ohio University campus. I didn’t know much about OU other than a couple of ex-boyfriends went there, so naturally I was intrigued. We sped off early that morning and headed two and a half hours south to Appalachia. I had never been to that part of Ohio, and the minute I saw the campus peek over the rolling foothills, I was smitten. I was fifteen and had never seen a college campus in full swing. The buildings were big! The campus was big! The boys were so big! It was amazing. I was where I needed to be.
On our ride down, she played some music that I had never heard, but I loved it. We stopped by a funky music store at the end of our trip and she found the tape for me to buy – the Eagles, Hotel California. We played it the whole way back singing and laughing. I came home from that trip changed. Changed not because I now knew the words to every song on that album, but I knew where I was headed when high school ended in two years.
I can’t say exactly why we grew apart – I suspect it was typical high school obstructions like boys, new friends, new interests. We both went to OU and have since moved away from our hometowns. I hadn’t thought about her at all until Facebook kept suggesting a friend for me. I didn’t recognize the name, so I never paid that much attention to it. But one day, I took a second glance and it was her. All of the memories came rushing back and I was interested to see how she was doing. Continue reading