I’m not one of those people who thinks of high school as the “best years of my life”, in fact I’ve spent a great amount of time lately explaining to my 12 year old son that he does NOT want to peak in high school.
However, my 20 year reunion is this weekend and it’s got me thinking. Some of the most important things that have ever happened to me happened in high school. I met 2 of the most important people in my life; I fell in love for the first time, lost my virginity and got my heart broken.
So who knows, someday maybe you’ll hear about me falling in love, losing my virginity and getting my heart broken, but it won’t be today. Many people will tell you the story of how they met the love of their life and I’m certain that I will tell you someday about how I fell in love with Dan Kaminski. Today I’m thinking about my friends and I’m going to tell you about that love story. Most of you were born into a family with your sister, I found mine. Twenty four years ago this month, I crashed my bike and began what has been the most formative relationship I’ve ever had with a person who isn’t actually related to me by blood. All of things your mother tells you about how your best friend will be there for you when some stupid boy isn’t are true. If you are a teenager, I have one piece of advice for you; get yourself a best friend.
So, I was fourteen, it was 1985 and I had just started high school. I think my friend Barb called me and asked if I wanted to hang out so my friend, Anissa, and I rode our bikes about 3 miles to meet Barb. Barb and I aren’t friends anymore but I will always think of her as the reason I found my best friend, she brought this girl with her who looked vaguely familiar from middle school and introduced her as Shawna. I liked a boy; he was a year older, wildly popular, totally out of my league. We rode our bikes at least 6 more miles just to happen into his subdivision and look at him, seriously. Seriously, today I am happily married to a wonderful, hot man and I would not chase him 18 miles round trip on a bike if he were ON FIRE! I have no memory of what we talked about on this very long bike trip, I wish I did. As we drive down Arrowhead Drive in Wheaton, straight into a group of 20 SOPHOMORE BOYS standing in the middle of the street, Anissa’s front tire hits and becomes tangled with my back tire and the two of us go SPRAWLING DOWN THE STREET IN FRONT OF 20 SOPHOMORE BOYS! CUTE BOYS, POPULAR BOYS. Okay, here comes the part that you cannot fully appreciate until you have 24 years hind sight; THEY DID NOT NOTICE US. Seriously, we were lying, bleeding in the road and the group of boys carried on, completely oblivious. My pride says to tell you that we were at least a block and a half away from the boys, my sense of self deprecations says “you were LYING IN THE STREET and they still didn’t notice you”. Barb peed her pants laughing at us. I don’t remember if I spoke to any of the boys, what I do remember is the look on Shawna’s face when I crashed. I remember our eyes meeting and just recognizing who she was. We rode our 9 miles home and I don’t remember anything else about that day. I don’t remember what changed or who called who, I just know I gained someone in my life that day that I thank God for every day.
So by Halloween that year I had myself a best friend. We were literally inseparable; my family took Shawna into their hearts just as I had. Her single Dad was lost with a teenager and my Mom found herself suddenly with two. To say we were attached at the hip would be a vast understatement. If she was there, so was I. It was the first and probably most important feeling of belonging that I have ever felt.
She is so far beyond a friend, that I couldn’t explain it properly to you if I had infinite time and unlimited blog space. Her story isn’t mine to tell but I can say that she didn’t have a typical childhood and I know that if you ask her she will tell you that my family saved her. While my childhood was probably more typical in its dysfunction, to this day she has no idea of the amount of times or the amount of ways in which she has saved me.
Here is an interesting fact, Halloween 1985 is when we became best friends, and by January of 1987 she had moved away. I guess that is the first time I actually had my heart broken, I think I hung around my house for a year in a depression. We were 15 and I think it’s a testament to both of us that we were able to maintain our relationship over the 1000 miles that separated us. I suppose maybe the distance is how she became to mean so much more than a friend to me. She has lived with us part-time for brief amounts of time since then but has always lived in South Dakota. In a perfect world, we’d be live down the street from each other, but husbands, jobs, and children don’t always make a perfect world possible (seriously, I’m kidding).
She introduced me to Led Zeppelin and got me drunk and high for the first time. She taught me what a blow job was (she’s going to kill me). She is who held me together when my Grandma died and I thought I would. She is the first person I told when I knew I was in love, she’s the first person who knew how he broke my heart, she’s who I call when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We got our first tattoos together. She’s been the first person to know every time I was pregnant (sorry, Dan, but it’s true). When I went into labor 6 weeks early, she drove 6 hours, got the last seat on the last flight To Chicago and got from O’Hare to Hinsdale Hospital in 17 minutes. She helped my Mom deliver my son and was the first person to ever lay eyes on him. When I decided it was time to see my dad after 20 plus years, she got in her car and met me in Colorado and went with me and my brother. She calls me on my crap and loves me anyway. When I think that someone I’m related to will be the death of me, she talks me back from the ledge. She is my essential person. Your friends help you move, your real friends help you move bodies.