Ralph Waldo Emerson stated: “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” ~~~ and that’s definitely how it began…
It’s amazing how quickly it all fell together, literally. The best part of my eighth-grade year took place in the summer leading into it. You know, if you’re lucky, when someone is going to be that life-long, fabulous friend: the one who will always have your back. It’s one of those gut feelings that speaks to the heart. My gut and heart are very true to me; I’m lucky in that regard.
Kim and I had met through a mutual friend, during our seventh-grade year. There was a raucous group of us that would hang out together on a regular basis. Whether it was a Friday night high-school football game or a sleepover, we would all be together chatting it up and doing our best to stay out of trouble. Our mutual friend was usually the ringleader; the one that took it upon herself to orchestrate our shenanigans, as best as one can attempt to organize teenage girl shenanigans. As long as our group was together, it really didn’t matter who did the ring leading, as long as we didn’t get into harm’s way… I’m pretty much a rule-follower.
Kim was friendly and humorous, in a quiet sort of way, and as far as I could tell, pretty much a rule-follower, herself. With our similar qualities and our desire, or need, to confide in someone, especially about the opposite sex, Kim and I broke away from our pack; we had a mission that had to be completed. She liked a boy, I liked a boy, and they lived very close to one another, and we had bikes!
It was a hot and humid summer day, when we decided to head out on our ten-speeds. The days of no cell phones to call home, no time limits, other than being home for dinner, or at the very latest… before it got too dark; those were the days. It was completely normal to be out riding our bikes all over town, all day long; that’s how long it would take to hit all the Dairy Queens. As far as we knew, our parents didn’t worry about our whereabouts; it was normal to be out all day, just having fun. Our big decision was to decide which direction to tackle first. Were we going to head west, to take care of our ice cream craving by visiting one of the Dairy Queens, or would we head east and start our adventure, by being the normal teenage stalker-girls? The Dairy Queen was going to have to wait!
Kim and I both had secret crushes on these two boys that were in our class. At the time, we thought these crushes were secret, but with teenage girls… is anything ever really a secret? These young men that captured our interest lived very close to one another, which made it very convenient for our friendly stalk-fest. We could ride our ten-speeds around one’s cul-de-sac several times and then around the corner to survey the other’s home.
Keeping in mind that these were the days where there was no requirement to wear a helmet while bicycling, it wasn’t as if we could stuff our hair up under the helmet, put on a pair of shades, and glide around in a stealth-like manner. There would be no doubt that the circling cyclists would be Kim and Carol. Kim’s hair was the color of honey and it was cut in the free-flowing Farrah Fawcett hairstyle, in fact my dad’s nickname for her was – Farrah! I wasn’t so lucky; mine was red, and I mean really, really RED!!!! There would be no mistaking the two of us!
As we began to enter their neighborhood our hearts started pounding. Remember teenage girls with a crush; the pounding hearts are inevitable. So, we entered their neighborhood on our slick ten-speeds, in the hope that they would both be peering out their windows, at just the right time; however, a part of us prayed that they wouldn’t be outside shooting hoops. This last scenario would obligate us to stop and talk, not to mention the fact that our drive-by would be extremely embarrassing; our secret crushes would be blown.
We rode up and down their street several times; we circled around the cul-de-sac a few more, like vultures. No teenage boy was in sight, as we were hoping that they would look out, while at the same time hoping they wouldn’t. Let’s face it, teenage girls are nuts, and that’s exactly how we felt… completely NUTS!
After a few minutes of back and forth circling, we decided to abort our mission, so we left the neighborhood and headed back in the direction of the Dairy Queen. As we traveled due west, we were heading down a fairly well traveled residential street. The street was lined with old brick homes and old trees that formed a natural tunnel, as they met each other at the top. It was a street that we knew well, as it was travelled often from my house to our junior high school.
This particular day the street wasn’t too busy, which was highly advantageous for Kim and me. As we were cruising down South “B”, Kim and I had highly important issues to discuss, and they needed to be discussed right then. Teenage girls rarely wait for a planned or convenient time to discuss something as important as boys; it needs to be discussed in the present moment, no matter where one is, or what one is doing. We were riding down this street at a fairly fast clip, side by side, one in front – one in back, then side by side again. Our pace was causing a wind-like effect, which made it difficult for either one of us to hear the other. We’d start to talk in a louder voice, but then we realized that talking about our secret crushes in loud voices, while riding past the homes of some of our peers, well… that wasn’t extremely smart. Neither was the next move.
In order to keep our conversation between the two of us, and not the rest of South “B”, we decided to move closer together, side by side. Now this would have been ideal, had we been going slowly, but that was not the case. Kim and I were cruising at a fairly rapid pace, while attempting to keep our voices at a whisper. As a teenager, there’s this concern to protect one’s emotional situations, at all costs, while not being overly concerned with one’s physical being; we rode as if we were physically invincible.
While freewheeling along, and pretty pleased with ourselves for jockeying together to keep our secret crushes just that, a secret, we made a major misjudgment in distance. We were side-by-side, but too close for our pedals to work appropriately. In fact, they quit working all together, as they locked up with each other, my right to her left. Our secret suddenly became some sort of afterthought, as our bikes connected. It’s a funny thing that we could be moving along at such a clip, only to have everything stand still, in a second’s time. The momentum of our bike-ride changed in the blink of an eye, as our locked-together bikes fell in an instant. The fall happened so fast that we didn’t even know what happened for a brief moment.
All day long we had been concerned about protecting our secret; trying our hardest not to get caught in what we viewed as a potentially embarrassing situation. Never, in our wildest dreams did we imagine that embarrassment would rear its ugly head in a different manner. Kim and I were laid out in the middle of South “B”, bikes strewn off to the side. Anyone could have looked out there window to see two girls lying motionless in the street, with the exception to what appeared to be hyperventilation. Breathing was extremely difficult for both of us, and the tears were flowing like a faucet. A passer-by would have been extremely concerned, and may have even stopped, but would have gone on their way when the muffled laughter had been unleashed. For both of us, we thought it was hilarious! We laughed so hard that the laugher was silent; our stomachs hurt so badly that we couldn’t sit up. It was the kind of laughter that hinders one’s breathing, the kind of laughter that produces massive tear-flow. It was then, and right then that we both knew.
That hot, humid, summer day leading into eighth grade started out with two girls looking for boyfriends, but ended with both picking themselves up, brushing themselves off, and walking away with their newly found best-friend. Our friendship truly fell into place that day, and has been there ever since. It was as if we just knew, and sent a promise of friendship to one another, without the words. We have been college roommates, as well as maid-of-honor/matron-of-honor in each other’s weddings. We have been listeners and counselors when it comes to matters of the family. Sometimes it’s a matter of just listening, and allowing the speaker to be heard. She does that for me, and I hope I meet that standard for her. The years have taken us in different directions, many miles apart; however, our friendship keeps us closely bonded, making the miles seem non-existent.
There’s a certain kind of person that can laugh at their ridiculousness; Kim and I both possess that characteristic, in fact, we bring it out in one-another. We learned that about each other years ago. Certainly, we both have a serious side, but the refreshing aspect about our more somber side is that neither one of us gets overly consumed by it. When, and if, one of us starts to go down the road of overbearing seriousness, it just takes a phone call to have one’s best friend listen and help to put things into their proper perspective; that phone call always ends with a giggle and “I love ya!”
Had it not been for those two young men and our silly teenage crushes, I may have missed out on one of the best days of my life. Some of the greatest shenanigans aren’t planned, they just happen – if you’re lucky. An unspoken promise was made on that hot summer day. This promise of friendship between Kim and I will always be with me, as it resides in my heart ~ no matter how many miles lie between us. This friendship has been one of the dearest and most essential parts of my happiness. I’m so very blessed that it all fell together, on that crazy summer day.