Today's writer’s group prompt: Tell us about your childhood best friend. Are you still friends?
This is the perfect prompt because I had lunch with her today!
First of all, that photo up there is about four years old, I can't find anything more recent. We totally need to do some fish-faced selfies the next time we're hanging out. And she is WAY taller than me, even though it doesn't look like it there.
My best friend is Jen. We’ve been friends for something like 27 years. (How can that even be possible?!) She moved to my town in eighth grade (from another planet, it seemed: the state of Mississippi) and we hit it off right away. She had a soft, southern drawl that she lost when she grew up, although the ghost of that accent haunts her voice after she’s had an adult beverage or two.
God, the memories we share. I don’t even know where to start, so I’m just going to write what pops into my mind:
At fourteen, we walked home from the drugstore in the dark, linked arm in arm, laughing so hard that I wet myself, which made us laugh even harder.
In high school we did everything together: We worked at Maid-Rite, making greasy burgers for the fine people of Newton, Iowa. We went to youth group together, hung out at the mall, got ready for proms together, spent time in between classes with each other. She was tall, willowy, and beautiful. I was short and cute. We made quite the pair.
Jen's mom and dad were my second set of parents, always making me feel welcome in their home. Her dad is the only person I ever allowed to call me "Mony." I can hear that nickname in his gentle voice, along with the soft chuckle of his. Mr. M introduced me to my favorite Beatles song (Oh! Darling) and would drive us around in his little truck before we got our licenses.
We learned to drive together as partners in Mr. Bond's driver's ed class. She drove too close to the curb, I drove too fast. But we both passed the class! Her parents bought her a cool blue mazda, and it was a stick shift. I will always be impressed by her badass ability to drive a stick, maybe because I never mastered the skill, but also because it's just cool for a girl to know how to do that at 16.
At sixteen, Jen and I went to a Bon Jovi concert and had seats so close to the stage that we could see the trickle of sweat run down Jon Bon Jovi’s neck. (Swoon!) Some guy, who seemed old to us at the time but was probably not even thirty, offered us beer and weed. Being the good girls that we were, we looked at each other wide-eyed, the unspoken "Oh my gosh, can you believe this is happening?!" passing between us in a flash, and politely declined his generous offer.
Oh, the memories that a Bon Jovi song brings back. Just yesterday, the song "Never Say Goodbye" came on the radio and I was instantly taken back in time to Jen’s living room. The room had dozens (hundreds?) of family photos on the wall, Jen’s dad’s comfy chair in the corner, and the tv tuned to MTV. In that room, a couple of girls with permed, frizzy hair belted out (badly, we aren’t singers, Jen and I) the verses to "Never Say Goodbye" while mooning over the band in the music video.
Now’s as good a time as any to show you just how cool she still is. At lunch today, she gave me my birthday present, which was a thoughtful collection of items that remind her of me. Some of the items: A jar of Chi-Chi’s salsa, because we loved eating at Chi-Chi’s. A bottle of purple Gap nail polish, because I love purple, and we loved shopping at the Gap. A hilarious plastic foot with a suction cup attached to it (that is actually meant as a toothbrush or pencil holder) because I have always been grossed out by feet. And THIS:
That’s right. It’s a Bon Jovi charm bracelet with four photos of Jon Bon Jovi. Who has the best best friend ever? This gal.
Once we sat in Jen's driveway as the end of Journey's "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezing" was on the radio. We counted every one of the "Nahs" at the end of that song, and then promptly forgot how many there were.
At eighteen, we said goodbye to our families and went away to college together. Every time I hear Bob Seger’s "Old Time Rock and Roll" I remember the feeling of pure, giddy excitement that filled us as we unpacked our black and white (with an accent of red!) dorm room items, because that’s the first song we put on the stereo and blasted through our open door. All around us, the small college town of Ames, Iowa buzzed with freshmen moving into their dorms. The atmosphere was electric and something I will never forget.
In our first year in the dorms, we won the floor's "dipshit" award because our dorm room was so messy that we couldn’t find our cordless phone and we had to go next door to call our phone to find it. We went to parties together, held each other’s hair when the world was spinning, encouraged each other to wake up for class. We sized each other’s boyfriends up. Approved of some, kept quiet about what we thought of others.
One of my favorite memories of Jen is when we were at a party and the song YMCA came on. She was holding two beers (I’m not sure if she was holding one for someone or just felt like having two). During the part of the song where you form the letters Y, M, C, A out of your arms, she held up her arms and made a perfect Y. Transitioning to the M, she apparently forgot that she held two glasses of beer and dumped them both on her head. Hee.
Two days after my 20th birthday Jen and I sat in our dorm room. I held a pregnancy test in one hand and a bottle of some kind of liquor in the other. “If this is negative, we’re splitting the entire bottle.” I told her. I peed on the stick. She waited with me for three of the longest minutes of my life, and then she held me as I sat shaking and tearful, terrified because I was going to be a mom.
We shared an apartment when Brie was born. When I came home from the hospital, she’d decorated our door with "Welcome home, Niki!!" signs and balloons. She helped me with Brie for those first months before Dusty and I moved in together. I remember that she had kittens who liked to lick up Brie’s projectile vomit.
And then we left our crazy college years behind. We graduated, got married, stood up at each others’ weddings (Brie was her flower girl) and our families grew. She is Brie’s godmother, her youngest son is my godson.
As in life, not everything is perfect. Our husbands had a serious falling out years ago. As you might imagine, that changed things, so instead of going out as couples, we socialize through lunches, book club, and the occasional girls night out. Family events aren't what they used to be, but we are still as close as ever.
Jen is one of the most amazing mothers I know. She’s raising four happy, respectful, productive and beautiful children. She gets how crazy life can be as a working mom with four kids, because she’s one too! We both work at the same giant company and we both drive Honda minivans. Our families both cheer for the Packers and the Cyclones, and we both still love Bon Jovi.
I am incredibly blessed to have someone like Jen in my life, and I look forward to the days when we sit laughing in a restaurant, our false teeth clacking away, all the while hoping that our Depends are in place (we have a history of making each other wet ourselves, after all!)
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