The Best Friend

Carole – senior year yearbook

“One thing I’ve learned is when you find a best friend in this life, you better hang on.” – Jim Nabors

We were nine years old when we met. Fourth grade. Mrs. Summer’s class at Wayside School. I was the “new girl”, having just moved to a new neighborhood that summer. We lived around the block from each other, so we were on the same bus routes always. We were one bus stop apart. That meant we spent a lot of time sitting together, and talking our heads off.

We became best friends. We did everything together. We would be together all day at school (well, except those years they evilly separated us), ride the bus home, and then get home and call each other to talk about our day.

We were among the first students at East Iredell, in 5th grade, and would talk to each other under the cabinets. (It was a ‘progressive” school….no walls. Let’s just say there are walls now. Experiment unsuccessful.)

We’d ride bikes and go on long walks. We went to Vacation Bible School at each other’s churches. 

We played Barbies. I won’t tell you what age we were when we stopped doing this. We swore we would never tell anyone. I will keep that promise. 

The first slumber party I attended was at her house. We’d sleep on the sun porch, but “I dare you to…”  would have us sneaking into the house in the middle of the night. We did this well into high school. Now I know her parents probably heard the giggling and knew exactly what we were up to. 

Me – also senior year

Our parents dropped us off at the Playhouse Theater on Saturdays for the kiddie matinees. This was awesome fun and probably our first real taste of freedom. We’d see things like old Elvis Presley and Gidget movies. (These now seem a bit weird  to me for kiddie matinees. But we loved them.) The bats would fly overhead and our feet would stick to the floor. We laughed….but I still may have a fear of bats attacking my head. 

We could talk about everything forever. We were very different, but yet we always “got” each other. We still do. Even if we have gone years between visits.

We started high school together and the summer before the then-modest me stressed about high school PE. You had to take showers afterward…..that terrified me. Carole wasn’t as scared as me. Of course, I got the female PE teacher who stood over the shower stalls with her clipboard and made sure students got naked. OK, she would say she made sure they practiced good hygiene and took a shower. Carole got the male PE teacher who didn’t know whether they showered or not. We remained friends anyway. (Mass showering still icks me out.)

Most of our high school extra-curriculars were the same. We were in Model UN. Probably because we loved the teacher who started it and the others who were in it. We were in chorus freshman year and the school musical was Oklahoma. We were not cast in parts (didn’t want to be), but loved singing in the chorus and doing our special dance number with four other girls. Yes, standards for dancers were not high. I had a purple covered basket that matched my dotted swiss dress. Carole’s was another color. Maybe green? I don’t remember. But we were spectacular. (So OK….we got through it without tripping and probably sang in tune. The families were not embarrassed.) But it was glorious fun.

We were allowed in a Bible study where we were the youngest members. Some had graduated from college. Carole’s sister Angela invited us to be a part of it, I think. They were a great influence to me….and I suspect Carole. But even then we were confident in our beliefs and would join  the discussion as an equal. I believe that was one of the things that grounded us and showed us that we could have our own opinions and beliefs.

We had a great group of best friends in high school….our little crowd had half of us from East Itedell and half from Union Grove. We went to football games and cheered our hearts out. Maybe we lost a lot of games, but we thought we were great. We’d go to dinner at Darryl’s in Winston or El Tio’s for Mexican. We once almost drove into the pond at the Fiddler’s Convention property. Yes, we were trespassing….but we had decided we would go to Union Grove so our friends didn’t have to come to Statesville that night. You had to do something. Carole was driving. I was in the front seat. We were on an incline and saw nothing. The people in the back seat screamed and prevented us from going into the pond. Just barely. We laughed and laughed. 

We double dated to the junior prom. I refused to go my senior year…..and was solid in my stance until my friends came by McDonalds (where I was working) in their finery. I might have regretted not going then.

We went to a certain teacher’s home in the middle of the night and put her Volkswagon in the front yard. I will never tell which teacher. She probably would be shocked to know. 😊😊😊

I got thrown out of study hall my senior year (for “corrupting freshman”….still rolling my eyes at Mr. Gainey.) I didn’t want to take a study hall anyway…but had been forced to. I left as directed, and Carole and a few other friends got up and walked out with me. Greatest move ever for all of us. Some of our best memories from high school were made hiding from teachers for the rest of the year so we wouldn’t be forced back to class. Mr. Gainey was overjoyed we were never caught and stayed out of his hair. The freshmen, though they stayed in class, remained corrupt. (Mom….I told you about this, didn’t I? Oops!)

I remember after going to our ten year class reunion, which Carole was not able to attend, that I called her and said “Did you have fun in high school?” She said “Yes! We had so much fun! Why are you asking?” I said to her “Evidently we were the only ones.” We laughed. I had talked to a lot of people at the reunion about “the good ole days” and found out that most of them hated high school. I had loved every minute and was totally oblivious to any angst with anyone else. Well, maybe I didn’t love every minute….I was a teenager….but most of them. Carole and I still don’t totally understand why others weren’t having as much fun as we were. But even as adults make fun a priority in our lives. We are both easily amused. And I think we were probably a bit naive to “normal” teen pressures.

We don’t always do a great job keeping in touch as adults. Carole found out that my dad had died the day before his memorial service. She’s not on Facebook, and that was the only way I told anyone. Her mom saw his obituary in the newspaper and called to tell her. Though she had just started a new job, she asked off  of work so she could be there for me and my family.  It meant so much. But as she said “I just had to be there.” I understand. I would do the same for her.

I have a great fortune in my best friend group (you know who you are, I hope)….amazing people collected from different parts and times of my life, who love me well, despite any faults or differences. I know people who say they only have one or two true friends. I have been blessed with more than that. Another from high school, several from college, some from those early 20s years, and those from my current Statesville and balllooning life. I don’t take friendship lightly….and I hang on rather tightly. Or maybe loosely and just accept it as it comes.

Carole and I had lunch together yesterday. We hadn’t had a good conversation in years. We sat for three hours over lunch, catching up and sharing where we were now in our life journeys and marveling at how similar our thoughts are, even though our paths have been so different. She told me that at some point she and her husband plan to move back to this area. It seems right. We’ll pick up where we left off.

We forgot to take a picture, so I can’t include one here. But in our eyes we are still those girls from high school, so I plucked those pictures from our high school year book. That’s the thing about the best of friends….we see souls. In the eyes of a best friend, you don’t change. You are a jewel. Your value only rises.

“A friend is one who overlooks your fence and admires the flowers in your garden.” – Unknown

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