Sunday, September 30, 2007

Best Friends

This is my daughter and her best friend who lives across the cul-de-sac. They are a match made in heaven and play together almost every day. The two of them have a lot in common. Both were adopted. Both have annoying brothers. Both wear their hair in no-nonsense bobs.

It is great to have a best friend right across the street.

Growing up, my best friend lived across the street, too. She and I had a lot in common as well. We were both born in July. Got baptized on the same day. And both had unusual first names. Our gymnastics coach just called us "Ding and Dong."

"Ding's" house was my second childhood home. I was the oldest of seven and she was the youngest of six, so our households were very different. She liked coming to my house to play with all the little kid toys, watch me change diapers, and drink the red fruit punch my mom always ordered from the milkman.

I liked to go to her house because there were no pesky little brothers or annoying little sisters. Her house was full of teenagers who were always washing their cars, listening to KISS records or making out with their boy/girlfriends. Needless to say, Ding's mother was fairly preoccupied, so the two of us could slip unnoticed into the basement and help ourselves to the always-plentiful supply of Certs and Pepsi.

Ding only had one brother who was close in age. He was a year ahead in school and bullied us mercilessly. When we were little he made us cry by throwing snowballs, siccing the big black dog on us, and hiding our Donny and Marie dolls. As he got older, he moved on to more subtle techniques such as bra-snapping and disgusting boy smells.

(Side note: One of my all-time most satisfying moments was seeing this same big brother at church one Sunday years later. He had just returned home from a church mission and was somewhat humbled. I had just finished my second year of college and was not. My face had cleared up, my dress-size was at a record low and my summer perm was extra fluffy. I was wearing an outfit that made me look GOOD and the surprise on his face showed he was interested. Luckily, I was sporting a big-ole diamond engagement ring on my left hand and a tall, handsome fiance on my right arm. Ha! Eat your heart out, bully boy!!! Yes, very satisfying, indeed...)

Ding and I loved to play Husker Du, watch Brady Bunch, lip synch to the Grease soundtrack, and practice our cartwheels in her backyard. Her sister had a hair salon in the basement and was the one to start me down the long road to perm-addiction. We would play on that spinning barber chair for hours. One summer day we got spinning and laughing so hard I wet my pants. It was humiliating. Ding was cool about it at the time. At later points, however, when our relationship was going through adolescent rocky patches, she would bring up the incident and put me in my place.

Ding had a large and colorful extended family. Her grandmother wore a pair of gold, sparkly shoes that I always coveted. An elderly grandfather came to live at the house for several years. The older married siblings were always staying or visiting and we would often find ourselves babysitting Grandpa and the little nieces and nephews for the afternoon. The patchwork of my childhood is filled with so many scraps of this one special friend.

Unfortunately, by ninth grade, circumstances changed. Ding ran with a different crowd. We had little in common. I was as anxious to keep my distance as she was. She went to a party school. I went to a religious university. My family moved away and we rarely saw each other.

So, I was touched one day, years later, to find a box that Ding had delivered to my parents' new house. It was a shoe box with a pair of gold sparkly slippers inside. Her grandmother had died and she wanted me to have them.

Now that I am all grown up and have children with friends across the street, I find myself remembering Ding more and more often. I hope she is as happy as I am. And, I'll bet, if we sat down with a Pepsi, we could still make each other laugh.

12 comments:

mama jo said...

that's a very sweet blog...hope she reads it...how are the slippers?

Megan said...

I loved this post. I had a friend that lived around the corner named Cathy. I can relate to all of your experiences. I just contacted her the other day and we are catching up by email. Great post. I love thinking about my childhood and remembering it fondly.

Amanda said...

Love this post. It is so sweet. I have a friend with similar memories.... Thanks.

Bridget said...

What a great post. YOu never do forget those childhood friendships. Have you tried looking her up now? Google is a wonderful thing for that.

Celia Fae said...

I loved this essay. You should find Ding and send it to her, I bet she would be tickled.

I don't know Alicia or Samantha, but people tell me I look like people all of the time. I'm a little worried about your perm addiction. Maybe we can't be friends after all.

Marty: said...

I learned so much visiting my childhood friends at their houses. I realized all moms weren't as nice as mine. Dads read school-type books and didn't watch sports, houses could be messy and still really fun. I discovered I was THRILLED I didn't have an older brother of my own, until they could drive. Then I coveted older brothers since the mom trusted them and they took us much cooler places than the mom ever knew about. I love thinking about my childhood friends, and yours, too. Get in touch!

Rochelleht said...

Wow! That was so sweet! I can't believe she sent you the shoes! So cool.

I can't believe that mean bully boy would touch your Donny and Marie dolls! The nerve!!! I treated mine with great reverence and respect.

Oh, and the line "perm was extra fluffy" made me laugh out loud! I love it.

lainakay said...

Love this post! When do I not love your posts? You really have a wonderful talent.

I, too, had a best friend that lived next door. So many fun memories. She was two-years younger, so when I went to seventh-grade at the middle school we gradually grew apart.

Then her mother passed away (very young) and the entire family dynamic changed. Nannies, then a new step-mother and brother... so many changes. I still think about her and her family often, they were such a huge part of my life for so many years. I often wonder if I should contact her. There were so many things unsaid, especially after her mother died. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about it.

Sorry for the tangent. I wish my kids had close neighbor friends like that. Unfortunately, all of our neighbors are older with married children or children in high school. So much to be said for having a friend that is so immediately available.

Blah, blah, blah. I'm done.

Gramafolly said...

I love childhood friends, especially when they stay your friends into marriage, motherhood, being a grama, being sick...it's fun to have those few that remember everything.

Dancin Queen said...

What a fun post! Girlfriends are so great for little girls.

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

This was such a great post. Sounds like the perfect childhood friend - loved the images evoked through your memories. Such a great writer, you are!

Shaka said...

i loved reading this! childhood friendships are so important! i can never believe how i can know so little now, about people i spent so much time with! i guess what i'm saying is that it is so sad that you grow apart!

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