“So do you want to be in my play? I’m putting on a Greek tragedy.” I won’t pretend to remember the exact wording my 11 year old self used to ask fellow 11 year old Lyn Jacobs to be in my play.
I wanted to be her friend. I liked the way she wore her blue jean overalls with confidence, how her long blond braids hung over her shoulders, how her face was open and kind.
I, on the other hand, was on the wrong side of another bad home perm, in my third year of braces(replete with nighttime head gear) and a training bra that was getting zero training.
“Sure,” she answered. She would be in my play. She liked me too.
Thirty two years later, Lyn is still one of my best friends.
As for that greek play, we memorized the complicated lines, I wore a sheet, she wore a pillow case, and the fire alarm went off as we were performing in front of the entire sixth grade.
We were forced to evacuate, outside, in our sheets, and that is where the tragedy became real. The eighth graders saw us. Nothing happened. But they saw us. And when you’re 11 and still a child, and they’re 14, with their sprouting body parts and hair and deep voices and wild make out sessions next to your locker, your goal in life is to not be noticed by them. Wearing white sheets with only underwear beneath them is the opposite of not being noticed. The embarrassment for Lyn and me served as a sort of friendship cement.
In college, Lyn and I (because of course we went to the same college) met Heather and Danielle. Two became four. It was double the fun, double the fights (often over men), double the shoulders to cry on. Twenty one years beyond college, we are still a foursome.
For one magical day every year, our families reunite on Lyn’s farm. We are a gaggle of husbands and kids and cows and horses and ostriches and crayfish and honeybees. And in the few moments of quiet between the chaos, we catch up and debrief and counsel and encourage one another, scrambling to make up for lost time and years that fly too quickly by.
Together we have mourned the loss of parents, of marriages, of perfectly firm unlined skin.
We worry and wonder who our kids will grow up to be. We worry and wonder who we have grown up to be.
And we laugh. And laugh. And laugh. And no one can get in. The poor husbands are on the outside of this world — a place and a history that belongs solely to the four of us.
Back then we spent a lot of time figuring out who we were going to be, how it would all turn out. I guess I’m glad no one told me the truth, that twenty five years later I’m still figuring out who I’m going to be and I still don’t know how it will all turn out. I just do it in a different shell — one in which the sleep wrinkles in my cheeks take hours to fade, in which I pay a mortgage and raise children and work a job and come home to waiting bills and magazines with my name on them. I have a list of accomplishments. I am pedigreed.
There are so many moving parts to my life that it is easy to forget that I once had none of it. I was a kid, and all I had to offer was myself. That and my rollerball lip gloss. And it was enough.
Three decades ago I wanted to be friends with the girl with the kind face and the blond braids. I knew it would make my life better to know her. I knew it would make me better. And it did. And it has. And it still is.