I had a very best friend in high school named Sue. We actually became fast friends in 8th grade, after she came over to ask me about a book I was reading – Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. From that interaction forward, our friendship grew and we became virtually inseparable for several years.
My family had moved to the area at the start of 8th grade, and up until Sue, I didn’t have any close friends. My home was a little bit chaotic – a big rambling house with my folks and my sister, our two dogs, lots of boxes in the basement, and eventually my 87 year old grandfather. He’d been a bachelor for many years, and it was quite an adjustment for all of us as he moved into a family with busy teenagers. My dad went back to college and became a business student, my mom worked part time, and our social activity and closest friends were from church, none of whom were my age. Looking back, I see that I was a typical teenager, wanting to escape my house, and Sue’s home became the respite. She lived in a wealthier part of town, and her home seemed calm and put together, where mine felt discombobulated somehow, as our family was in transition for several of those years living in Michigan.
Sue had lots of friends, was very popular, an athlete and accomplished musician. I was shocked and delighted that she wanted to be friends with me, a gawky geeky girl.
We’d get home from school and check in with our moms, and then call each other to arrange getting together. We’d leave our houses at the same time, and meet half-way between our homes, walking the rest of the way around the neighborhood and end up at her house. She’d often play the piano and I would sing along – she helped me to learn to read music, which aided my efforts at piano lessons. Or she’d play her dulcimer or banjo. She was very musical, and we had lots of fun, singing at the top of our lungs and entertaining her mom with our latest renditions.
There were times when Sue came to my house. My folks would often drive us to the mall to walk around. Of course, my folks walked around, too. I remember Sue commenting how cool it was that my folks still held hands, a fact I took for granted. She came with me to some church activities and retreats, and we had many spiritual discussions.
We wrote letters to each other almost every week. Just silly things, like which boy we thought was cute or all about that English assignment, or the latest gossip on one of our teachers. She always signed her notes with smiley eyes and hair.
(I came across those letters a few months ago, as I was cleaning out to get ready to move to Colorado. I didn’t remember that I had kept them, and I read several of them before deciding it was time to part with them. Maybe that’s why she’s on my mind – I’ve been subconsciously thinking of her since I disposed of the letters.)
She taught me to make chocolate chip cookies – we did that a lot. Her dad would come in after work, a very tall distinguished looking man – and he’d give her a huge hug, all the while dipping four fingers into the cookie dough behind her back and coming away with a handful to eat. Her mom, of much smaller stature – would just laugh and remind him what was cooking for dinner. Her mom had a wonderful laugh – kind of like a tinkling bell. They both welcomed me into their home every time I came over. Her brothers were typical brothers – one a couple of years older, the other younger. I remember one time when Sue and I were watching a scary movie by ourselves in the family room, with all the lights off and we were huddled under a blanket, and the older brother snuck into the room and jumped out at just the right moment to scare us like crazy!
Sue taught me the joy of lying under the Christmas tree. We’d turn out all the lights in the room except the tree, and we’d lie under the branches and look up. The soft glow of the lights reflecting off the ornaments was so peaceful. We’d recline there and listen to Christmas music and talk about our holiday break and family traditions.
At some point, in our Junior year I think, we became less exclusive, and our friendship circle expanded to include two other close girlfriends. I found another friend to hang out with sometimes, and Sue’s and my friendship shifted. We were still close, but had lots of room for others.
My folks moved away during my Freshman year in college, so I never had the experience of “going home” to reconnect with old high school friends. My relationships shifted again, and I lost touch with most of the girls and guys we had hung out with.
Sue and I went to different colleges, and I remember visiting during her nursing undergrad program with my boyfriend (now husband) and another close friend. That was one of the last times we saw each other.
We exchanged Christmas cards for a few years, and then we got busy with our families. I lost track of her as we moved across the country. At one point, I found one of her daughters on Facebook and asked her to get a message to Sue, but nothing happened for a couple of years, until I found Sue on Facebook and we communicated briefly.
In the past year, I’ve reconnected with another high school friend, Chris, and it’s been so fun to catch up with short phone calls filled with stories of our families, and laughter at reminiscing. It turns out that she is practically neighbors with Sue, and they see each other for social activities together. I’m glad – Sue makes a great friend.