Today is the birthday of the girl, MM, that was my best friend throughout grade and middle school. She and I were inseparable; I used to go to church with her on Sunday just so we could hang out that day, too. One of my clearest childhood memories is sitting on the curb in front of my house with her eating peanut butter and marshmallow sammiches, or eating Kool-Aid Powder because we weren’t allowed to walk to 7-11 and buy Pixie Stix. We were going to grow and be kindergarten teachers together. We were the best of friends right up til about 8th grade. When we met a group of boys.
(I know boys ruin everything, right?)
She was taken with CT; arguably the center of that group, the funny guy, the one that knew all the lyrics to all the songs, and always had a quick comeback. They dated for awhile but for him, it got old quickly. I don’t remember him saying anything directly to me, but I remember seeing the signs that he wanted out. It was painful to watch, her clinging to him (often literally) and him looking like he’d just stepped in road kill.
It did fall apart, and it wasn’t pretty. Especially, when not too much later the “new” friend (CC) in our little group of neighborhood friends starting dating CT. CC was the real deal for CT. He was stone-cold crazy about her – even I could see it. That new relationship fractured the childhood friendship in a big way. I remember the drama, the tears, the angry notes passed between classes. I also remember thinking it was Stupid. Maybe that was harsh, and maybe it was easy for me because I hadn’t yet felt for somebody the way MM said she felt for CT; but either way, I thought it was Stupid. It wasn’t something she ever got over. In her eyes, I had betrayed her by being friends with the new girlfriend. To say I disagreed, would be mild, the ‘new’ girl hadn’t done anything wrong. She didn’t steal CT from her, and MM’s clingy behavior was downright embarrassing. We eventually became friendly again, but I never trusted it, and neither did she.
CC and I became great friends and got into plenty of average high school trouble together, not to mention drank a whole lot of Jack Daniels together. (I realize that may not be ‘average’ high school behavior, but it seemed so at the time). MM still made appearances, and eventually started up with another guy in the group, JR. I feel like that was off an on for years, I feel pretty confident of that, because I can easily recall at least two other friends that dated JR.
JR, I think, looking back was the one guy I think that I should have given a chance. From 8th to 12th grade, people were constantly pushing him at me. His older brother’s girlfriend, every chance she got, CT, when drunk enough, and even in my own mind I knew how he felt. I remember him giving me a rose one night, under his deck in his backyard, and then walking me home. He always walked me home. I remember one year in high school he took me to homecoming, just because I wanted to go. So completely out of character for him, he showed up in a TIE (albeit with a Jack Daniels tie tac) and took me to that stupid dance. We were quickly bored, and we walked back to his house, me carrying my dyed-for-the-occasion heels. He was a very good guy. I don’t know why I never gave in and I don’t know when he gave up. I’m sure I hurt his feelings; probably more than once.
CT and CC eventually broke up; it was heart-rending. She went off to an out-of-state college, and he stayed right where he’d always been. I think they tried to keep it together for a year or so, but it just didn’t work. I drifted away from the group when she left, and became the one that showed up randomly, I think they were always happy to see me, but so much had changed; it never felt the same again.
JR, eventually married and had children with MM. CT married the little sister of someone who was also an occasional member of the group. Both couples are still married today, and CT still lives about 3 miles from where I first met him, and where we all made these memories.
I’m still in touch with some of these people. One or two of them come here from time to time and read and comment.
If CC sees this, I bet her memories would be altogether different, but no less true.
Generally speaking I don’t have any regrets about the decisions I made along the way. I do, however, think about these people and these years more often than any of the other people in my history, about the choices we made, and the ones we didn’t make. I wonder for all of us what would have happened .. If…
To MM, I hope you're having a happy birthday.
To the rest of you, thanks for everything.