Beef Sticks

Ok, I know that the last two posts were candy related and so maybe you thought I was writing in some type of theme. Well, I am, but for the sake of this memory lets diverge from that path for a minute.

When I was in 8th grade my Dad got a new job. We picked up and moved from Philadelphia to Denver. Not an easy thing at 14, I assure you. New school, new house, new state=whole new set of complexes. We moved right at the end of the school year so I didn't have much of a chance to make new friends before summer break began. Things were looking grim and I was beginning to imagine a whole summer of reading Harry Potter with my younger sister. (disclaimer: I LOVE my sister but that summer was not the pinnacle of our relationship..as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder and as a 14year old I just wanted her to go away...so I could miss her of course, like I do all the time now).

Across the street from me was a house with 4 kids, two much older, one a little younger and one just the right age. We had a bit of a dance going on, neither of us being quite brave enough to cross the huge road of possible embarrassment and introduce ourselves. This went on for a few weeks until one night, as her and her brother sat on the fence out front, my Dad basically told me that if I didn't go out there introduce myself I had to stop pouting. Now as a teenage girl the possible end to my ability to complain was a serious situation. If it went well I would have something to do all summer, if it went badly I would have free range to whine and a whole new story to whine about. Jackpot. I took a quick look in the mirror to make sure I looked fun enough to hang out with but not like I was trying.

And that was that. Insta-friend. It was really easy with her and a close bond formed pretty much right away. We watched Dumb and Dumber almost every weekend and quoted it endlessly as we rode our bikes around the whole neighborhood. The two of us (her blond and me brunette) sat in the sun for hours with lemon juice in our hair trying to make hers invisible and mine slightly less brown. Later we tried dying our hair red with Kool-aid, which didn't work for either of us but smelled delicious. I think at one point our record was 14 sleepovers in a row and I think our parents thought we had mind melded into one person. We made other friends and we made some enemies too but that was easily laughed off if there were two of us. I went to school and she was home schooled and we escaped our day to day drudgery to hang out on the trampoline in her back yard.

We used to stay up absurdly late when we had sleep overs and usually around midnight we would get hungry and beg her older sister to drive us to the grocery store so that we could shop for snacks in our PJ's. Some of our favorite snacks included Nerds and Sweet Maui Onion potato chips, but ALWAYS beef sticks. They were essentially a better, cheaper version of a Slim Jim that came in packages of about 6. I think in one summer we must have eaten our combined weight in beef sticks. (Recently I looked for them and couldn't find them at the grocery store and I truly believe we may have been keeping them in business back then)

As high school progressed we were still close, but perhaps not as close. We both started dating and life got busier. Then her family moved to Virginia and we essentially lost all touch with each other. I would think about our friendship sometimes and wish I hadn't been so careless with it. Her family moved back to Colorado a few years later and we saw each other once. It was fun, but awkward. I wasn't the same person any more and I didn't put the energy into reconnecting that I wanted to.

Then, when I was living in Virginia (go figure) she and her husband and their baby moved in next door to my parents. Life is so random sometimes. I saw her while visiting them and we had a couple hours of catching up. She has a wonderful life, a beautiful son and a loving husband, but commented on how much she missed being my friend. I felt awful and had every intention of calling her once my husband and I completed our move to Arizona. Then I got busy unpacking, and painting the house, and making new friends and a million other inconsequential things and I didn't call.

Her father died two weeks ago.

He passed away in his sleep and her younger brother (20 years old now I think) was the one to find him. Her dad was the same age that my Dad is and I wept when I found out. I cried at the thought of her brother realizing his dad wasn't asleep, I cried because I let our friendship slip away and now I felt too removed to even call her and say sorry, I cried because I was afraid for my own Dad because he doesn't take great care of himself. I just cried.

I have a wonderful life. I have amazing friends, a loving family, the absolute best husband in the universe. I just wish I still had that friendship. And I wish I had a pack of beef sticks to share with her.

R.I.P Mr.T ( 1957-2009)


GMaD said...

Oh, Jen - I felt like crying with you. For several reasons. I love you.