Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How I Met My Best Friend

This is me, and my best friend Octavia. That's not her real name, of course, but for various reasons involving famous people, it works for her. We've been friends since we were 5. This, in spite of living in separate states since we were 8. You want to know how this is possible? Well, it has a lot to do with long-distance telephone calls, the invention of email, summer visits, common interests, and traveling together. I love Octavia. You want to know how we met, back when we were 5?

My mother, in raising each of her children, has always believed wholeheartedly in the genius of each one of her offspring, and any other young pups she adopts along the way. But that's another story for another time. For now, we're talking about her unswerving faith in our great mental prowess. Sometimes she believes this in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but for the most part, Mom's faith in our abilities has spurred us on to great achievements. And that is why, at the tender age of 4, I could read the Berenstain Bears books. She taught me how. This was great, but in kindergarten, while the rest of the class was learning about Mr. M and Ms. P, I was rapidly becoming a discipline problem. Boredom will do that to you. So a month or two into school, they skipped me ahead to the first grade.

Oh, my God, was I terrified. I was a terminally shy little girl (TERMINALLY), despite my behavioral outbursts in kindergarten, and moving me up with the older kids in first grade scared the ever-lovin' you-know-what out of me. I'll never forget that first day, walking into a classroom where everybody already knew each other and I was the new kid and didn't know anybody. And I was sure they were all so much smarter than me, after all, I bet you a million dollars they already knew how to do MATH... I'm lucky I didn't wet my pants.

Despite my acute terror, it all went relatively well until Mrs. Drew sat us down to do some work. (A side note about Mrs. Drew. Her first name was Ann. Ann Drew. Ha!!) She told us to get out our pencils. Uh-oh. I didn't have a pencil. My face flushed with humiliation, I raised my hand to tell Mrs. Drew, sure she was bound to yell at me. Mrs. Drew? Wherever you are now, thank you. I love you. She just smiled, said, "Oh, these things happen. Class, does anybody have a pencil they can lend our new student?"

Oh yes, they did. Whoom, whish, whap, shwoop! I blinked, and the next thing I knew there were roughly 4 million pencils in front of my face, each being offered by another classmate. Bewildered, I grabbed one, murmured "thank you," and on we went.

So how did I meet my best friend? You might think, based on the story I just told, that it was her pencil I borrowed. Well, you'd be wrong. At recess that day, I stood by myself, watching all my classmates playing, evaluating who appeared to be a safe bet to approach. Then this tall skinny kid with braids in her hair came swaggering up to me, looked me up and down, and said, with no small amount of belligerence, "Hey, why didn't you take MY pencil?!" I blushed and stammered, and said, "I don't know," and she smiled her enormous smile and said, "Ok. You wanna go play?"

That was 25 years ago, and we never looked back. Here's us at a karaoke bar a year or two ago. We closed the place down. I did Dolly Parton, she crooned to White Snake. She's the funniest person I know, as well as the smartest. I love Octavia. It is my life's ambition for us one day to live within a three hour drive of each other.

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