I met my best friend Jacqueline back in the days of Big Wheels, Barbie Dolls, Little People and Grease. Back in the day of Rocket Pops, Kick the Can, and bicycles with banana seats. Back and in the day when I was Lory and she was Jackie.
We met on the sidewalk between our two houses in 1980, after her parents moved into the house next to ours in a small suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. I was four and she was five. She was the youngest of four girls and I was the youngest with two older brothers. We were both longing for a partner-in-crime after spending our first five years being tormented and ignored by older siblings. We were instantly inseparable.
Playing in my front yard. I am on top, Jackie is in the grass.
We spent every waking moment together. We would set up intricate neighborhoods of Little People houses and spend hours decorating the tiny homes with miniature furniture. Even at an early age, we took this process very seriously . We would pool our collection of doll furniture into a pile and take turns picking who got what. This was pretty pointless because if one of us picked a piece of furniture that the other wanted, it usually ended in catastrophe, with furniture being flung across a room and someone packing up their stuff and stomping home, vowing never to return. Usually though, we kept it pretty civil.
We would do the same thing with our Barbie dolls. Family members would marvel at the houses we would make out of folded album covers. Since neither of our families had enough money to buy us Barbie dream homes, we had to make due. Jackie would always name her Barbies something like Jennifer, Amber or Tiffany. Usually, we would fight over the same names, probably because they seemed more beautiful and exotic than our own. Lory and Jackie, as we went by in 1980, just seemed a little too vanilla at the time. After spending hours setting up the homes for our dolls, we would have them make out with Ken for a little bit, before moving on in our boredom to something new.
Usually that meant turning on the record player and acting out all the song and dance numbers to Grease. Somehow she would always be Sandy and I was stuck being Danny Zucko, although to this day she blatantly denies it. Sometimes we would fight so much about it that we would storm out of the other's house, and not speak for days. But eventually, we would reconcile, turn Grease back on and practice kissing John Travolta's picture on the album cover. All the while, being innocently oblivious to what the lyric "You are supreme, the chicks'll cream for grease lightning" meant.
Some party at my parent's house, 1983?
Then, a couple of years later, our parents both got divorced at the same time. What should have been a terribly tragic time for two seven year old girls was made a little easier after both of our mothers rented condos right next to each other in a complex on the other side of town. On the days we were with our mothers, we were still together. We moved our dolls and bikes to the other side of town and picked up where we left off.
But oddly enough, a couple of years after that, both sets of parents reconciled. And for reasons that 9 year olds can't understand, both families decided to move, this time far away. Her family picked up and moved to Rhode Island, and mine moved to Florida. While we wrote a few letters and even visited each other twice, sadly, by the age of 11 we had lost contact. Her parents had split up again and both had moved away. In the days before the internet and Facebook, I had no way of finding her.
I remember lying in bed one night when I was about 12 years old and my mind started to wander to her. I cried knowing that there was no way I was ever going to see my old friend again now that many states separated us and we hadn't spoken for years. I went to sleep knowing she was lost forever.
The summer of 1989 was the year before I started high school. My dad took my brother and I back to Ohio to visit my family for an entire month and I was looking forward to a trip to my favorite amusement park in the world, Cedar Point. It was place where I had spent countless summers as a child, many of them with Jackie and her family,
After getting off a roller coaster with my brother I walked up to my dad who as talking to a familiar face sitting on a bench. It was Jackie's dad. He told us Jackie was there, in the park with some friends. She was visiting him for the summer in Ohio. My heart skipped a beat. Was is really possible that my long-lost friend who I hadn't spoken to in years just happened to be visiting an amusement park in a state where she doesn't live on the same day I was? And how was it that we just happened to see her father in a crowd of thousands of people?
My brother had won me a giant stuffed dog and her dad, ever-the-prankster, decided to hold onto it for us so we would have an excuse to meet up again with them at the end of the night. He told her it belonged to some random girl and they had to wait for her to come pick it up before they could leave. He knew it would annoy her and she would never suspect a thing.
As the park closed, we made our way to the gates and there she was. My old friend, completely changed in her full-blown adolescence, was grumpily sitting with my stuffed dog, waiting for the strange girl to come pick it up so she could go home. I was nervous as I walked up to her, our families watching us with knowing smirks on their faces. Would she even remember who I was? What if she didn't even care?
"Hey, thanks for holding that for me." I said to her as I walked up to the table where she was waiting. She barely looked up at me as she muttered a sarcastic, "ummhmm."
"Aren't you even going to say HI to me?" I said with a laugh, trying to get her to look me in the eye.
It was then she looked up at me and after about four seconds of trying to descramble my hormonal face into the childhood friend she recognized, she screamed out in joy and jumped into my arms.
We had found each other again. Unbelievably, we were reunited.
Our dads arranged for us to spend a few nights with each other on that vacation. We spend the days together laughing, reminiscing, and promising that we would never lose touch again. We picked up right where we had left off.
A trip to Wildwood Water Park, 1989
The next four years, we reconnected as pen pals in high school. We never spoke on the phone or visited, but wrote letters to one another obsessively, at least twice a week. We told each other everything. We went through phases together (hers was more punk rock as mine was more heavy metal, stoner girl). We sent each other lyrics to our favorite songs along with mixed tapes (Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Sinead O Conner for her and Metallica, Anthrax and Jane's Addiction for me), we confessed about all our awful boyfriends, stupid things we experimented with and the loss of every childhood innocence we once shared. And although we were completely different, as always, we were exactly the same.
The summer after graduation I went back to Ohio to visit and spent an entire two weeks with her. As always, we picked up right where we had left off and reconnected at a crossroads in our lives, the end of high school and the beginning of college. It was a wonderful two weeks filled with graduation parties, shopping, music, boys and hopes for the future.
At Hilltop Park, a park by our old house where we would take our Barbies to play.
In college we kept true to our pen pal ways. We wrote each other a letter a week and confessed more of our fading innocence. The boyfriend stories got less naive and more heartfelt and passionate. The music also took at turn to more classic and psychedelic rock. We had fun comparing notes on our college experiences. Once again, completely different but exactly the same.
After a couple of years I graduated with an Associate Degree and went to work in the real world as a bartender. I broke up with my on again-off again boyfriend of 6 years and was unhappy in the situation I was in. Jackie came out of the blue to visit me in Tampa where I was living. At this point, I was 20, she was 21. We went out drinking, played pool and stayed up all hours of the night talking. She told me if I was truly unhappy, and ever wanted to, I could come up to Ohio and stay with her in Athens while she finished school. She would make room for me anytime.
After a few months I came to visit her and fell in love again. I fell in love with the winter, and Ohio and the town of Athens. But most of all I fell in love with her. She was my friend and I wanted to know her as an adult.
On Easter Sunday, when I was 21 years old, I packed up everything I could fit onto my Honda Civic, including my dog Zero, and drove straight through the night up to Ohio to start my new life with my old friend. It was a bold move for a young girl to make and for a million different reasons I was unaware of at the time, it was the best decision I ever made.
Jackie (or Jacqueline, as she now refers to herself) and I got along perfectly. We spent hours laughing while sitting at the kitchen table smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee together. We watched old reruns of Saturday Night Live and would constantly reenact the skits to each other. We would stand at the fridge and write dirty, magnetic poetry on the door as we cackled so loudly, our roommates would leave the house for hours at a time. We would flip through fashion catalogues and run back and forth to each others closets and play dress up. We drank beer and shot pool in High Street bars and grabbed black bean burritos from The Burrito Buggy on the drunken walk home. And of course, we helped each other cope with our ridiculous boyfriends.
Being an adult with her was as easy as it had always been. Just trade the Little People and Barbie Dolls for a pack of Marlboro Lights and a pot of coffee and we were back to where we started.
Old Man's Cave
Jackie's College Graduation
After she graduated from college, she moved back to Cleveland for a job and I stayed in Columbus with my boyfriend at the time. We went from writing one another to calling on the phone. Eventually, I met Jeremy and started my journey from state to state as he settled into his career, and she moved to Minnesota and eventually Sioux Falls, South Dakota to embark on her career in journalism. Eventually, we both got married, she was my maid-of-honor, then I was her matron, we left our wild and crazy ways behind as we slowly grew up and settled down.
With Jackie the day before she left Cleveland for Minnesota, 1999
Jackie's Dad's wedding, 2001
My first visit to South Dakota, 2002. A memorable night of cold medicine and vodka tonics.
My wedding, 2003
Jackie's wedding, 2005
Visiting me in Miami, 2004
Jackie's wedding rehearsal, 2005
The last few years as we both evolved into working women in front of computers all day, we slowly shifted our weekly phone calls to daily emails. Which now has evolved to about 20 emails a day. We also both got into running about the same time, although she started running distance a few years before me. Now instead of comparing our favorite bands, we compare weekly running mileage and our fashion tips are reserved to running attire.
Then last year, I was overjoyed when my long-time friend informed me that she was going to be a mother. We screamed on the phone in excitement as I told her all the wonderful stories I was going to tell her kid about her one day. Sadly, the celebration was short lived, as a few weeks later, I had to call her again, this time to listen to her cry as she recounted the sad details of her miscarriage.
But as fate would have it, the new year started with an amazing coincidence. My friend had gotten pregnant again. I was so happy for her that I could hardly believe it when, I myself was staring at a positive pregnancy test only two weeks later. We were both pregnant with our first children and were going to embark on this crazy journey together.
We spent the next three months in an email frenzy, going back and forth about how the other was feeling, the doctor's appointments and the food we were eating. It was fun to have a pregnant buddy, even more that it was her. I was so excited about our children getting to know each other and the hopes that they would be connected in some way like we were.
But fate has a funny way of working things out and this time it was her consoling me on the phone after I lost my pregnancy after 14 weeks. Of all the raw emotions I was feeling at that time, one that stuck out to me was the sadness that we weren't going to be able to share that bond of our first pregnancy together anymore. Because of the situation behind losing the baby, it was the single worst experience of my life. And after the weeks and months went by, and other people, including Jeremy, began to move on, it was her who would always ask how I was doing, who could relate to my pain and be there for me when it was uncomfortable for everyone else. And as Jeremy and I plan to start a family again, she is there to help with the emotional stuff and let me know that it's OK to still feel sad and scared and that there is still hope. Out of these horrible tragedies we somehow both encountered, we once again, became connected.
So when she asked me a few weeks ago if I would like to come out to Sioux Falls and see her and her new six month old son, Jack, it was my honor. After not seeing each other for over four years, we split the cost of the ticket, and I flew out as soon as I could.
After our Sunday recovery run.
There is the leg shot...
We are so speedy.
And once again, we spent the entire weekend laughing. This time with no cigarettes, but still a few pots of coffee. We talked about motherhood, and ridiculous husbands. We talked marathon training and recipes as we cooked delicious dinners and went on a 16 mile run. We watched Saturday Night Live and still repeated all the good jokes back to each other while giggling uncontrollably, all the time, trying not to wake a sleeping baby.