I’m reading The Book Thief. Well, actually, i am listening to it as an audiobook. I haven’t finished it, but i am enjoying it thoroughly. I just had to write about this one line though, before I forgot it. It made me laugh out loud at the dinner table when I heard it. Not the ubiquitous LOL, but a real and true belly laugh, the kind that comes from deep somewhere like plucking a string on a guitar. (Kids were fighting, so to punish them i made them listen to my boring old book.) It made me smile. It might have made me cry, but i would never say that, because that would incur merciless teasing.
You see, one of my most enduring friendships also started with a snowball to the face.
The scene: Saddle Creek, Roswell, Georgia. 5th grade. The usual suspects were there – Kinneys, Jurnacks, maybe that Stringer family. You know. The one that had the little girl that peed on her brother’s bed to retaliate when he made fun of her wetting the bed. We were playing on the street behind mine, on a snow day. That Catholic private school kid who lived in the neighborhood also evidently had the day off. That kid had way too many toys. He had a big hill in his front yard. All the kids were there, sledding and throwing snow balls. There may have been a snowball that someone wet down and froze. It may have even been built around a rock. This will be debated hotly for many years. I aver that the frozen snowball did indeed exist.
The private school brat pushed me down in the snow. He held a frisbee, and repeatedly dumped snow into my face. Right into my face. The awful snow we get here in Georgia is wet and heavy and colder than the dry snows. It hurt. He didn’t stop. I hated him.
He is one of my dearest friends today.
But that didn’t happen for a while. That was 5th grade, and he was still a private school kid. And then we were suddenly in middle school. And he was there, too. I had a crush on his best friend. (Uh, you know, 5th/6th grade “love.”) They were popular.
I looked like this:
Let’s just skip over middle school, shall we? I am sure it will all come back and wash over me like a terrible Carrie waterfall of blood in about two years when R. starts middle school. Of course, R is handsome, and barring some awful braces/pimples apocalypse, he will be very popular and smart and I will just secretly resent him for it, and blog about it, but by that time the blog will be private so as to protect him from the embarrassment of having a mother like me. Let’s just say nothing good happened for those three years.
Oh, there was one thing good. Thank you, Tommy S. (Last name initial only because I just don’t know this person well enough to start writing about him all willy nilly in my blog without asking. I cuss on here, you know.) Here’s the story: I went to a dance by myself because my parents made me, and i looked like i did in the picture above, and i didn’t want to go, and i somewhere got up the balls/stupidity to ask a boy to dance. I picked Tommy and i think it was because he was always nice, not because i liked him. I think i still liked Owen in middle school. And God Bless him, Tommy didn’t say no. And I am sure his friends made fun of him for dancing with me, because OMG LOOK AT THE GIRL IN THAT PHOTO, but he did the noble and right thing. You gotta give him and his mama props for that one. And whoever married him, well, damn, girl, you got yourself a good man right there. Isn’t a middle school boy doing the right thing in a situation like that just about all a parent could ask for?
Oh. There’s the pig’s blood. I can’t believe I just wrote about that. I am not sure i have ever told that story to anyone. I wonder what song they played? What song could possibly have been the catalyst for me to ask a boy to dance?
I can post this, because Mike got cute, and has a hot, cool wife, and cute kids now. My point is . . . what is my point again? . . . Oh, yeah. My point is that my story is not unique, and it is not mine alone. Middle school just sucks for most people. Also, shit, this picture KILLS me.
I think I have ADD. Where was I going with all this again?
Oh. So, Jason and I barely spoke during middle school, except for when he teased me mercilessly, or threw the occasional basketball at my head, or sat on top of me till i peed during a tackle football game or a particularly vicious game of Smear the Queer. Apologies to my dear gay friends, but you know that’s what we called it as kids, and I sincerely apologize for every time we said it. I would never let my kids say this. I’m just trying to be. . . historically accurate. It was particularly stupid that we played these games in the Kinneys’ front yard, because it was split down the middle by a very hard, very sharp-edged brick walk, marching from the street to the front door. I can’t believe no one split their head open on that damn sidewalk.
And then we were in high school, and i was in 9th grade and i was not as hideous as I once was, although i didn’t realize it at the time. I felt just as hideous. But now I had more friends, and people invited me to do things on weekends, and i had kissed a boy by that time, barely, and Tony East told me i had a nice ass in Mr. Nault’s class one time, and I punched him in the arm, but secretly i was flattered that someone said that about me. That was better than that time the kid on the bus, who was not Jason, and shall remain nameless, told me I have sideburns in the sunlight.
Have a little girl? Thinks she doesn’t take absolutely every little word, criticism, compliment or cutdown to heart? Think again. She remembers them all. She grows up thinking there are things wrong with her, and that she is less than perfect, which of course is untrue, because she is perfectly imperfect. But she will grow up and find either a therapist or running or gardening or Jesus or WordPress, and it might be okay.
10th grade. We were in Mr. Moeller’s Biology class. And ugh, I had to be in Jason’s lab group. Thank god for Michelle McLaughlin sitting at that table, because otherwise i might have just dropped out of school.
Did I mention that i had a car by that time? It was my Dad’s. It was a ’66 Mustang convertible.
I know that Daddy let me drive it because he loved me, but it was beautiful, a terribly beautiful gift, and i was terrified of my father, and therefore terrified of driving it, because i was scared i would wreck it, and I was scared of what my father would do if i did. My dad, if he can figure out how to comment on this, will probably sound angry and tell me I was spoiled and it was my car, but I really thought it was his car that he let me drive. I never felt like it was my mine. And he’ll say I’m ungrateful, and also that i spent all his money up in Athens, sitting on a bar stool at the Georgia Bar, wearing combat boots, and buying Posies CDs.
Which is pretty much true.
One day in Biology, Jason asked if I’d drive him home. And so it began.
He had a luxurious, majestic, late 80s mullet. I had no gray hair. Or boobs. And we did pretty much everything together from that point on. I mean, i had other friends, and he did too, and we hung out with lots of different types of people, but Jason (and Owen) were just a fixture. We rode together to school, we listened to Fugazi, and Jane’s Addiction, and Metallica and Danzig and Samhain and The Misfits, The Smiths, REM, and the Cure at 7 in the morning and went to Burger King every day but didn’t gain weight, and McDonald’s on weekends, and drank in basements and cul-de-sacs, and in the summer, we drove around, windows down, and went to the river, or Dairy Queen and we ate Blizzards. I sat in a booth at Baskin Robins waiting for him to get off work (and Camille and Owen and Evan, too) and I didn’t even like ice cream.
My mother and father trusted him and Owen and Evan so much that they let me go out of town and share hotel rooms with these boys, for shows and spring breaks. It was unseemly, but I was safe as kittens. . . kinda.
I fell in love with someone else’s boyfriend. Jason and i went to prom together anyway. I kind of like it that way. I wore a dress that looked like it was made of dalmations.
That Fall, we both went to school in Athens. He joined a fraternity, like his brother before him. I wore Doc Martens with ripped tights or fishnets and dyed my hair black and purple. I was violently in love, and I spent every waking moment with my boyfriend, who was also Jason’s roommate. It looked something like this photo.
This is really two photos – one is from a roll of film i took over the summer before college. It’s Jason, seen through the sunroof in my Black Honda Accord (the Mustang was gone by then.) You can also see what I think is probably Evan’s foot. It looks like an Ev shoe. I guess I somehow reused the film that Fall in Athens, because the photo of my high school friend is overlaid with the one of my first love lying in the sun on a beautiful Fall day on North Campus. I am surprised that I didn’t throw those photos out, but I kept them, and I’m glad I did. They are a weird, distorted snapshot of two of my early worlds. They are strangely sweet to me now.
Jason and I grew apart.
We’ve never really talked about this. I don’t think so anyway. But we did. We grew apart. We still saw each other, and we’d still hang out together on holidays and in the summers. But things were different. He went to formals and football games. I went to bars and house parties, and worked at the Grill on game days. We both still went to shows, and occasionally we went to the same shows. And that thread has always been there. We both are great lovers of music. (Some of us are more fanatical about it than others.)
The boyfriend and I broke each others hearts. I am not sure what he took away from it all, but he left me with many gifts, one of which was the gift of knowing the importance of good friends. I have never forgotten that lesson. There were new boyfriends. Graduations. Card games and trivia at my parents house. Real jobs, and real world roommates and new places in the real world. I moved a thousand miles away. I moved back. And through it all, Jason was there. It was like that time of growing apart was a blip. I know it was a necessary part of my life to learn who i was in the world. And when i started to figure it out, he was still there; One of those friends that you can not speak to for 6 months, or a year, and then you sit down for a beer with them and can talk for 4 hours straight like no time has passed. (He is not the only one of these friends i have – i am blessed with a few of them. But they did not throw snow in my face, so this post is about Jason.)
If this were a book, or a movie, Jason and I would have fallen in love and gotten married. But that was not our story. That was not us. When Harry Met Sally was wrong – A man and a woman really can be best friends without sex coming into it.
This is not to say that he is not as pervy as the next guy.
So, we met spouses, got married, bought homes, and had children. We still get together, we still see shows. We still occasionally drink in basements every few years.
We went to each others’ kids’ birthday parties when our kids were little and didn’t have their own guest lists.
We talk on the phone still, and he still does the laugh. He has the funniest laugh. It gives me the giggles.
We have known each other so long now (almost 32 years) that my sister and i consider him our brother.
And it all started with a simple snowball in the face.