You know how you have “best” friends when you are in grade school and junior high, but then you move into the high school age and friends start meaning more. That’s when you have a BEST friend. They start becoming more important. The more we grow up, the more we need one. We need the one person to talk to about problems. We need the one person to talk to about hopes and dreams and to talk about life’s plans.
I remember the first time I met my best friend. It was summer. It was gymnastics at the old Junior High Gym. The gym was old and had giant cement stairs that were about triple the height of a normal stair. When you got to the top you had to crouch down because there was the ceiling. We ran those stairs often. I actually liked running them. They were long too. We could cover a lot of ground running the junior high gym stairs. There was also a set of narrow stairs that led to the weights. They were so crappy. The weight room was full of mismatched weight equipment. I loved it though. My first real introduction to weight lifting. The smell of sweat, iron and mold.
I must have been gone when she first showed up because that day I met her, a bunch of the younger girls ran up to tell me about this new girl who moved here. They said she was really good. It was like they were waiting for my reaction. She moved her from Vermillion. Her dad was the Attorney General and her mom was a department head and later became a Supreme Court Justice.
I remember seeing her, she seemed tall. She was thin. She had long legs. She had a round face and big blue eyes. She had short hair. Her name was Mary. Instant vibe of dislike. Jealously? Maybe. It was weird. Not sure what it was. She was really good on beam. I was really good on bars. It took a while, but we ended up hanging out more and more. Then the I like her vibe kicked in. We became fast friends. The kind of friends where you hang out every single day and talk on the phone every single day and do everything together every single day. The best of friends kind of friends. Best friends.
We got tattoos together before tattoos were cool. We drove to Rapid and hit the tattoo place on Mt. Rushmore Road. It was in a house it looked sketchy. We didn’t care because we were cool. As cool as a 16 year old and 15 year old could be. We sat in the car for a while. Our courage was named Jack. We had a shot or two and went inside. My guy was Mouse. Seriously, who has that name. Mary got an ass tattoo and I got a hip tattoo. She was smart, I wasn’t. Stretch marks from my first pregnancy ruined that tattoo. Again, she was a planner, I was a now-er. We hit Wall after we were done to take off the bandages and to check out our new ink. We were dying laughing in the bathroom. We agreed we had zits that hurt worse than our tattoos.
Her family became my substitute family. I spent so much time at her house, you would have thought we were sisters. We did everything together. Her parents and brother treated me like I was part of the family. I felt like I totally belonged there. One summer we taught gymnastics together. She lived way out in Neltom, Lakeside Lane. If you know Pierre, you know the junior high was a long ways away. Mary had a little Toyota stick shift. Awesome car. We lost the keys somehow. No spare. No way of getting a new one fast. We walked to gymnastics for quite a while.
We lived through gymnastics. We lived through high school. We wore Converse tennis shoes and we had our red Converse party shoes. If we were going to have a party at her house on the weekend, we wore the red shoes to school. The clue. Thank God our parties never got busted. We were very lucky and very stupid at the same time. We were good beer shooters. We were good drinkers. We could drink the guys under the table, shot for shot of Jack Daniels. I can’t touch the stuff today.
We told each other everything. I wanted to be like Mary in the fact that she journaled everything about her life. She documented it all. I so wished I could have been able to do that. Even today, I have good intentions, but never can stay consistent with the journaling. I know it is a great life tool. I wonder if she still does. I wouldn’t be surprised if she did.
I went to Sioux Falls after graduating from high school after working for a year. I went to school to become a legal secretary. Mary was going to be a doctor. Always a dream. I had no doubt she would succeed.
We were always there for each other. Things work out when they need to work out. She had happened to be back in Pierre, after being at Texas A&M and just got burned out. She had driven all night to get back home. I was having a hard time in my marriage and wasn’t sure what I was going to do. We ended up back together. Hard times for hard friends. We made it through that. Not sure what would have happened if we hadn’t reconnected.
I was her maid of honor at her wedding. I was pregnant then with my third child. She ended up in California. I ended up divorced. I went out to visit her there. She was in the Navy to pay for med school. See, her dream, reality. She was laser focused. I always loved that about her. Once she set her mind to something, once she had a goal, there was no stopping.
We had fun in California. 29 Palms, like the Robert Plant song. We got belly button piercings and in Palm Springs we pretended we were Thelma and Louise. The scarfs and dive bars. Taking selfies before they were called selfies. Pre-digital and hoping they would turn out.
We went through lots of stuff together. Gymnastics, eating disorders, boyfriends, drinking, parties, skinny dipping, weddings, graduations, hard times, fun times and sad times.
I remember the day I got the call. John and I weren’t quite up yet. We were just lying in bed talking to each other. The phone rang and it was Mary. I remember distinctly, a song by Stevie Nicks playing in the background. Landslide. It was March 14th. Mary had a baby girl named Lauren on March 11. She called me to tell me that her baby died. I was devastated and shocked. I didn’t even know what to say. How? Why?
At my wedding to John, Vegas style, Mary was my maid of honor and she was pregnant at the time with Lauren. She spoke at her baby’s funeral. She is one of the strongest people I know. She always has been and I know she always will be.
Not even a year later she had another baby, Mark Edward. He was born on January 7, 1999 and he died from SIDS on January 30, 1999. How can that even be possible? Life is funny sometimes. Not haha funny.
John and I weren’t sure we were going to have kids. Mary said we better because we shouldn’t waste those genes. She was right. We made a good kid.
When my oldest, Corie, graduated from high school, Mary surprised us and showed up. It was like we were right back where we left off. We sat out on the front steps and just talked. There is nothing better than having that kind of friend.
Mary is a successful OB/Gyn in Sioux Falls. I think about her often. I think about what would have happened if we hadn’t ever met. I wonder. I thank God we did and I thank God for my best friend.
I have best friends now. I have friends who have come into my life at just the right time and are super important to me and mean the world to me. But Mary will always be my first best friend.