There are few people that have made a distinct impression on me the first time I met them. My friend Ernie was responsible for helping me find my day care van the first day I attended school in Austin. I remember Jonathan as the very serious soon-to-be new RA at our dorm when we were huddled around receiving instructions for monitoring balconies. A parade went underneath our dorm and the residents had a nasty habit of unloading whatever they could grab on the parade goers (liquids, pickles, a full keg…). Everyone else I know is more a blur – no beginning to the friendship; it just always was.
Tonight I have my first overnight houseguest. She’s someone I haven’t seen in 16 years and for various reasons I’m nervous and anxious. Angie is also one of those people I distinctly remember meeting.
In 6th grade our teacher, Mrs. Craig, announced we were getting a new student – a girl who had been advanced a grade named Angie. Immediately, I didn’t like her. I didn’t have to know her to know that I didn’t want some sassy overachiever elementary school kid near me. We had 6th grade centers back then and I’d legitimately exited mine, unlike some kids named Angie. When she entered our classroom she completely lived up to my expectations. She flaunted her advanced vocabulary, plagued the teacher with tons of questions about Algebra (mind you, we were just at the stage where we were doing advanced multiplication and division in our public school system) and challenged the teacher’s knowledge on various subjects. Needless to say, the girl caused me to roll my eyes so many times I’m sure people thought they were white.
Karma is constantly biting me in the butt, so that meant Angie road our bus. This was actually a bad time for Angie because she was separated from the teachers who recognized her for her intelligence. In the classroom, she was special. On the bus, she was a target. Here she was with kids who didn’t particularly like new kids and didn’t like new kids who thought they were so smart they could go around skipping grades. I remember the day she stepped off the bus and the two bus brutes (girls, of all things) stepped off after her. I watched in a very satisfied manner thinking, “yeah, that new girl has it coming.”
When our teacher finally separated Angie from another group because their talking had become an issue, she had it in mind to place her next to me. “Beth, you won’t talk to Angie will you?” GOD NO! First, as I’ve mentioned before I gave up talking after 3rd grade and 2nd, it was Angie. I’m not talking to the new kid. That first day Angie bounded in with a huge smile, plopped down and said in her very characteristic and cheery way “Hi! I’m Angie!”
I struggled from that moment forward. I didn’t want to like her but she was kind of nice, I suppose and funny and very chatty. Mom remembers a time we ran into at the corner store and said to me, “that little girl really likes you, Beth.” I shrugged. Good for her.
The first time Angie called my house, she gave me a 100 question quiz she had concocted. Basically, Angie felt most people our age were rather ignorant and this was a way to measure intelligence. 100 questions is a lot of questions when you’re in 6th grade and would rather be skateboarding or climbing up on your roof. The one that really stood out was, “What is the gestation period of a sheep?” Gestation? Of a sheep? You’ve got to be kidding me!
The first time I spent the night at her house, I was forced to memorize the names of her 50+ plastic horses. FIFTY PLUS!!!! She wouldn’t let me go to sleep until I knew all of them and to this day I remember a few and I’m bitter about that. Then there was the horse trial – a play featuring several of these plastic equine stars and I got to be the audience of one. Karma. I was in my own special hell.
I learned many things that night. “Beth, don’t eat the brownies?” “Why? … Your parents put WHAT in them?” “Beth, the bathroom may have porn.” “Really?” I’m pretty sure our bathroom never had porn. “Beth, this is ABBA” as a headset was thrown at me. “ABBA?” (Now you know that partial reason that “Dancing Queen” has been my sign-off song at every skating birthday party for the last 10 years. It’s how I get Angie there.) At 8am that morning she finally let me go to sleep.
Angie methodically broke me down and she’s been my friend ever since. One of my saddest days was the day I started high school, terrified because I had heard there were gangs and I had barely gotten over being bullied, and my 9th grade English teacher called her name during roll call. The kid I didn’t want sitting next to me in the beginning wasn’t going to be sitting next to me weathering the storm of high school.
These days she’s out in California practicing as a Veterinarian, something she’s wanted to be since I first met her, living with her husband and their daughter Denali.
Since we get this a lot, I want to say. No, we’re not twins. No, she’s not my sister. We have different mothers. (Ok, that’s my Dad’s line; he thinks it’s funny.) She’s my friend. My beautiful, smart, funny, clever friend and I wish I were more like her. Well, the parts that don’t include 50 PLUS PLASTIC FRAKING HORSES! Hate those things. (For the record, she still apologizes for that.)