It was the summer of 1965 and I had just acquired a new stepfather and a move to the country at the same time. I was missing my friends in town very much. We had hung out together all the time. I didn't want to attend my stepfather's church. I didn't like being the new girl.
The first time I walked into the little country Baptist church, I felt as though everyone's eyes were on me and my mother...sizing us up. I don't remember who spoke to whom first, but Jeanne says that I linked my arm through hers and said, "We're going to be best friends."
I had just turned twelve a month before, and Jeanne's twelfth birthday would be the next month. From the first day we met we were soul mates. She lived across the street from the church and I lived about a mile away. I rode my bicycle to her house almost every day and we would explore the tiny village, go inside the church where we would tinker around on the piano and sing, sing, sing. There were picnics on the creek that included a few slices of bologna, colby cheese and saltine crackers. We thought it was wonderful. She spent the night with me often, and we drove my poor mother crazy with our giggling and incessant talking.
When school started in September, I was scared to go into the classroom, but Jeanne helped me get over my fear and introduced me to our classmates. We were best friends throughout junior high and high school. We saw each other through heartbreaks, crazy stunts, boring or obnoxious teachers, and the annual slumber parties. I think we had a little tiff once, but it didn't last long and we made up as best friends do.
Jeanne at age seventeen.
Jeanne at age seventeen.
We both got married young and I commiserated with Jeanne when she was going through a divorce and a very serious health problem. We both experienced the loss of a parent. Our oldest sons are only a few months apart in age. Our second sons both were diagnosed with Type I diabetes. We even have the same overlapping front tooth. There have been times when we lost touch over the years from moves to other locations or just being busy raising young families. But I know that whenever I pick up the phone and call her number, it's as if we just saw each other yesterday.
When Jeanne turned 50, her husband Rob planned a surprise party for her at one of their favorite restaurants. He sent an invitation to us and followed up with a phone call urging me to attend, because he said it just wouldn't be the same without me there. Of course I planned to go, I wouldn't have let anything keep me away.
There were probably about 50 people waiting inside the restaurant for Jeanne and Rob and a few of their friends to arrive. I was sitting at the bar, but facing the front door. We hadn't seen each other in a few years, so I wanted to see her face as she came in. When she walked through the door and we yelled "Surprise!", her eyes went straight to mine and she yelled, "Susan! You're here!". Totally ignoring her other guests and running straight into my arms for a huge hug. It was worth driving three hours for that hug. I'm ashamed to say that I pretty much monopolized her for the next few hours.
This past weekend, when Jeanne came to my house for a visit, she told me that my gift to her of antique aperitif glasses at her 50th is the only one she remembers getting, and they have an honored place inside her china cabinet. I was touched.
We had a wonderful time catching up, reminiscing, eating and looking at old photos and yearbooks. On Friday, we never stopped talking and laughing from the time she arrived at noon, until ten o'clock that night when we both dropped into bed from exhaustion. Then we continued the conversation the next morning as if we never left off. We met up for lunch with another friend from high school who lives near me and reconnected with her and had a very nice visit.
I hated to see Jeanne leave, because who knows when we will get together again, but we promised each other that we will stay in regular contact. And I'm very sure that we will live up to our promise.