In junior high and high school I spent my time with a group of friends that I adored. We did every thing together. We were a group of less than popular kids. How we found our way to each other was, well, a miracle. Without the love and support we received from each other we each may have been scared, lonely and isolated teens, and that is never a good thing.
We made it possible for each to grow and even prosper and bloom in an environment that otherwise would have beat us down. We allowed ourselves to play like children. One mother liked telling the story of how she walked in to her kitchen one day to find us, four high school juniors, sitting on her kitchen floor, finger painting. Through each other we found it possible to dig and play in the snow while the other "popular kids" looked down their noses at us. Because we had each other we found ways to be ourselves, do what we enjoyed, and not worry about the bullies who never took the time to get to know us. We were able to stretch our childhood just a little longer, while maturing at the same time. This is something that teens now don't seem to get to do, I find that sad. Childhood disappears quickly enough without rushing it even more.
It was actually amazing, the size of our little group of misfits became to be. It started out as a merger of two groups, for me anyway. There was my group of friends from Girl Scouts, I'd know most of them since fourth grade at least and some even longer. Tari was the smart one. She enjoyed new age things, Ouija boards, seances, and well, went out with my arch enemy, Buck! I thought she was insane. I spent most of seventh grade hating Buck. He spent most of seventh grade pre-algebra class saying things like women belong in barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, (you know much like four presidential candidates are saying now a days.) I kicked him in the shins many, many times, (if it weren't for the secret service, I'd like to do that to those four men.) Then in eighth grade much to my horror, Tari, (remember, I said she was the smart one,) started "going with" Buck. I was horrified! Tari, my best friend, with Buck the man of my nightmares! It was all just wrong, wrong I tell you. But that was how Buck, ended up in my circle of friends. And I am so glad he did. He ended up being one of those strong sources of support in what could have ended up being a lonely time of life.
Buck, it turned out was just saying all of those things about women to rile me up. He didn't really believe them. He, also was very smart and interested in all things new age. He and Tari were a very good fit. He was very quirky and well a little bit strange, but once you warmed up to him, you never had a more steadfast friend. He was a huge fan of Mork, from Mork and Mindy. Robin Williams was one of his heroes, I think. Buck could always make us smile, and grimace at the same time. His personality ranged from telling dead baby jokes, which I always found revolting, (remember we were in junior high), to Star Wars geek, (he saw that movie at least 7 times that I know of, and this was at a time when you had to stand in long lines to see a movie, no multiplexes, and it was only showing at one theater.) He was a very unique personality, one that I have never encountered since, and never expect to again. I know I will never look at another person and say "you remind me so much of my friend Buck." It just can not happen.
Tari and Buck stayed together through ninth grade. That's a long time for a junior high romance. During that time I became friends with Kathy. Kathy was a gentle soul. She was very very kind to me when I insisted on arguing with her one day that her name was not just Kathy. It had to be the shortened form of Kathrine. I, very arrogantly continued arguing with her about her own name. Why she ever stayed friends with me I will never know. I also argued with her that she had to like tomatoes. There was no way someone could NOT like tomatoes. Seriously, I argued with her about that too, again, why she stayed my friend baffled me. I am so glad she did, she ended up being one of my three closest friends all through high school. She was creative, independent, fun and an inspiration. I looked up to her, I respected her, she was braver than anyone I knew. Not brave in a "let's bungee jump off a bridge", but brave in a personal, "I am who I am" kind of way. She was the mother of the group, the one who would listen intently and let you cry on her shoulder. She was one of the four found finger painting on the kitchen floor with me.
Through Kathy I came to know Dawn. Dawn at that time, was a tiny, kind of mousy little thing. In fact our nick name for her came to be Mouse. Our previous contact had mostly been fighting over a chair in social studies in seventh or eighth grade. It was good humored fighting, nothing mean or evil. She got mean and evilness from others. The ones we all ended up protecting each other from. Dawn was a huge target of the school bullies. Especially Paula. Paula was mean, Paula was big, Paula was strong. Paula was the ever popular girl athlete that found it necessary to make Dawn's life a living nightmare. She did everything you know bullies will do. She would taunt, tease, push and hit. She picked up and threw Dawn over two rows of seats in the auditorium on day. We hated Paula, and her friends as well. Here's the thing about Dawn though, the more they pushed her the stronger she became. She stood her ground, she never backed down. She often ended up with bruises and bumps for it, but she always stood back up. She was a ferocious defender of her friends and what she thought was right. If someone was doing anything to hurt one of her friends, you would see this tiny little whirl wind come out of nowhere to defend and protect them. Where Kathy was the mother of the group, Dawn was the mother lion of the group. Dawn was brave in the bungee jump way. Her bravery also impressed and inspired me. Her bravery combined with her creativity made for some very fun and unique times.
Through Dawn, came Kelley. Kelley was the pretty one. She always had a boyfriend, she had a sensuality to her that boys liked. Not one that she flaunted, I don't know that she even knew she had it, but the boys saw it. She was a little rebellious in someways, but had a controlling mother that kept her from really getting out of hand. As much as Kelley pulled against that control I think perhaps now Kelley is thankful for it. I had known Kelley before, she was in my Girl Scout troop in fifth or sixth grade. We hadn't really become friends then. It wasn't until ninth grade that the third of my finger painting cohorts came into my life. She was the one who liked fashion, and wore makeup everyday. When us girls would be getting ready to go to a school event it was she and Dawn that would turn me in to a My Size Barbie and dress me up and put make up on me and make me presentable to the world. Something I never really cared much about, but it was fun and I always felt good when they were done. Kelley was kind, caring and generous, and is still to this day.
As life does, it took friends to different places. In between ninth and tenth grade Tari moved to Kansas City. That devastated me. I missed her terribly. She had been my friend since she moved to the neighborhood in fourth grade. Buck was even more devastated. I like to think his friendship with the rest of us helped him make it through that time. Every day after school we would go to Dawn's house, where fresh oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and Pepsi always waited for us. We would all joke and talk and sometimes cry together. Others joined our group of friends. Usually as boyfriends of Dawn or Kelley's. Buck was very good friends with David, Kelley's boyfriend. I know that friendship helped keep Buck grounded. Then after tenth grade Buck moved to Denver. That left a hole that could not ever be filled and we never tried. No one could ever replace Buck.
Through high school we all stayed close. Us four girls especially. If I were somewhere Dawn, Kelley and Kathy were there, too. As we all strived to become independent our closeness sometimes seemed to get in the way, but never to the point where we stopped being friends. Even fighting over boys could not drive us apart. In the times when we thought we might hate one or another, our friendship always won out and we'd end up even closer.
Over the years since high school lives got busy and drifting occurred. Families have been raised, challenges triumphed over. The one constant I have always had, since then, was Dawn and Kelley. They have been my rock through hard times and my laughter in good. I know if I need one of them they will come through in ways way beyond my need. They helped me get through two weddings in three months with my sanity intact. Even the distance in miles has not changed that.
I have recently reconnected with Tari, which I am very excited about. I hope it continues. We may find out that we no longer have anything in common, but at least we have the opportunity to find out.
Sadly, the drifting from Kathy has gotten wider and wider. I miss her. She, Dawn, Kelley and I were the four musketeers. We were the finger painting high schoolers. We were inseparable. I found out the other day that her birthday is coming up. So, I got a card and wrote her a letter. It has been such a long time though. Is it ever too late to try to reconnect with old friends?