25 August 2008

Ten YEARS, Man!

It was an historical weekend on several fronts. First, Friday the 22nd was the ten year anniversary of meeting my college roommate, partner-in-crime, fellow Cool Math teacher, and all around BFF Alison C. Brown, aka AliBrown, Ali N. Brown, "Sally," Alicakes, and Monsterface.

Freshman Year

The summer before college, everyone I knew regaled me with their stories of crazy roommates. The roommate who didn't talk but compulsively sniffed things, including my friend's clothing and shower poof. The roommate who stole my friend's address book and attempted to steal all his friends. The roommate who -- when my friend woke up with a start in the middle of the night -- just happened to be lying ON TOP OF HIM. Whoops! Needless to say, I was completely terrified of the possibility that my future roommate would be a complete and utter psychopath.

Instead, I got Ali.

Ten Years Later

Though some might argue that Ali is, indeed, a monster (Cam, for one, can't get through a single conversation with me without making fun of Ali, even if she's not there to hear it), she's certainly a loveable one. Ten years ago, there was a moment where we stared at each other in our room in Langan, worried about our mother's descriptions of us (they got along fabulously, and chatted on about their darling daughters in language that made us both sound incredibly uptight and unfun), by the end of that very first day, Ali and I were BFFs for life.

Monster Attack

My roommate is fabulous. Her name is Ali, she’s from NY, and we have so much in common. We listen to the same music, we are both directionally impaired (can’t tell our right from our left), both have friends named Jesse with whom we were in love in [HS] Freshman Bio... we even have the same toothbrush! Last night we were sitting out on Mac Field until 3 am, just talking.... (23 August 1998)

In retrospect, it seems rather amazing that such a strong friendship could be built on such a simple foundation. Same music! Both have to look at our hands to know which way is left! Crushes on boys named Jesse! Same toothbrush!! WE'RE OBVIOUSLY DESTINED TO BE BFFS!!!

Funny that it turned out to be true. It's been ten years and I can wholeheartedly say that I would not be the person I am today without Miss Ali N. Brown, and I love her for it. Happy Ten Year Friendship Anniversary, Ali!

The World According to Ali

Oddly enough, the weekend I celebrated Ten Years of BFFhood with my college roommate was also the weekend of my Ten Year High School Reunion. Particularly observant readers will notice that this was actually my second school reunion of the summer. I started the summer at my five-year-cluster college reunion (technically, six years after graduating) and ended the summer with my high school reunion. It was hard not to compare the two. For most people, the high school reunion is more meaningful, because most people went to college with thousands of other people, and it is their high school class of only a few hundred other people that feels like a family. But I graduated from college with about 300 people, only fifty more than my high school class. AND, unlike my high school class, I lived with my college class in a tiny square of rural Iowa where there was almost nothing to do that didn't involve a bunch of other college kids. We danced and drank and slept and studied and gossiped and grew together in four of the most intense years of my life. In comparison, high school was pretty tame.

On the other hand, I graduated from high school with people I'd known, essentially, since birth. We grew up in the kind of small town that leads you to go to prom with the same kids you sat next to in preschool. At our reunion, we weren't just reminiscing about our four years together and catching up on the six years since; we were telling stories going as far back as preschool, and catching up on a decade apart. It was intense.

Matching Tiger Suits, ca. 1986

I got a ride to the reunion with my other BFF, Cindy Owens, aka CJ, CindyJo, CJFO, and Seege. Cindy and I have been friends since we were four years old, when she and Jenny Buchner gave me the ugly Barbie in a brown dress and piled all their Barbies into a Barbie camper and drove away without my bad Barbie, who hopped after them on her chewed-on plastic feet. "Hey guys... wait for me...." As a little girl, I was known as "Cindy's Shadow." My small family was folded into her large one decades ago, and her son calls my mother his aunt and treats my childhood home as his own (much as his mother did in high school -- I remember being startled sophomore year when Cindy grabbed me in the hallway between classes to let me know she'd gone over to my house at lunch to "borrow" some aluminum foil for a class project).

Ben Franklin Bitches, ca. 1996

But of course I see Cindy all the time. She's one of the few people I've been consistently in touch with since graduation. It's not that I have anything against the people I went to high school with -- if anything, I've been impressed by how interesting and rich and diverse their lives are. In high school, I saw our small town as a cultural sinkhole from which few of us would escape. Now, I admire equally the people who have stayed close to home to share their lives with their extended families and the people who have left the state, the region, and even the country. Everyone has a story to tell.

Some of the people I talked to this weekend surprised me with how kind they've become since high school, or how insightful, or how funny. Natalie made me laugh out loud with her ranting about how few Cheesemakers have actually attacked anyone. Jess wowed me with her deep empathy and insights about life. Joe entertained me with gossip and questions like "Why didn't we call [Geri Sphatt] G-SPOT in high school? Answer me that!!"

Senior Year

Overall, I left feeling fond of my town and proud of my classmates who have grown into such caring, insightful adults. Of course, there were a couple of d-bags there and a few people whose high school personalities have calcified into utter obnoxiousness. [Not you, of course. If you're reading this, you're clearly one of the most enlightened and awesome people from our class.] I realized that in high school, I always gave people the benefit of the doubt, assumed that they'd grow into themselves, get over themselves, grow up. In high school, everyone's personality had a glow of potential to it, not only what they were, but what they could be. Now, most of them -- most of us -- have grown into that potential, have broadened our horizons and let the world expand our understandings of who we are to ourselves and to each other.

I expected it to be more Grosse Point Blank, but instead of getting to kill a ghoul with a pen and rolling him in a school spirit banner, I got to watch a third grade program from twenty years ago with a bunch of laughing grownups who still recognized the third graders inside the adults, and vice versa. I saw third grade Molly standing in a row of little girls, standing on tiptoe to see over the girl in front of her as they all sang "My Favorite Things," and I got to imitate her bobbing head while a table full of old friends laughed and looked for their third grade selves. And I have to say, it was pretty sweet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My tiger swim suit was the hot pink one. I loved that damn thing. Looks like I wasn't the only one!