A girl, my age. Sitting at the window practicing piano against her will. A requirement her parents made which she had very little interest in. I could hear the music playing across our lawn. I could see her little face looking out at me and I was paralyzed with shock, could it really be that I had moved so far away yet found a new friend right here? I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was so much possibility in this moment just rushing inside of me, so much excitement and fear all at the same time. She finished up her lesson and made her way out to meet me. She was taller than me, skinnier and had a head full of thick dirty blonde hair. It felt like pure magic just being in her presence from the very first moment our eyes met. Her name was Michelle, the same as my mom. She was one year younger than me and loved nature, something I didn’t know much about. For the first time in my little life I had a friend who I really connected with. Sure I had a lot of friends in the city and was lucky enough to grow up with a different little girl next door back then but this was an entirely different ball game.
My first best friend Sabina, I met when I was just five years old. Standing on a large rock overlooking her house. She came out and introduced herself, we were glued from there. Her family was Muslim and as much as I fully respect their culture, they were very traditional in their ways which made being friends a little hard. She wasn’t allowed to do things that other kids were allowed to do like, singing along to the radio for example or wear a bathing suit. Plus, we were very young so timing had a lot to do with it too. We never had sleepovers, a lot of her family couldn’t speak English, they also owned a duplex yet it was filled with about twenty other family members, those sort of things. Thanks to Facebook though we did stay in touch, I actually went to her wedding shower and was invited to her wedding but opted not to attend. It had just been so many years. Although her family was incredibly inviting to me and my family I just felt out of place after so much time had past and we hadn’t really been able to stay in touch.
With Michelle things were different from the start. I was older yet I looked up to her with this immense respect, sometimes almost idolizing the way she was. How thin she was, how smart and confident she was. She always seemed to know exactly what she wanted, exactly what to do. She showed me all the things that I had missed out on living in the city. Like catching frogs and hosting worm weddings in the open field behind our houses. Climbing trees, oh how I miss our favorite tree, we could sit up there for hours and even hid a secret notebook there so we could exchange messages when the other one was not around. We fought the neighbor boys from the streets behind us. We explored the “sand dunes” and eventually the empty houses that began to fill them. We did everything together. We dressed alike, did our hair the same. Pretended we were sisters when we were in public.
Unfortunately we really pushed my brother out of the picture, even did mean things to him like the time we sent him into the woods to search for the pot of gold left by the leprechaun. Or that time we locked in him in the “dungeon” of our fort. You know, the kind of things that kids do to one another, just my poor brother seemed to always get the shit end. And he just wanted so badly to play with us, to feel loved and included. Looking back on it now I really feel bad. Things were so different then, we were eighties kids, out in woods until the street lights came on. We’d be sneaking all over the place on our bikes. We weren’t allowed to ride on our road but we skirted the rules down every dirt trail, and believe me there wasn’t a single path left unturned, we knew them all. Life was perfect for just a little while, just two sisters and the big world around us full of endless places to explore. We were detectives, veterinarians, wilderness explorers, figure-rollar bladers putting on a show. We swam in my new pool, swang on my new wooden swingset, camped out in her bedroom inside a real tent and giggled all night long while playing Mad Libs. Her parents never wanted me to sleep over, looking back on it now I can see why.
My parents were also much “younger” than hers, in body and mind. They had a lot of friends, big summer picnics, loud band practices at our house, liked to drink and smoked pot on our back deck. The kind of things that piss off your frumpy neighbors I guess. Mine were always the work hard, play hard type. Hers were more work hard, sleep hard. I loved them though, especially her mom. I really did love her mom she was the sweetest, calmest woman I think I have ever known. She used to say that I was the perfect balance of seriousness and whit. That I knew when to have fun and when to pull it back. I loved that she cared so much about my personality that she actually analyzed me. I don’t ever remember my parents pointing out things like that. Michelle was an only child so A LOT of focus and effort went into her childhood years, more than any child would ever really want, and I’m sure that is why her mom was so observant of me. It was the kind of helicopter parenting that makes a child feel smothered and dying to break free, which she did, before most of us would ever consider leaving our parents.
We had about four good years of sisterhood, magical once in a lifetime “Now and Then” type sisterhood and then everything changed…