Friends 4 Ever
My Own First Friends
While some of you may have to think back a little further than others, I'm sure you all have fond memories of your very first friend. You know the one you promised to remain close to until death do you part. I remember making that pledge to my very first friend, Kathy Clay. We met in kindergarten, in September of 1968. Her mother let her bring a doll to school and my mom didn't, so I stole hers while the rest of the class was napping, simply because I was jealous. It was a little blond-haired doll dressed in a yellow rain slicker.
When my clad picked me up from school that day, the teacher told him that Kathy's doll was missing and I was the last one who played with it. Actually, I'd hidden the doll because I didn't have one at school. We ended up at Woolworth, searching for a replacement doll. I pretended that I couldn't remember what Kathy's doll looked like, so I selected a dark brown-skinned doll, with short, kinky black hair (too young to realize that: black is beautiful) and we delivered it to her house.
Prior to going to school, Kathy and I had never met, though we lived only a few blocks away from each other. To my surprise, Kathy's mother and my parents had known each other for years. Then again, because my dad was one of a few black police officers on the Hackensack Police Force in the 1960s, everyone seemed to know us. When we arrived at Kathy's house with the new doll, my father apologized profusely for my behavior and explained to Miss Clay that he did not raise me to steal.
When I forked the doll over to Kathy, I licked my tongue at her on the sly and mumbled, "I'm sorry."
Yet the very next day at school, Kathy and I stood next to each other during the flag salute, sat next to each other at snack time, and lay side by side at nap time. I never did tell her where I hid the doll, and for some reason, Kathy forgave me. At 5 years old Kathy already seemed to understand and accept that sometimes friends disappoint each other. In fact, from that day on, we were inseparable.
At Fanny Hillers Elementary School we walked home together, every day leaving our tracks all over the perfectly manicured lawns we passed through. Though we were not in the same classes, every year we made a point of spending time together before and after school.
At Hackensack Middle School, Kathy and I met a new best friend, Cindy Wooden. and we quickly became the three musketeers -- the black version of Charlie's Angels (with a head full of wildly thick hair, of course, I was Farrah -- or so I thought). We wore the same clothes, talked on the telephone all night, chased boys, went to parties, shared secrets, argued with each other, played "the dozens," and cosigned each other's lies when we wanted to "get over" on our parents. We had become so close that our families became one, slept over regularly, and as young girls struggled to understand why Cindy's father (who Kathy and I affectionately called Uncle Frank) died of cancer at such an early age.
We giggled together and seemed to get in trouble far too frequently during classes. Like the day I turned around and flashed a big gummy smile after I had twisted two long braids on each side of my head, which sent Kathy and Cindy into hysterics. We disrupted the class and drove poor Mrs. Korczenski nutty. Or the countless times Mr. Schott embarrassed me in front of the whole class by threatening to call my mother to tell her how I'd misbehaved so that she'd rip my teen-line phone out of the wall, as she promised to do if I were unruly in class. "Don't let me call Dot," he would say. Again, Kathy and Cindy howled because they knew my mom really would rip that phone out in a heartbeat.
And I have to admit, we had our share of catty times too, like all the he said, she said arguments we waged and the many battles to be the other's best, best friend -- as if having two best friends were not possible. We talked behind each other's back and lied about it when confronted. But in the end, we always managed to work out our differences and we learned to overlook the slips in loyalty. We were, after all, best friends.
In high school, we jumped out of a second-floor window at Hackensack High School in order to hang out with the older boys we tried so hard to impress. Later, when we were caught by Mr. Capone and sentenced to detention, we didn't care as long as we were together. It was then that I confessed to Kathy that in kindergarten I had thrown her doll inside the top of the piano. She busted out laughing and marveled at how many years our friendship had lasted through thick and thin. Kathy and Cindy were right by my side the day an older girl and I duked it out after school, each time the red-headed boy I thought I loved put me down for another girl, and every time my parents grounded me. We were together at every "blue-light-in-the-basement party," drank our first sips of "shorty," smoked our first and last cigarette together, and toked our first spliff together. And when school officials canceled our senior pep rally, we helped galvanize the seniors by arranging for someone to pull the fire alarm. When it sounded, we all marched out of class and into the streets for an unofficial pep rally.
After high school, we each went our separate ways -- I went off to college in Boston, Kathy went to college in Washington, D.C., and Cindy took on a full-time job. We met up every holiday and summer, sharing episodes from our different lives and creating new memories for the three of us. Like Cindy's father taking us crabbing, Kathy's mother's spider-heeled shoes, and the night my mom discovered that her 17-year-old daughter was drunk instead of having a bad case of food poisoning.
Though we don't see or talk to each other every day or every week, like we did when we were kids, we are still good friends today. In fact, Kathy's daughter, Kelsey, and my son, Jordan, are playmates. Now we're anxiously waiting for Cindy to become a mommy.
The many memories shared by Kathy, Cindy, and I make us laugh, cry, and reflect upon the bond we have created over the years. It is so refreshing to get together some 25 years later to reminisce about the good old days, though they seem like only yesterday. Sure, we each have new friends and maybe even closer friends, but we share a special bond that will keep us dear friends till the end. Our memories will never fade, for they remain etched in our hearts. It was the values, lessons, and adventures we found as the three musketeers -- and our very first friends -- that set the stage for our new friendships to follow. We grow and learn and inevitably make mistakes along the way, but it is our very first friendships -- the innocence, loyalty, and honesty -- that will always remind us of what we expect from friends throughout our lives.
As I wrote about Kathy and Cindy, I found myself pulling out old photo albums, letters, and even our Hackensack High School Class of 1981 yearbook. I sat there smiling and at times even laughing out loud as I flipped through the pages containing the moments of our lives. My memories about Kathy and Cindy prompted me to ask other women about their very first friend.
As I reflected on my own experience, I was not surprised that everyone I spoke to also smiled when they remembered their first friend. Many recalled childhood games such as Double-Dutch, Jacks, Punchanella, and Hopscotch. And who could forget the many hand games such as Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack! We didn't know it back then, but these were games that truly separated the girls from the boys; they were games that girls played. Now I'm sharing these stories with you and I am sure you'll smile too.
Who knows? Maybe this chapter is just the boost you need to pick up the phone and try to reach out to one of your childhood girlfriends. Good luck and happy memories.